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The Significance of Significant Non-Compliance

Significant Industrial Users (SIU) or industrial businesses that generate a large amount of wastewater are regulated through strict monitoring of industrial output via EPA guidelines, issued permits, and the servicing Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW).

Chances are your local POTW will have a computerized system to monitor your wastewater output and its condition. The POTW will compare all the data that comes from your SIU to your permitted average limits, your calculated averages for a certain period, and your data collection totals. No matter what is going out in your wastewater, there will always be certain parameters that it must adhere to, that’s why you’ve spent the time calculating all that data to go to the POTW. However, if it does not fall at or below your permitted limits, then your SIU could be in Significant Non-Compliance (SNC).

If these limit violations are found by the POTW, your SIU will be notified so as to give you an opportunity to correct whatever it is that put you into SNC in the first place. No law enforcement agency sweeps down on you, nor are you posted on the internet in shame for the first instance of a violation. That happens later. The first steps will always be communication. The POTW will determine what the violations are and communicate with the SIU in order to find out what they are doing about correcting the non-compliance. There is usually a six-month period where your SIU will be technically in SNC, but will have an opportunity to correct and retest in order to keep itself out of news making SNC. Your SIU will be off the hook if all the samples and testing over this probationary period come back within the permitted parameters. The real issues start when non-compliance goes past the six-month period.

If your SIU has been informed by the local POTW that you have been in non-compliance for more than six months, the severity of that non-compliance will now be determined. At this point the violations come in three varieties: Chronic, Technical Review Criteria, and those causing pass-through, interference, or endangerment. In order to know which version of SNC your SIU will be subject to, certain calculations must take place.

In figuring out whether the SIU is in Chronic SNC, the number of Compliance Judgment Points (CJP) must be found. This is simply a sum of your SIU’s number of individual samples and the number of calculated averages. The SIU will be in Chronic if the percentage of violations is above 66% based on a formula of number of violations divided by CJP’s multiplied by 100.

Technical Review Criteria are those violations based on certain reviewable criteria, such as the presence of oil and grease or other pollutants. The TRC limits are calculated by multiplying the permitted limit by a certain factor determined by the substance being measured. The SIU can only have a 33% TRC violation before it is considered in SNC.

The last violation status is the biggest one and usually will not come with the 6 month period to fix the problem before it makes the news. This is the violation that usually involves the press and the EPA onsite with their windbreakers and walkie-talkies. The violations causing pass-through, interference, or endangerment in general means to say those violations that pose an operation risk to the POTW or a health risk to the general public in the vicinity of the SIU. In general this level of violation is cut and dry, any substance, chemical, or pollutant that exceeds the permitted levels and cannot safely be treated by the POTW or in anyway causes the POTW to lose function or capacity is considered a violation of this magnitude.The press will be notified, the EPA will be notified, and a serious investigation will ensue.

Do not have one of these violations. If your SIU does encounter a period of SNC, in general you may have six months to determine the cause of the violation and fix it. As always with these regulations, failure to correct the wastewater output and the levels of contaminants within can result in full on investigations from the EPA, heavy fines, and even jail time for those found grossly negligent. So before you find yourself in a position of looking at the angry face of an EPA enforcement officer, give us a call.