The Tailgate

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More Enforcement From the State

CDPHE staffs up to hit EPA targets

Thanks to a recent increase in funding the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has added six new inspector to the Water Quality Department  in recent months.

To put that in perspective, in 2016 the WQD had two inspectors and completed around 150 inspections. With the increase in staff, their stated goal is visit 10% of the more than 5500 permitted sites in Colorado in 2017. This translates to almost four times as many sites visited.

Currently the new inspectors are in the training phase, so the full effect has not yet been felt, but throughout our client network we’ve seen almost two visits a week for the last several weeks. When the training period is done, we anticipate seeing even more site visits from CDPHE.

What does this mean for permit holders?

Well, for proactive, well managed sites, it means that you are more likely to experience a visit, but because you are keeping your site at a high level of compliance, this should be relatively stress free. You will need to block out 2 to 3 hours for the actual inspection visit and be prepared to respond quickly to any findings like you would to any inspection by a third party or internal inspector.

For permit holders who are less proactive or well managed, it may mean some scrambling to get the site and documentation in order for the visit. Probably this will translate to some increased spending on BMPs, maintenance, and record keeping, as well as a strong likelihood that the formal written response becomes more of a time consuming project. And there is a risk that the advance notice you get may not be enough time to bring your site into compliance. This is why our goal is to work with clients who plan ahead and take compliance seriously.

Is there a silver lining?

We think so. The state inspectors are intentionally focusing on education rather than on enforcement. This does not mean they should be dismissed or ignored, but the first visit is likely to be friendly and cooperative, not confrontational. Based on a state inspection I attended today for a client, that is certainly the case.

Will the emphasis continue to be on education? For 2017 we think so. It is probably going to be a baseline data-gathering year for the state before shifting gears, but of course, permit holders who are not responsive, who do not comply with permit requirements, or who try to argue their way into compliance are always at risk of compliance.

If you’re not sure of the best strategies for proactively managing stormwater compliance, be sure to start a conversation with DTEC. We are here to help you tackle your compliance challenges.

For more tips on how to prepare for and respond to a state inspection, see our resource library for a downloadable tip sheet.