Generally, all Ohio EPA records are public unless they are exempt from disclosure under Ohio law. As a result, we organize and maintain our public records in such a way that they can be made available for inspection and copying. Under Ohio's public records law, citizens have the right to view upon request the public records of offices such as Ohio EPA.
Ohio's public records law should not be confused with the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which applies to records held by federal agencies. Ohio EPA does not have a central repository for all its records. Each division within Ohio EPA and each of the five district offices houses its own files. Therefore, more than one office may need to be contacted to obtain all applicable files on a particular issue or site.
For more information about Ohio's public records law, you may review Ohio Revised Code 149.43.
Defining Public Records
A record is defined as follows:
- a document in any format;
- that is created, received by, or comes under the jurisdiction
of Ohio EPA;
- that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of Ohio EPA.
Some documents do not fall within the definition of a public record, and thus, are not available to the public. Other documents may fall within the definition of a public record but are exempt from release. These include: trial preparation records; confidential law enforcement investigatory records; records whose release is prohibited by state or federal law;
and homeland security records.
Trial preparation records include information compiled in anticipation of, or in defense of, a civil or criminal action or proceeding. Confidential law enforcement investigatory records are certain records that pertain to criminal, quasi-criminal, civil or administrative law enforcement matters.
As stated above, certain records are prohibited from release by state or federal law. The largest example of this is attorney-client communications. Another example is information protected by trade-secret protection.
Trade-secret information is material that is confidential with a company, has commercial value and gives its owner an advantage over its competitors. Trade-secret protection is requested by the company, although it is the Agency’s responsibility to determine whether the information identified by the company is, in fact, a trade secret.
Records in the form of email, text messages and instant messaging are treated in the same fashion as records in other formats. All employees or representatives of Ohio EPA are required to retain their email records and other electronic records in accordance with applicable retention schedules.
Ohio EPA receives thousands of public records requests each year. The response time in which records can be provided will vary depending upon the volume of records requested, the proximity of the location where the records are stored, and the necessity for any legal review and redaction of the records requested.
We make public records available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays. We will make every attempt to make public records available for prompt inspection and to make copies of public records available within a reasonable period of time.
Making a Public Records Request
You do not need to use any specific language to make a public records request. A request need only be sufficiently clear and made with enough specificity so that we will be able to identify, retrieve and review the records. If it is not clear what records you are seeking, we will contact you for clarification, and will assist you in revising their request.
To this end, we have created an online file review checklist request form which may aid in making a request. We strongly recommend that you use online request form, as it enables you to easily describe what documents you are looking for, and it helps us know exactly where to look.
You do not have to use the checklist, or even to make your request in writing. Further, you do not even need to provide your identity or identify why you want the records.
The single most important factor is often the date range. We typically find date ranges to be very helpful, as they enable us to quickly process requests and often ensure that your request will not be considered ambiguous or overbroad. For more information on ambiguous or overbroad requests, see Denial and Redaction of Records below.
Denial or Redaction of Records
If you make an ambiguous or overly broad request, it may be denied. If we deny your request, we will provide you with an opportunity to revise the request by informing you of the manner in which we maintain and access our records. Typically these responses include the checklist. For more information on the checklist, please see “Making a Public Records Request,” above.
Any denial of public records will include an explanation, including legal authority. If the initial request was made in writing, the explanation must also be in writing. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions may be redacted and the rest released.
When making public records available for public inspection or copying, we will notify you of any redaction or make the redaction plainly visible. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.
Maintenance of Records
Ohio EPA does not have a central repository for all its records. Each division and district office stores its own files. Therefore, you may need to contact more than one office in order to obtain all applicable files on a particular issue or site.
The following divisions keep records in each district office and the central office:
- Division of Air Pollution Control;
- Division of Drinking and Ground Waters;
- Division of Environmental Response and Revitalization;
- Division of Materials and Waste Management; and
- Division of Surface Water.
Generally, you may find the following items in the district offices: permit applications, plan review correspondence, violation letters, facility inspection letters, general correspondence, complaint investigations and sampling results.
Files for the following programs are available at Ohio EPA’s Central Office:
- Director’s Office;
- Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance;
- Division of Environmental Services;
- Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention;
- Office of Employee Services;
- Office of Environmental Education;
- Office of Fiscal Administration;
- Office of Information Technology Services;
- Office of Legal Services; and
- Public Interest Center.
How do I begin?
In order to better identify, locate and track the file(s) being requested, Ohio EPA suggests all requests for public records or file reviews be submitted in writing. When making a request, it is suggested that you fill out and submit our online file review request.
Once your request is received, it is routed to the appropriate program offices to secure files. Once the files are located, you will be contacted to have copies made or to set up a convenient time for you to review the files.
The charge for copies is five cents per page. As a courtesy, Ohio EPA may waive the charges if fewer than 250 copies are made. Ohio EPA reserves the right to deny this courtesy if a requester asks for fewer than 250 pages of a single document that exceeds 250 pages or where a requester repeatedly requests copies under the 250-page limit in an effort to avoid copying charges. The charge for copying more than 250 pages is five cents a page, which includes pages 1 through 250. A two-sided copy counts as two pages.
Each district office has specific copying procedures. Click on the appropriate district below to see these procedures.
- Central Office Copy Procedures
- Central District Office Copy Procedures
- Northeast District Office Copy Procedures
- Northwest District Office Copy Procedures
- Southeast District Office Copy Procedures
- Southwest District Office Copy Procedures
File Review Contacts
The best initial contact for your file review request is the district office where the facility or site is located. To locate the appropriate office, please see the map below. If you wish to review Agency files on a matter involving more than one division or district office, or are uncertain as to where the facility is located, please complete our online form.
Ohio EPA Central Office
Attn: Rich Bouder
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049