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Enforcement

Basics

Enforcement

When a facility or individual fails to comply with the Rules written in the OAC 3745 or ORC 6109 and accumulates violations, they can be referred to the Enforcement Unit at Ohio EPA. A case will be built for the facility or individual and is then heard before the Enforcement Committee to determine the appropriate level of enforcement to pursue. When the decision is made to pursue an enforcement action by Ohio EPA's Division of Drinking and Ground Waters, there are a number of enforcement actions which the Division can choose to pursue.

Examples of enforcement actions that can be taken against a facility and/or individual include:

Bilateral Compliance Agreement

Lowest level of enforcement: A bilateral compliance agreement is a written agreement between the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters and the facility. It contains a schedule of what the facility needs to do in order to return to compliance and is signed by the Division Chief. The facility signs the document as record of agreement to comply.

Final Findings and Orders

Next level of enforcement: Directors Final Findings and Orders include Findings, which outline the history of violations incurred at the facility, and Orders, which outline what the facility needs to do to attain compliance.  Findings and Orders can be consensual (negotiable) or unilateral (non-negotiable) and may or may not contain a penalty.

Negotiated Findings and Orders are proposed to the facility and negotiated until a mutual agreement is reached. A schedule for returning to compliance is also discussed and determined. The Final Findings and Orders are then signed by the Director of Ohio EPA and the facility.

Unilateral Findings and Orders are issued directly to the facility with a schedule for returning to compliance and are non-negotiable.

Referral to the Attorney General's Office

Highest level of enforcement: Ohio EPA refers the case to the Attorney General's Office where attorneys attempt to settle with the facility. Settlements reached at this point are called Consent Orders. Consent Orders are filed with the court and often require additional penalties. Failure to comply with these Orders is contempt, which may incur additional fines or possible jail time. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case is heard by a judge at the County Court of Common Pleas. The final decision made by the judge is called a Judgment.

License and Certificate Actions

The Division of Drinking and Ground Waters can take action against a public water system's license to operate (e.g., suspension, denial, revocation). The division can also take action against the certificate of an operator or certified laboratory or lab analyst.

Ohio EPA issues different licenses depending on the facilities' compliance with safe drinking water rules. Each type of license is color-coded (i.e., green, yellow or red) to represent the status of the system's license. For additional information on the color-coded system, please click on the sections below. Click here to view LTO enforcement actions in the eDocument System. For better search results, select "Permit" under Document Type and "Drinking Water" under Program.

Unconditioned LTO (Green) 

A green license to operate means it was issued without any conditions. Most public water systems in Ohio receive green licenses.

Conditioned LTO (Yellow)

A yellow license means it was issued to the public water system with conditions. Conditions usually require correction of violations of safe drinking water rules and may include conducting all required water quality monitoring, hiring a certified operator or paying an administrative fine.

Denied/Suspended/Revoked (Red Sign)

A red sign is issued to a public water system that is not licensed because its LTO renewal application was denied or its license was suspended or revoked. These actions are taken due to violations of safe drinking water rules. Public water systems with red signs are not permitted to provide water for human consumption. 

Streamlined Orders

Streamlined Orders are intended to be shorter and more simplified than traditional enforcement actions, which can help avoid the expense and time associated with escalated enforcement actions. Penalties associated with Streamlined Orders are less than or equal to $5,000. 

DDAGW will use Streamlined Orders instead of traditional DFFOs when attempting to address specific non-compliance issues, including but not limited to: failure to have an appropriately certified operator of record, failure to obtain a license to operate, or certain monitoring violations

Administrative Penalty Program (i.e., Save a Dime. Sample on Time!)

Beginning in 2014, DDAGW has implemented an Administrative Penalty Program for public water systems who fail to monitor for total coliform or nitrate as required. Total coliform and nitrate are acute contaminants that can cause adverse health impacts within a short time period. Failure to sample for these two contaminants will result in a penalty of $150 or more for each monitoring violation through Streamlined Orders.

Consult the Save a Dime. Sample on Time! fact sheet for answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

Continued non-compliance and violations of this type can lead to a referral to the Enforcement Unit for a traditional enforcement approach. 

Failure to have an Appropriately Certified Operator

In Ohio, operators of public water systems are required to be appropriately certified. There are different types and classes of certifications based on the type of system and treatment used. Water systems that fail to have an appropriately certified operator of record at a public water system can result in Streamlined Orders with a penalty of $1,000.

Public Water Systems

Public Water System Enforcement Actions

Enforcement actions taken by the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters since 2007, are available to view in the eDocument systemHelpful tips for using the eDocument System.

Some of the public water systems in enforcement may also be on drinking water use advisories.

Certified Operators

Operator Certification Enforcement Actions

In Ohio, operators of public water and wastewater systems are required to be appropriately certified. Ohio EPA can take an enforcement action (e.g., suspension, revocation) against a Certified Operator for failure to meet the requirements found in OAC 3745-7. 

Enforcement actions taken by the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters since 2007, are available to view in the eDocument systemHelpful tips for using the eDocument System.

Please visit the Operator Certification page for additional information. 

Underground Injection Control

Underground Injection Control Enforcement Actions

Enforcement actions taken since January 1, 2007 as a result of violations of the Underground Injection Control (UIC) rules in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3745-34 and Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 6111.043 are available to view in the eDocument System

Please visit the UIC page for additional information. 

Laboratories and Certified Analysts

Laboratories and Certified Analyst Enforcement Actions

Enforcement actions taken since January 1, 2007 as a result of violations of the laboratory certification rules in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Chapter 3745-89 and Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 6109 are available to view in the eDocument SystemHelpful tips for using the eDocument System.

Penalty Assessment

Penalty Assessment

The Division of Drinking and Ground Waters has the authority to seek penalties up to $25,000 per day per violation as stated in the Ohio Revised Code Section 6109.33. Penalties can be either civil or administrative.  For additional information on each type of penalty, click on the sections below.

Civil Penalties

Civil penalties are assessed in a civil suit filed in court by the Attorney General's Office on behalf of Ohio EPA.

To develop reasonable and consistent penalties, a civil penalty guideline has been established and consists of three major categories:

  1. Economic benefit
  2. Recalcitrance and risk of harm
  3. Enforcement costs

The economic benefit and enforcement costs are not typically included in the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters' penalties in order to promote timely settlement. These components are used, however, when the case is referred to the Attorney General's Office.

The facility may be able to reduce the amount of the penalty if they implement a supplemental environmental project. A supplemental environmental project is a project implemented by a facility that exceeds Ohio EPA requirements (e.g., water-loss studies, tying into city water, pollution prevention activities). The cost of the improvement is deducted from the total penalty.

Administrative Penalties

Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 6109.23 grants Ohio EPA authority to assess administrative penalties for failure to comply with ORC Chapter 6109 or the administrative rules adopted under the code. The process for calculating these penalties is described in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Rule 3745-81-04. Essentially, the penalty is calculated by assigning each violation a value of $1,000, which is then multiplied by a decimal number representing the size of the public water system.