Under Ohio’s laws, Ohio EPA’s district offices and local air agencies have the authority to inspect a company at any reasonable time. Ohio EPA has several different divisions (for example, air, waste and water), each with its own technical and field staff. This means that different Ohio EPA inspectors could visit your company during a year. Ohio EPA also routinely conducts unannounced inspections, so an inspector may arrive at your company without prior notice.
If you have not been through an Ohio EPA inspection, this article will give you a general idea of the inspection process and what to expect if an inspector does show up at your door.
An opening meeting is conducted at the beginning of the inspection. During the meeting, the inspector will ask for a description of the company’s operations. The inspector will ask about the raw materials used and wastes or discharges from the company. The inspector will review records that relate to environmental regulations. Ohio EPA’s inspection authority allows for the inspector to obtain photocopies of records. Some common records reviewed during inspections include:
- inspection logs;
- equipment and operating records;
- waste shipping papers;
- sampling or monitoring data; and
- material safety data sheets.
The inspector will walk through the facility to observe processes and activities (for example, how the company collects and handles wastes). The inspector will walk around outside the building(s), looking for air emissions, water discharges or to inspect areas where wastes are handled. When an inspector does show up, make sure there is someone at the company who is knowledgeable about the operations and can accompany the inspector. Ohio EPA can request to conduct an inspection even if the business owner is not on-site, so make sure you have someone available who can describe your activities and get any requested paperwork or files to the inspector during the inspection.
During the walk-through, the inspector might ask employees questions about the company’s processes or practices. The inspector will take notes during all phases of the inspection, including the walk-through. The inspector might also have a camera and take photographs during the inspection. Typical areas photographed include: process or waste units such as tanks or containers, areas where spills or leaks have occurred, discharges/emissions, etc.
During the closing meeting, the inspector will summarize his or her findings. The inspector cannot always give a complete summary of the inspection, particularly if a situation requires more information or additional research. The inspector will usually describe the general paperwork procedures that follow the inspection such as when to expect the inspection report or follow-up letter.
A report is mailed to the company after the inspection. The report includes a letter or summary of the inspection results. The report will identify any Ohio EPA violations or other problem areas found during the inspection. A copy of the inspector’s field checklist might also be included with the report.
If your company receives a Notice of Violation (NOV) letter after an inspection, keep in contact with the inspector to understand the violations and the possible ways to correct them. Keep the inspector informed of your progress and ask for additional time to respond, if warranted. Many violations can be resolved locally and do not result in escalated enforcement.
Call your local Ohio EPA district office if you have questions about Ohio EPA. Small businesses can also contact the Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention (OCAPP) at (614) 644-3469 or (800) 329-7518 for free help. OCAPP is a non-regulatory office of Ohio EPA with a goal of helping small businesses understand and comply with the environmental requirements. For more information, see Ohio EPA’s Preparing Your Business for an Ohio EPA Inspection fact sheet.