Facilities and Enforcement Activities related to the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program
EPA and State Performance Reports
Compliance & Enforcement Data Tools
Overview of NPDES Program, Data Collection, and Information Sources
EPA's enforcement of the Clean Water Act protects our nation's water quality by curbing municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, managing biosolids from sewage treatment plants, polluted runoff from urban and rural areas, and prevents habitat destruction.
Overflows of raw sewage from aging municipal sewer systems and urban stormwater runoff are significant sources of pollutants, contributing to the contamination of drinking water sources, beach and shellfish bed closures, and other environmental and health concerns.
Stormwater runoff from municipal storm sewer systems and construction sites can dump a variety of harmful pollutants – including bacteria, organic nutrients, pesticides, hydrocarbons, sediment, oil and grease – into rivers, lakes and streams.
Oil and hazardous substance spills can pose serious threats to human health and often have a long-lasting impact on the environment.
This page provides information about federal and state enforcement of non-compliance with Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that regulate the discharge of pollutants from point sources to waters of the United States. The CWA requires anyone who wants to discharge pollutants from point sources to first obtain an NPDES permit, or else that discharge will be considered illegal.
Finding NPDES Program Enforcement Data
- What is the NPDES Permit Program?
- What are the types of facilities regulated by EPA and the states under the CWA NPDES Program? How many are there?
- How can I find compliance and enforcement information about facilities with NPDES Permits?
- What is the completeness of permit limit and discharge monitoring data in EPA's data systems?
- Can I search for a company or particular facility to see their compliance and enforcement history?
- How can I find the number of inspections, violations and enforcement activity within a state?
- Where can I find water quality data for the watershed where a facility with an NPDES permit is located?
- Where can I find information about compliance and enforcement activity in a state over time?
- How can I download summary information about federal and state compliance and enforcement activity?
- How can I find information about a specific compliance and enforcement activity across all states?
- Can I download detailed data about all information in ECHO?
- Where can I find water quality information for a watershed of interest to me?
- Where can I find information about specific state compliance and enforcement programs?
- Where can I find more information about specific enforcement cases taken by EPA under the Clean Water Act?
- Where can I find more information about EPA's enforcement of Federal facilities?
- Where can I find more information about enforcement of the CWA on tribal lands?
- Where can I find more information about oil spills?
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Under the Clean Water Act all facilities that discharge pollutants from any point source into waters of the United States are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The permit provides two levels of control: technology-based limits (based on the ability of dischargers in the same industrial category to treat wastewater) and water quality-based limits (if technology-based limits are not sufficient to provide protection of the water body). The NPDES program also requires controls on industrial discharges to sewage treatment plants ("pretreatment program”) and the management and disposal of biosolids from sewage treatment plants ("biosolids program”).
The CWA allows EPA to authorize the NPDES program to state governments, enabling states to perform many of the permitting, administrative, and enforcement aspects of the NPDES Program. Most states currently have authorized NPDES programs . In these states, EPA still retains oversight responsibilities. EPA works closely with the states and tribes to implement federal environmental programs. States and tribes authorized to manage federal programs must have enforcement authorities that are at least as stringent as federal law. EPA works with officials in state and tribal environmental, health and agricultural agencies on strategic planning, priority-setting and measurement of results.Finally, separate from the NPDES program, EPA uses its authority under Section 311 of the CWA to implement procedures, methods, equipment, and other requirements to prevent discharges of oil from vessels and facilities and to contain such discharges when they occur.
2: What are the types of facilities regulated by EPA and the states under the CWA NPDES Program? How many are there?
All facilities that discharge pollutants through a point source into waters of the United States are regulated by EPA and states under the NPDES program. These include municipal and industrial sources of wastewater pollution. The NPDES program also regulates wastewater from industrial facilities connected to the publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) sewerage system through the pretreatment program and biosolids from POTWs through the biosolids program. Another main part of the NPDES program is regulating discharges related to wet-weather events. The majority of facilities covered by the NPDES Program are stormwater discharging facilities. These wet weather enforcement programs regulate the following discharges:
- Stormwater Discharges From Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)
- Road-Related Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)
- Stormwater Discharges From Construction Activities
- Stormwater Discharges From Industrial Facilities
- Combined Sewer Overflows
- Sanitary Sewer Overflows
- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
The following table lists the components of the NPDES Program and the estimated number of regulated entities.
