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Waste materials that are carelessly discarded, or chemicals or petroleum that are accidentally spilled or released to the environment have the potential to contaminate our land, ground water, surface water, and indoor air. The Office of Land Quality (OLQ) works in many ways to ensure that waste materials are properly managed, that recycling and composting activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible way, that releases and spills are prevented, and, when accidents do occur, that emergency responses are effective.
OLQ is made up of five branches and two stand-alone sections that perform many different functions aimed at preventing pollution to Indiana’s land resources and protecting the public from exposure to harmful contaminants.
The Permits Branch conveys, in the form of a permit, the requirements an entity must follow when managing and disposing of their hazardous and solid wastes. A person or business applies for a permit to conduct specific waste related activities and also provides us with detailed operational information. We need this information to understand their business practices and the site conditions that must factor into our permit decisions. Once we have all the necessary information, we can write a permit that pertains specifically to this situation. This permit then provides the road map from which they can operate in compliance with the all federal and state laws and rules.
The Permits Branch issues permits, approvals, and registrations for a variety of waste programs. The Confined Feeding Permits, Hazardous Waste Permits, and Solid Waste Permits sections are staffed with permit managers who coordinate application reviews and draft permit documents. The engineers and geologists in the Engineering and Geology sections review technical details in the applications and provide technical expertise for the other activities of the branch. The Permits Branch coordinates closely with the Compliance Branch inspectors who inspect permitted facilities for compliance with the permit. As the name implies, issuing permits is the primary activity of the branch, but the branch has a variety of other related activities.
When permitted facilities or other waste sites stop operating, they must go through a process of closure. Specific requirements vary by program, but typically the permit managers, engineers, geologists, and compliance inspectors work together to direct the facility owner or responsible party to clean up, close, and secure the site to address risks to human health and the environment. Often the Permits Branch coordinates with the Remediation Services Branch when closing contaminated waste sites that are also in one of the other remediation programs.
Permit application and annual operational fees are assessed on specific types of solid and hazardous waste facilities to provide funding for permitting and compliance activities.
Most compliance functions in the office are the responsibility of the Compliance Branch; however, ground water and explosive gas monitoring compliance and CFO and landfill construction inspections are exceptions. Ground water and explosive gas monitoring compliance is one of the primary activities of the Geology Section. This work involves reviewing groundwater monitoring and explosive gas monitoring reports for compliance with the permit and for signs of releases that need to be corrected. The engineers in the CFO Permits Section inspect construction at confined feeding operations and landfills to verify compliance with the approved construction plans. They help to verify that waste management structures are constructed correctly so that wastes are contained and contaminants kept out of the environment. Engineers and geologists play an important role in all of these activities. Their reviews help to make sure that facilities are designed, constructed and operated to technically sound standards.
The primary function of the Compliance Branch is to conduct site inspections in order to determine if an entity is operating in accordance with their permit requirements, or following all applicable laws and rules in the absence of a permit. If there are violations, this branch has the responsibility to follow through with various enforcement actions to ensure compliance. The goal of the Compliance Branch is the protection of human health and the environment through compliance with state and federal environmental rules. Compliance is evaluated through inspections of companies, businesses and individuals. The Branch also offers assistance in understanding and implementing environmental rules as an important tool for improving overall compliance. Staff in this branch, with the exception of the enforcement section, will be “in the field” a high percentage of their time.
The Compliance Branch consists of five sections: Industrial Waste Section, Hazardous Waste Section, Solid Waste Section, Confined Feeding Section, and the Enforcement Section.
The Branch covers a wide variety of environmental programs. Most of the activities the branch evaluates are based on rules. Some of our program areas include businesses that have operating permits issued by the Permits Branch. Therefore, these two branches must work closely together to ensure companies have the proper permits, they are operating in compliance with the permit, and the permit is enforceable. In addition to routine compliance inspections, this branch investigates the majority of the complaints received by OLQ. If a company is found to be violating their permit, rule, or state statute, the enforcement action is managed under this branch. This includes violations identified in other OLQ branches, not just from inspections. All Notices of Violation in OLQ are issued by the Compliance Branch.
Emergency management is also a responsibility of the Compliance Branch. If someone becomes aware of a spill they can call the toll free IDEM Spill Line which is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. In times of disaster, such as tornados or flooding, Branch personnel help coordinate IDEM activities as part of their duties with the Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Operation Center.
