The EPA has proposed changing from paper to e-reporting in an attempt to modernize enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and plans to make companies’ data accessible to the public.
The switch would make information about specific facilities — such as inspection and enforcement history, pollutant monitoring results and other data required by permits — accessible through the EPA’s website. The change will affect hundreds of thousands of industrial, government and other facilities, the EPA said.
The Clean Water Act requires that municipal, industrial or commercial facilities that discharge waste water directly into waters of the US obtain a permit. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requires that permitted facilities monitor and report data on pollutant discharges and take other actions to ensure discharges do not affect human health or the environment.
Until now, facilities have had to submit data in paper form to states and other regulatory authorities, where the information must be manually entered into data systems. Through the e-reporting rule, these facilities will be able to electronically report their data directly to the appropriate regulatory authority. EPA expects that the e-reporting rule will lead to more comprehensive and complete data on pollution sources and enable quicker availability of the data for use.
The EPA says this will lead to collective savings of $29 million a year for the 46 states and the Virgin Island Territory that are authorized to administer the NPDES program.
Most facilities subject to reporting requirements will be required to start submitting data electronically one year following the effective date of the final rule. Facilities with limited access to the Internet will have the option of one additional year to come into compliance with the new rule. The EPA says it will work closely with states to provide support to develop or enhance state electronic reporting capabilities.
The proposed rule is open for 90 days of public comment.
Separately, the EPA also announced changes to its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chemical assessment program, to improve the scientific foundation of assessments, increase transparency and allow the agency to produce more IRIS assessments each year. IRIS evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. The EPA uses the assessments in making decisions to protect public health and the environment.