The Compliance Program in the Water and Science Administration (WSA) of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) performs a number of critical functions to help prevent and address problems with water pollution. The Compliance Program has approximately 35 inspectors who work out of regional field offices in Frostburg, Hagerstown, and Cambridge, as well as the central office at Montgomery Park in Baltimore. There are three inspection division chiefs and an enforcement division chief who work under the direction of Harry Hunsicker, Manager of the Compliance Program, and Andrew Gosden, Acting Deputy Manager of the Compliance Program.
The Compliance Program reports its activities each fiscal year as part of MDE's Annual Enforcement and Compliance Report. Links to recent reports available electronically may be found here. MDE also periodically announces enforcement actions on its Newsroom page.
Compliance Program Contacts
To contact program management, the Central Division, or the Enforcement Division, please call the Baltimore office at 410-537-3510. For the Western Division offices in Frostburg call 301-689-1480. For the Western Division satellite office in Hagerstown, call 301-665-2850. To contact the Eastern Division in Cambridge, call 410-901-4020. For more information about MDE’s locations, including addresses, please click here.
Water-Related Environmental Emergencies and Complaints
You may report any environmental emergency that poses an immediate threat to the public health or the well-being of the environment such as oil and chemical spills or accidents causing releases of pollutants by calling toll free (866) 633-4686. During regular workdays, please call the office numbers above.
The Compliance Program prioritizes cases based on actual or potential risk to public health or the environment. Inspectors give top priority to major NPDES discharge permit sites, large construction sites, combined sewer systems, large waterway construction or wetlands sites, large sewage overflows, unauthorized discharges of pollutants and NPDES and groundwater discharge permits in significant non-compliance (SNC) based on self-reported violations.
Surface Water and Groundwater Discharges
On a regular basis, Compliance Program staff inspect municipal wastewater treatment plants, manufacturing plants, and sites with industrial activities that discharge wastewater to surface waters to determine compliance with their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. These inspections supplement the self-reporting of effluent testing results performed by wastewater dischargers; staff also review these reports, known as Discharge Monitoring Reports, to identify violations of discharge limits or failure to fully report. Inspectors observe unit processes, take on-site samples, and examine testing records. Inspectors also review site specific pollution prevention plans to address storm water runoff concerns. At the conclusion of an inspection, the inspector discusses problems with the certified plant superintendent or operator; when appropriate, MDE issues site complaints requiring corrective actions. In cases where a pattern of violations places facilities in significant non-compliance with their discharge permits (based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance), the inspection division will coordinate with the enforcement division on a formal enforcement action. Such actions may be in the form of administrative consent or unilateral orders or judicial orders with appropriate penalty assessments. MDE may accept certain supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) that benefit water quality or protection and are not already required by law, regulation or a permit as an offset for part of a penalty. As part of their inspections, staff members also may advise site owners and operators about pollution prevention opportunities.
Compliance Program staff regularly inspect facilities that discharge wastewater to State groundwater, such as spray irrigation systems, to determine compliance with discharge permit requirements. These groundwater inspection activities parallel those for NPDES permits.
Compliance Program staff receive reports of overflows from sanitary sewers (SSOs) and combined sewers (CSOs) from the operators of those systems. Staff may inspect the site of an overflow depending on the volume, location, and receiving waters affected. Please see here for a database of all overflows reported to the Compliance Program.
The Compliance Program may also inspect farms that have point source discharges but do not have sufficient animals to be classified as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The Land and Materials Administration is responsible for permitting and inspecting CAFOs. Compliance activities related to farms are closely coordinated with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Soil Conservation Districts; typically, joint inspections are conducted.
The Compliance Program enters Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS). The Compliance Program also enters into ICIS information about its inspections and enforcement actions regarding NPDES permittees. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency makes ICIS information available to the public through its Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) system, available here.
Under EPA's NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule, all facilities holding NPDES permits which require them to submit Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) must submit these reports electronically by December 21, 2016. For more information on the EPA's NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule, visit https://www.epa.gov/compliance/npdes-ereporting. The Department has adopted the use of NetDMR to facilitate the implementation of this requirement in Maryland.
NetDMR is a national tool that allows facilities permitted under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program to electronically submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) via the Internet. Submissions are sent to the U.S. EPA through the Environmental Information Exchange Network. It allows participants to discontinue mailing in hard copy forms under 40 CFR 122.41 and 403.12.
For more information about NetDMR, please click here.
Erosion and Sediment Control/Construction Stormwater
The staff inspects construction projects and forest harvest sites to make sure sediment and erosion control plan requirements are being met and there is no pollution leaving the property. The Compliance Program performs these activities in cooperation with delegated county sediment and erosion control inspection programs. The staff inspects non-delegated sites and notes infractions of plan requirements and violations of law and regulations. The site must have an approved erosion and sediment control plan and general NPDES permit coverage if disturbing one acre or more (joint State-federal discharge permit for stormwater discharges associated with construction activities). The responsible parties must ensure that the conditions of the discharge permit are being met, including the requirement to maintain a logbook of self-inspections in accordance with the permit. The inspectors verify that the site is in substantial compliance with the approved erosion and sediment control plan (plans are approved by the soil conservation districts for private and municipal projects and by MDE for State and federal projects). WSA also considers whether enforcement action is needed to address identified violations. Inspectors note whether the site has work outside the approved erosion and sediment control plan limits of disturbance and if there are direct acts of pollution occurring, sediment is in a position likely to pollute depending on weather events or the work at the site has created substantial adverse impacts to the environment or public health. MDE takes enforcement action if there is dewatering being performed during dry weather that results in a visible impact to the receiving surface waters of the State. Inspectors also follow up to confirm that the terms of any formal agreement with MDE related to erosion and sediment control on a site are being fulfilled. If significant or repeated violations are identified, a penalty assessment may be pursued. In cases where violations are ongoing, MDE may issue stop work or corrective orders in coordination with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
The Compliance Program also manages the NPDES discharge permit for stormwater associated with construction activity for all sites disturbing 1 acre or more of soil. For detailed information on permits for stormwater associated with construction activity, please click here.
Tidal and Nontidal Wetlands and Waterways
The staff also inspects sites to make sure activities do not adversely impact wetlands, floodplains, or waterways. This includes construction of a bulkhead, revetment, or other filling activity and construction of piers, platforms, or other structure on pilings. The inspector makes sure all necessary approval and permit conditions are being met. Inspectors give particular attention to construction or filling activity without a permit or MDE authorization or in excess of permitted limits. The inspector checks to see if work at the site has created substantial adverse impacts to the environment or public health. As with other construction sites, the inspector confirms that the site is fulfilling formal agreements with MDE, if there are any. The Compliance Program follows up on significant or repeat violations with enforcement action that may include referral to the OAG or the Environmental Crimes Unit.
Pretreatment and Individual Wells and Septic Systems
The Compliance Program follows up on problems associated with pretreatment of industrial wastewater that is discharged to publicly owned treatment works in cooperation with delegated programs. In coordination with a delegated authority, MDE may take formal enforcement actions in the form of orders and/or penalties to address violations of pretreatment requirements. The Compliance Program also assists county health departments to help resolve cases related to problems with individual wells and septic systems by taking appropriate formal enforcement action.
In performance of its duties, the Compliance Program works closely with many other units in WSA and MDE, the Attorney General’s Office and the Environmental Crimes Unit, and many other State and county agencies. In addition, the Compliance Program discusses and coordinates many activities with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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