For the IDEM Office of Water Quality (OWQ) Compliance Branch, “wastewater compliance” means the many ways we provide information, direction, assistance, training, and materials to help permittees stay in or return to compliance with the rules and limits set out in their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. OWQ Compliance Branch staff work closely with owners and operators of NPDES-permitted facilities to help them understand their regulatory responsibilities to achieve and maintain compliance.
Inspectors monitor and inspect NPDES-permitted facilities to assure compliance with permit conditions and other requirements of state law and rules, based on the Clean Water Act. They assist operators with proper maintenance and operation techniques, as well as identify and document permit and water quality violations.
Data Compliance Evaluation staff assist permittees in properly completing and submitting their monthly reports. They also administer the state pretreatment program, enter compliance data into the federal Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS) database, review and evaluate compliance data, conduct informal enforcement actions through the issuance of noncompliance letters, and refer the most serious violations for formal enforcement.
In the Enforcement Section, enforcement case managers conduct formal enforcement actions designed to return violators to compliance and deter future violations.
Other dedicated staff assure operator training and competency through administration of the Wastewater Operator Certification and Continuing Education program.
Specific duties of the sections of the Compliance Branch are:
Wastewater Inspection Section
Inspectors from the Wastewater Inspection Section conduct inspections and investigations of facilities with NPDES and IWP permits around the state and investigate complaints alleging water pollution. Every facility with an individual NPDES permit is inspected on a routine basis. A map of county assignments for each inspector is available on the Contact page. The Inspection Section also administers the Sewer Ban and Early Warning program (based on 327 IAC 4-1-3) that is intended to alert owners and operators of wastewater treatment systems to actual and potential system overloading, initiate a process to evaluate existing conditions, plan for future solutions, and arrange for funding when capital improvements are required. The Inspection Section is also responsible for assuring laboratory proficiency.
Wastewater Data Compliance Evaluation Section
Reports submitted to IDEM, such as Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) and Monthly Reports of Operation (MROs), are evaluated by the Wastewater Data Compliance Evaluation Section staff for completeness and compliance with NPDES requirements. This information, along with information gathered during compliance inspections, may be used to initiate action by IDEM aimed at returning a facility to compliance. These actions usually take the form of an email, telephone call, or noncompliance letter, but in more serious situations can result in a referral for formal enforcement.
Compliance staff assist U.S. EPA in the administration of the municipal pretreatment program for the 47 U.S. EPA delegated cities and towns in Indiana which operate their own pretreatment programs. These communities regulate industrial dischargers within their collection systems and issue their own discharge permits. Compliance Section staff oversee and conduct audits of the pretreatment programs of these communities. (OWQ’s Permits Branch issues Industrial Waste Pretreatment permits to significant industrial dischargers to sewer systems in communities not covered by delegated municipal pretreatment programs.)
OWQ Enforcement Section
Case managers of the Enforcement Section implement formal enforcement actions for all the OWQ program areas. These formal enforcement cases may involve NPDES permitted facilities, unpermitted discharges, unpermitted construction, storm water and wetland actions, and violations of drinking water program rules. The Enforcement Section works closely with each OWQ Program area, its federal counterparts, and with IDEM’s Office of Legal Counsel in the formulation of formal enforcement actions. The IDEM Office of Legal Counsel’s Enforcement page includes a thorough explanation of the enforcement process.
Wastewater Operator Certification and Continuing Education
Dedicated staff of the Compliance Branch also administer the Wastewater Operator Certification and Continuing Education program.
This program includes issuance of operator licenses; preparation, administration, and follow-up of certification exams, review of applications for certification; review and approval of applications for continuing education courses; tracking the number of contact hours earned by each operator; and meeting with operators and their organizations. This program assures:
- wastewater treatment plant operators maintain and improve their knowledge of wastewater treatment systems.
- wastewater treatment plants are under the supervision of operators with the appropriate level of experience and the knowledge to properly operate the systems for which they are responsible.
- wastewater treatment plants produce effluent in compliance with all applicable federal and state rules, assuring clean water for all Hoosiers.
Reporting to the Wastewater Compliance Branch
DMRs are submitted electronically using U.S. EPA’s NetDMR application. NetDMR is a free web-based tool that allows NPDES permittees to electronically sign and submit their DMRs via a secure internet connection. The NetDMR link given here takes you to IDEM’s NetDMR information page which includes the information necessary to get started. As part of IDEM’s effort to be more transparent with agency documents and to provide good customer service, Compliance staff scan and index documents into the IDEM Virtual File Cabinet where they are available for public access.
Bypasses and Overflows
Releases from sewers, including sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), wastewater treatment plant bypasses, dry weather CSOs, and basement backups are required to be reported to the Compliance Branch on state form 48373 by email to wwReports@idem.IN.gov. (Sometime in 2023 Compliance Branch plans to roll out a new online portal for reporting sanitary sewer overflow events, replacing the emailed reports.)
Reported events are recorded in an IDEM database, and the report forms are saved in IDEM’s Virtual File Cabinet. Anyone owning or responsible for sewers that overflow is required to report these events to IDEM. All such events are violations of state and federal rules and can lead to enforcement action by IDEM if they are not reported and addressed properly. More information about sanitary sewer overflows is available at this link: IDEM: Water Quality in Indiana: Sewer Bypass/Overflow Incident Reporting.
Wastewater Reporting Forms, Notices, and Instructions
The Wastewater Reporting Forms, Notices, and Instructions page includes links to instructions concerning E. coli, information on DMRs and the CSO DMR forms and instructions.
Wastewater Compliance Evaluation
The Wastewater Compliance Evaluation page includes a link to the Sewer Bypass/Overflow incident report, more information on operator assistance and laboratory assistance, the laboratory DMRQA program, and the Indiana QA/QC Manual for Wastewater Laboratories, with links to the various benchsheets and instructions.