|NPDES Program Component||Approximate Number
of Regulated Entities
|Facilities with Individual Permits (Majors)||6,700|
|Facilities with Individual Permits (Non-Majors)||39,000|
|CAFOs (75% are likely to need permits)||19,000|
|General Permits (Not Elsewhere Classified)||20,000|
|Combined Sewer Systems||800|
|Separate Sewer Systems (including satellite systems)||20,000|
|Construction Stormwater (yearly new construction sites > 1 acre)||200,000|
|Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer Systems||7,300|
|Significant Industrial Users Discharging to POTWs||20,000|
|Vessels (longer than 79 feet)||50,000|
Please see table of NPDES Permit Counts by State (PDF) (2 pp, 98K) for more information.
You can find compliance and enforcement information about facilities on Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO). Simply navigate to ECHO, select "Water Data Search" on the left hand side bar, and choose a retrieval tool based on your state (there are currently two separate water databases, PCS and ICIS-NPDES). Users can then search based on ZIP code, city, or other area of interest. The output from your searches can be displayed on a map.
For approximately 47,000 facilities (individually permitted facilities designated as ‘Majors' and some facilities designated as ‘Non-Majors') EPA collects key information including:
- the universe of facilities regulated under the NPDES program,
- permit limits for these facilities,
- facility discharge reports that relate to permit limits,
- noncompliance (determined by comparing the discharge report measurement to the permitted limit, or by other means such as inspections),
- the severity of violations (significant noncompliance or SNC for major sources, and Category I violations for smaller non-major permittees),
- whether informal or formal enforcement actions were taken, and
- whether penalties were assessed.
You can view recent civil water enforcement case information (Fiscal Year 2009) by location. You can also use the Clean Water Act Annual Noncompliance Report (ANCR) to see recent information (Calendar Year 2008) about smaller Clean Water Act direct dischargers (known as "non-majors").
Under the Clean Water Act Action Plan, EPA is working to enhance public transparency regarding clean water enforcement performance at federal and state levels, to strengthen that performance, and to transform EPA's water quality and compliance information systems. Specifically, EPA is working on new data resources that better describe the enforcement and compliance activities on the NPDES program sectors (e.g., pretreatment, biosolids) not adequately highlighted in ECHO.
In administration and oversight of the NPDES program, EPA has divided the universe by designating dischargers as either 'majors' or 'non-majors'. For example, POTW majors are those discharging equal to or greater than 1 million gallons per day. EPA places greater priority on major facilities, and requires States to provide more information about the compliance status of these dischargers.
Information about what data is required to be reported is on the Summary of EPA Compliance & Enforcement Data Entry Requirements in ECHO. Information about known data quality problems is found on the Known Data Problems Web page. EPA works with the delegated state NPDES programs to ensure data quality through the State Review Framework.
Compliance and enforcement information includes both permit limits and discharge monitoring reports. For major discharges, EPA expects states to enter compliance and enforcement information into the national databases for at least 95% of their permitted facilities. For non-major discharges, EPA does not require compliance and enforcement information to be entered into the national system; however, many states are providing the information voluntarily. You can also use an the Clean Water Act Annual Noncompliance Report (ANCR) to see recent information (Calendar Year 2008) about smaller Clean Water Act direct dischargers (known as "non-majors").
See the most recent statistics on state data entry. States that do not provide the data into the national system are required to have their own tracking systems to review incoming reports for violations.
- State Permit Limit and Discharge Monitoring Data Entry Rates for Major and Non-Major Facilities by State (PDF) (2 pp, 92K)
Yes. Navigate to ECHO , select "Water Data Search" on the left hand side bar, and choose a water system based on your state (there are currently two separate water databases, PCS and ICIS-NPDES). You can search for a facility by its name.
There are several ways to do this. EPA has posted data for 2009 that can be downloaded using the resources below.
- The ECHO Annual Reports page provides links by year to reports with state-by-state data.
- Interactive 2009 and 2008 CWA Trends Map and Annual Noncompliance Report provides information direct discharge permit holders. Information includes how many permits have been issued, how frequently sampling data is reviewed to determine if violations occurred, the frequency of violations, and the frequency that formal enforcement was taken. Users can change the map theme using the "Select Data to Map" menu, can hover over a state to view statistics, and can click on the state to get more information and maps with details about the violations and enforcement actions. The data presented in the map are also available in table format.
