WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that would modernize Clean Water Act (CWA) reporting processes for hundreds of thousands of municipalities, industries, and other facilities by converting to an electronic data reporting system. The proposed e-reporting rule would make facility-specific information, such as inspection and enforcement history, pollutant monitoring results, and other data required by permits accessible to the public through EPA’s website.
EPA estimates that, once the rule is fully implemented, the 46 states and the Virgin Island Territory that are authorized to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program will collectively save approximately $29 million each year as a result of switching from paper to electronic reporting.
“In addition to dramatically cutting costs for states and other regulatory authorities, the e-reporting rule will substantially expand transparency by making it easier for everyone to quickly access critical data on pollution that may be affecting communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The e-reporting rule will also allow states and other regulatory authorities to focus limited resources on the most serious water-quality problems, which will lead to increased compliance, improved water quality, and a level playing field for the regulated community.”
Currently, facilities subject to reporting requirements submit data in paper form to states and other regulatory authorities, where the information must be manually entered into data systems. Through the e-reporting rule, these facilities will electronically report their data directly to the appropriate regulatory authority. EPA expects that the e-reporting rule will lead to more comprehensive and complete data on pollution sources, quicker availability of the data for use, and increased accessibility and transparency of the data to the public.
The CWA requires that municipal, industrial or commercial facilities that discharge wastewater directly into waters of the United States obtain a permit. The NPDES program requires that permitted facilities monitor and report data on pollutant discharges and take other actions to ensure discharges do not affect human health or the environment.
Most facilities subject to reporting requirements will be required to start submitting data electronically one year following the effective date of the final rule. Facilities with limited access to the Internet will have the option of one additional year to come into compliance with the new rule. EPA will work closely with states to provide support to develop or enhance state electronic reporting capabilities.
EPA has already scheduled several webinars in an effort to help states, trade organizations, and other interested parties better understand the details and requirements of the proposed rule. Over the next few months, EPA expects to schedule additional webinar sessions.
The proposed rule will be available for review and public comment for 90 days following the publication date in the Federal Register.