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 and assure operator training and competency through the Wastewater Operator Certification and Continuing Education program.
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 2020, the Enforcement Section was moved to the Compliance Branch. Enforcement case managers conduct the formal enforcement actions designed to return violators to compliance and deter future violations.
The duties of the three 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 about water pollution. Every facility with a 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 for evaluating existing conditions, planning for future solutions, and arranging for funding when capital improvements are required. The Inspection Section is also responsible for assuring laboratory proficiency.
Wastewater Data Compliance Evaluation Section:
NPDES compliance 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.
DMRs are now required by U.S.EPA to be submitted electronically, and IDEM uses U.S. EPA’s NetDMR application for this purpose. NetDMR is a free web-based tool that allows NPDES permittees to electronically sign and submit their discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) to IDEM via a secure internet connection. As part of IDEM’s effort to be more transparent with government 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.
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 for those industries discharging to sewer systems not covered by delegated municipal pretreatment programs.)
Bypasses and overflows, including sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), wastewater treatment plant bypasses, dry weather CSOs, and basement backups are required to be reported to the Compliance Section on state form 48373 by email. These 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 or addressed properly.
OWQ Enforcement Section:
Case managers of the Enforcement Section implement formal enforcement actions for all the OWQ program areas. This activity includes formal enforcement cases involving NPDES permitted facilities, unpermitted discharges, storm water and wetland actions, and drinking water program areas. The Enforcement Section works closely with each OWQ Program area, 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:
The Compliance Branch also administers 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.