- EPA's ECHO CWA Permit Compliance Search retrieves data about which facilities received inspections, had violations, or were subject to enforcement.
7: Where can I find water quality data for the watershed where a facility with an NPDES permit is located?
Using ECHO, when you perform a query, you will see a blue "W" icon that will bring forward several data layers that allow you to see whether a watershed into which a facility is discharging is impaired. Information is not available in all states.
You can use the State Review Framework CWA State Trends Report to select a state, examine key program indicators that EPA uses in its evaluation of the state. This tool can also produce a graph showing trends for any selected indicator beginning in 2004.
9: How can I download summary information about federal and state compliance and enforcement activity?
EPA has posted the national files in three different formats for use on ECHO's State Review Framework page. All three files contain the same information.
10: How can I find information about a specific compliance and enforcement activity across all states?
That information is available as a part of the State Review Framework CWA Multi-State Report .
Yes, a data download is provided at ECHO's IDEA Downloads page.
ECHO is a Web interface that draws data from the Integrated Data for Enforcement Analysis (IDEA) system, which integrates facility data from different EPA databases. The data sets were downloaded using data from the March 2009 IDEA refresh, and are updated annually. With respect to providing information pertaining to water, there are two downloads. One for the PCS Data Set: Permit Compliance System for Clean Water Act permitted dischargers (under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System), and another for ICIS-NPDES Data Set: Integrated Compliance Information System for Clean Water Act permitted dischargers (under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System).
EPA makes available information about water quality that EPA receives from states on its EnviroMappper for Water. You can also view watershed monitoring reports that states submit to EPA on a two year cycle.
This information is available through the State Review Framework (SRF). The SRF is a collaborative tool for EPA and states to use to assess a state's performance in environmental enforcement and compliance assurance programs, and to ensure the implementation of actions to address identified issues. The SRF assesses performance of basic enforcement activities across the CAA Title V, RCRA Subtitle C, and the CWA NPDES programs. The goal is continuous improvement in program performance.
14: Where can I find more information about specific enforcement cases taken by EPA under the Clean Water Act?
There are several sources of information. Please use the resources below.
EPA Annual Accomplishments Report
- EPA Annual Results Statistics
EPA Information about CWA Priority Areas
Access EPA Case and Press Release Search
Search ECHO for data about EPA cases taken under the CWA
In order to limit your case search to cases related to Clean Water Act compliance, scroll to the "Case Attributes" section of the ICIS Enforcement Data (EPA Cases) Search, and select "CWA - Clean Water Act" from the "Primary Law" drop down menu.
Federal facilities, like all other regulated facilities, are responsible for complying with environmental requirements. The State of Federal Facilities Reports gives an overview of compliance rates for Federal facilities and the various compliance and enforcement issues and problems facing Federal facilities. You can also use the ECHO water search to find facilities regulated under the NPDES program by selecting "Federal” from the drop down list labeled as "Owner/Operator."
EPA works closely with federally-recognized Indian tribes to ensure compliance at federally-regulated facilities in Indian country. Tribes authorized to manage federal programs must have enforcement authorities that are at least as stringent as federal law. Where authorization is lacking, EPA directly implements federal programs and ensures compliance with federal environmental laws. In both cases, EPA works with officials in tribal environmental, health and agricultural agencies on strategic planning, priority-setting and measurement of results. The Tribal Compliance Assistance Center is a Web-based tool that that serves as the first place to get comprehensive, easy to understand compliance information targeted specifically for environmental issues in Indian country. You can also use the ECHO water search to find facilities regulated under the NPDES program by checking the box labeled "In Indian Country” when you build your search.
Under authority of the CWA EPA seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills that occur in and around inland waters of the United States. EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead response agency for spills in coastal waters and deepwater ports. EPA's oil spill program works with other federal agencies, state and local agencies, and industry to prevent accidents, as well as to maintain superior response capabilities. The National Response Center (NRC), the federal government's national communications center, is staffed 24 hours a day by U.S. Coast Guard officers and marine science technicians and serves as the sole federal point of contact for reporting all hazardous substances and oil spills. The NRC maintains reports of all releases and spills in a national database. To access this information, see the National Response Center: Data Query Page. Information about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and EPA's response is available at the EPA Response to BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico webpage.