Compliance And Enforcement Policy
For Water Quality
Nov. 24, 1997
This memo summarizes the five elements in the new DENR compliance and enforcement policy for water quality policy, announced by Secretary McDevitt at the Environmental Review Commission. It is critical to note that the scope of this policy, and the actions needed to implement it, is not limited to publicly operated treatment works. These elements are intended to provide a comprehensive route to strengthened enforcement and heightened compliance for all dischargers and nonpoint sources of water pollution in North Carolina.
I. Fostering compliance.
This strategy starts with a recognition that the best way to improve water quality is for the polluter to take steps itself to prevent or reduce pollution without the need for intervention by enforcement. Therefore, the State's regulatory system should do what it can to foster an environment in which those who "do the right thing" are encouraged and rewarded.
II. Enhancing enforcement
Though enforcement is not the preferred means to gain compliance, it remains critical to have an effective regulatory presence that everyone--public and regulated community alike--knows will give a level playing field and will assure that the State's laws (and Constitution, art. XIV) are carried out. There is no doubt that the public's confidence in DENR's water quality enforcement system has been severely shaken by the events of the last summer.
III. Focus on bad actors: chronic and willful violators
It is often said that a few bad actors are responsible for the majority of the noncompliance and for giving other, more responsible persons in the regulated community a bad name. Whether this is true or not, it makes sense for DENR to have the ability and resolve to focus on chronic and willful violators--those who are apparently resistant to the incentives for compliance that most persons find compelling.
IV. Assuring improvement in compliance and enforcement: Accountability measures
The above steps are necessary, but not sufficient, in regaining public and regulated community confidence in our State water quality program. We also must do a better job with the difficult task of gathering, processing and publishing information on the results of our compliance and enforcement policies.
Thus we must begin immediately pulling together the work that has already begun on performance measures, in conjunction with the nationwide effort now underway at EPA, and establish a system for regular reporting of measures such as:
V. Find and use all available resources for compliance needs
Recent actions of the legislature have been very helpful in moving the State forward towards cleaner water. Yet it is clear from all available data that this State still has huge funding needs for water and wastewater infrastructure, groundwater cleanup and protection, agricultural and municipal nonpoint source pollution control and other elements of the overall water protection and restoration strategy. Thus an aspect of the overall compliance and enforcement effort must be working with local, State and federal agencies as well as private and non-profit groups to identify all resources available for these needs.