The Compliance Branch also has a limited role in the remediation of contaminated sites. Sometimes soil or water has become contaminated with hazardous waste from historic spills and would require management under the very stringent hazardous waste rules. When the hazardous waste is “contained in” the soil or water below established environmental and health based risk levels, the site can apply for approval to manage the media as non-hazardous. This requires a review of representative sampling and written approval of the disposal method. These “Contained-In” approvals are issued by the Compliance Branch.
In spite of all our proactive efforts to keep hazardous contaminants under control and out of the environment, through both permitting and compliance inspections, accidental releases or spills do occur. Historic contamination has also been discovered which occurred before there were any laws or rules in place. In order to address these situations, we need to either clean up the contamination or effectively manage it to eliminate or prevent risk to human health or further degradation to the environment.
There are three Sections that make up this Branch: Federal Programs, State Cleanup and the Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP). The Federal Programs Section is comprised of three distinct programs: Site Investigations, the Superfund Program, and the Defense Environmental Restoration Program. Each is directly related to the federal government and follows the federal requirements and processes. The State Cleanup Program addresses those sites with soil and/or groundwater contamination that do not qualify for inclusion in the federal cleanup program. The VRP is unique in that it does the same type of work as State Cleanup but on sites that voluntarily enter the program. This program mimics a privately run environmental consulting firm.
The Science Services Branch provides technical and scientific assistance to OLQ. Because technical advice and guidance is an office-wide need that knows no boundaries, it makes sense that our expertise, with few exceptions, is consolidated into one branch for everyone’s access. It promotes consistency, efficiency in the use of resources, and provides a broad depth of knowledge to all sections.
This Branch consists of five sections: Chemistry Services, Geological Services, Risk Services, Engineering and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Services, and the Regulatory Reporting Section.
Chemistry Services, Geological Services, Risk Services, and Engineering and GIS Services provide technical document reviews that focus on their various disciplines. The Regulatory Reporting Section maintains quality data for staff to use, mostly for the hazardous and solid waste programs. The Branch also has several technical environmental specialists who contribute focused, high-level research, guidance, and problem-solving skills to the entire office.
The Finance and Operations Section plays a very important role in OLQ through two primary functions: provide the financial expertise to help the office manage its money, and provide the tools to keep the office physically operating. The section establishes the budgets and spending plans for each branch in OLQ. Within each branch, there are fund centers associated with their programs which enable them to track expenses. OLQ receives funding from three sources: Federal funds from the U.S. EPA, dedicated funds, and general funds. The type of funding a program receives is dictated by statute.
The section is also responsible for writing contracts. Periodically, various types of work need to be done by entities outside the agency. In order to hire out these services, they need a contract. There is a complicated and lengthy process that must be followed to eventually get to the point of hiring a contractor.
Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) are governed by specific laws and rules and have unique management and compliance requirements. The majority of underground storage tanks contain petroleum substances which, by definition, are not hazardous wastes. Unfortunately, older tanks often leak and require some type of corrective action or environmental cleanup. The number of USTs in Indiana alone is staggering and correspondingly the number of tank sites that must be remediated is in the thousands. Since the universe is so large, the tank issues we must deal with are broader than just remediation, and funding corrective actions is a very complex process, USTs became the sole subject of an entire branch.
There are federal funds dedicated solely to the management of USTs. In addition, if they do leak, there is a state fund managed by IDEM from which we will reimburse the appropriate party for the cost of UST corrective action activities they have completed. This is not the case for any other type of cleanup.
The UST Branch is responsible for the implementation of the regulated UST programs in Indiana. Generally, a regulated UST system is a tank and underground piping that is at least 10% underground, has a capacity greater than 110 gallons, and stores either petroleum or a hazardous substance.
The branch has four sections: UST Compliance, Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST), Excess Liability Trust Fund (ELTF) Claims and ELTF Technical. The UST Compliance Section oversees UST notifications, conducts compliance inspections, and approves UST closures. The LUST Section oversees release reporting and corrective action. The ELTF Claims Section reviews and approves claims for reimbursement of corrective action costs. The ELTF Technical Section oversees ELTF eligibility and corrective action.
The Emergency Response Section exists to ensure compliance with the Spill Rule and provide on-site oversight of cleanup activities of significant spills that threaten surface water quality. It requires owners and/or operators that have releases of reportable quantities of petroleum, hazardous substances, and other objectionable substances that harm waters to call the Spill Line and to perform a “spill response.” The spill line is toll-free and answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In all cases where the potential for harm is high or the actual harm is severe, rapid response is required to address the release in a manner that prevents greater harm to the environment or greater risk to public health. Between 2500 and 3000 notifications a year are made to the Spill Line. In approximately 500 of these cases, an Emergency Response On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) will go to the scene of the incident to ensure a satisfactory spill response is completed.