Clean Water Act Compliance
Effectively Managing Clean Water Act Compliance is Essential for Avoiding Unwanted Scrutiny from the EPA
The Clean Water Act is one of several laws enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is also one of the most important laws falling within the EPA’s enforcement jurisdiction; and, as a result, it is critical that companies in all industries give due consideration to compliance. Noncompliance can lead to both civil and criminal enforcement—and, while these are very real risks, they are risks that companies can manage with an effective Clean Water Act compliance program.
At Oberheiden P.C., we assist companies with Clean Water Act compliance and provide representation for Clean Water Act litigation involving the EPA. Our lawyers have extensive experience in these areas, including prior experience litigating Clean Water Act enforcement cases on behalf of the federal government. Implementing an effective compliance program is an essential step toward avoiding litigation with the EPA, and we work with our clients to help them implement custom-tailored compliance programs focused on their specific obligations, risks, and needs.
A Comprehensive Approach to Clean Water Act Compliance
A Clean Water Act compliance program must be comprehensive in order to be effective. If a company overlooks even a single aspect of compliance, this can create exposure to civil liability; and, if federal prosecutors argue that an oversight represents an intentional attempt to sidestep a company’s compliance obligations, it can potentially lead to criminal charges. At Oberheiden P.C., we take a systematic approach to ensuring that our clients’ compliance programs are sufficiently comprehensive.
When you choose Oberheiden P.C. for Clean Water Act compliance, we will help you effectively manage your company’s risk through steps including (but not limited to):
Clean Water Act Compliance Needs Assessment
The first step will be to conduct a Clean Water Act compliance needs assessment. There are numerous aspects to Clean Water Act compliance, not all of which apply to all companies. We will assess your company’s obligations under all pertinent provisions of the Clean Water Act and the EPA’s enabling regulations, which may (or may not) include:
- Dredging, Filling, and Discharge in Federal Waters
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program Compliance
- Oil Spill Prevention, Response, and Remediation
- Stormwater Management
- Wastewater Management
Along with assessing your company’s obligations under the Clean Water Act, we can also assess its obligations under related federal laws and regulations. From the Clean Air Act to the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection & Restoration Act (CWPPRA), there are several other federal laws and regulations that touch on varying aspects of environmental compliance. This is a key aspect of comprehensive compliance management as well, and we can use our experience to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the full scope of your company’s compliance duties.
Review of Existing Clean Water Act Compliance Policies and Procedures
Once we have a clear understanding of your company’s compliance obligations, we will review its existing compliance policies and procedures, if any. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; and, if your company already has effective compliance mechanisms in place, we will leave them alone. If your company’s existing compliance policies and procedures need updates or supplementation, we will advise taking only the steps that are necessary to shore up its compliance efforts.
But, if your company’s Clean Water Act compliance program needs a complete overhaul—or if your company currently lacks a Clean Water Act compliance program—we can build a new program from the ground up. A team of our lawyers will work closely with your company’s relevant internal stakeholders to take all of the steps necessary to put an effective compliance program in place.
Clean Water Act Compliance Policies and Procedures
We develop comprehensive and custom-tailored Clean Water Act compliance programs for companies operating throughout the United States and in its coastal and offshore waters. Working with your company’s internal stakeholders, our lawyers will craft policies and procedures that not only address your company’s compliance obligations, but do so in such a way that they facilitate effective and ongoing implementation. Implementation is critical, as failing to address compliance obligations once they have been identified can increase the risks of facing EPA scrutiny.
The Clean Water Act compliance policies and procedures that we develop for your company will be written with your company’s operations in mind, and with the goal of facilitating compliance as cost-effectively as possible. We view ourselves as partners in our clients’ success, and this means much more than simply delivering a set of documents that fail to address the practicalities of our clients’ particular circumstances.
Clean Water Act Compliance Program Implementation
As noted above, program implementation is critical for effective Clean Water Act compliance management. Once we’ve developed your company’s compliance policies and procedures, we will assist with the implementation process. Depending on the circumstances, this may include everything from conducting training programs to onboarding new personnel or engaging new vendors, and from implementing new environmental safeguards in existing operations to revising the company’s current practices. Our lawyers play an active role throughout this process, helping to ensure that our clients are in a position to effectively manage Clean Water Act compliance on an ongoing basis.
Compliance Monitoring, Auditing, and Enforcement
Establishing Clean Water Act compliance is not a one-time event. Instead, companies must actively manage compliance, and this includes monitoring, auditing, and enforcing compliance internally. We can help your company implement internal monitoring safeguards to identify potential compliance failures efficiently, conduct annual Clean Water Act compliance audits, and assist with enforcement as necessary. We also consistently monitor for updates to companies’ compliance obligations, and our lawyers can inform you when changes in the law or the EPA’s regulations necessitate updates to your company’s Clean Water Act compliance program.
Common Areas of Concern Regarding Clean Water Act Compliance
When do companies need to implement a Clean Water Act compliance program? This is a critical question, and it is one that many executives (and lawyers) struggle to answer. The Clean Water Act and the EPA’s enabling regulations are extraordinarily broad, and they impose compliance obligations in a wide range of circumstances. While this list is far from exhaustive, some common areas of concern that trigger Clean Water Act compliance obligations include:
- Wastewater Overflows and Stormwater Management – Municipalities and companies have obligations to ensure that wastewater overflows and discharges into stormwater do not cause harm to the environment.
- Discharge Pretreatment – When discharges are permitted, municipalities and companies must often pretreat these discharges to prevent environmental harm and maintain compliance with the Clean Water Act.
- NPDES, Section 401, and Section 404 Permitting – The NPDES program and Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act establish various permitting, certification, and licensing requirements.
- Biosolids – The generation and use of biosolids are heavily regulated under the Clean Water Act. While useful, biosolids can present various environmental risks, and this makes them an area of concern for the EPA.
- EPA Clean Water Act Compliance Inspections – The EPA routinely inspects commercial and industrial facilities for Clean Water Act compliance, and companies must be prepared to affirmatively demonstrate compliance when necessary.
FAQs: Clean Water Act Compliance
How can I determine if my company is subject to the Clean Water Act?
The Clean Water Act regulates the direct and indirect discharge of contaminants, pollutants, and other substances and particulates into U.S waters. If you have questions about whether your company is subject to the Clean Water Act, the lawyers at Oberheiden P.C. can help you determine what compliance measures (if any) are necessary.
What are the key elements of a Clean Water Act compliance program?
All Clean Water Act compliance programs should be comprehensive and custom-tailored to companies’ specific obligations and risks. As a result, the elements of individual companies’ compliance obligations will vary case-by-case.
Does the EPA provide Clean Water Act compliance guidance?
While the EPA provides some general compliance resources online, it does not provide specific Clean Water Act compliance guidance. Instead, companies must work with their counsel to assess their obligations and implement effective compliance programs.
Does the EPA actively enforce the Clean Water Act?
Yes, the EPA actively enforces the Clean Water Act. It routinely conducts inspections, and it pursues both civil and criminal enforcement actions when warranted.
What are the risks of noncompliance with the Clean Water Act?
The risks of noncompliance with the Clean Water Act can be substantial. In civil enforcement cases, companies can face daily fines in excess of $30,000 per day. In criminal enforcement cases, the fines can be even higher, and company executives and other individuals accused of having personal involvement in a company’s wrongdoing can face federal imprisonment.
Speak with a Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. About Clean Water Act Compliance
If you need to know more about how to implement an effective Clean Water Act compliance program, we invite you to get in touch. To speak with a senior lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. in confidence, please call 888-680-1745 or tell us how we can reach you online today.