During this unprecedented time of global uncertainty, nearly all normalcy has been lost. Essential operations are still required to ensure our communities are adequately supplied with safe drinking water, effectively treated wastewater, and properly disposed solid waste. Manufacturing is required to make necessary items, demanding all levels of supply chain, from mining to delivery, remain open. These operations must continue to function in order to keep our society safe and open, but what about the regulatory requirements that surround these industries?
Water utilities, wastewater treatment plants, solid waste disposals, and mining operations are surrounded by a wide network of regulatory requirements from federal, state, and local levels. Due to COVID-19, many of these industries are facing extremely difficult operating conditions, made difficult due to staffing requirements, increased demand, public concern, and personnel safety. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memo on March 26, 2020, outlining updated expectations for EPA regulated entities to help address some of these difficulties.
The memo includes language that identifies public drinking water systems as having a greater responsibility to maintain compliance and protect public health. This means that water systems must continue to monitor regulated contaminants and quality parameters, and maintain compliance. Certified operators may have continuing certification requirements delayed due to COVID-19.
For other regulated entities that are unable to meet standard regulatory requirements that would generally result in enforcement actions, the EPA will apply enforcement discretion. This enforcement discretion will only be applied to requirements missed as a direct result of COVID-19.
In order to ask for enforcement discretion, entities that are non-complaint must take steps to minimize any effects. They must then identify and document the dates of non-compliance, show how COVID-19 was a contributing factor, what response actions were taken after, and how compliance was reinstated. This documentation will be required for any potential enforcement discretion, and must be provided to the appropriate regulatory agency.
Regulated operations must make all efforts to maintain compliance, and the EPA will continue with any ongoing enforcement actions. This enforcement discretion does not apply to any operators under Superfund or RCRA Corrective Action regulations.
Standard compliance activities should be carried out to the best of your ability, which is why WETLAB is still here for your industry. WETLAB has taken steps to ensure the safety of our staff and yours, including using virtual meetings, contactless sample drop-off and bottle delivery, and digital reporting. Contact WETLAB at (775)355-0202 to find out how we can help ensure regulatory compliance and safety in this time of uncertainty.