On March 31, 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a temporary advisory for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) reporting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This advisory comes on the heels of EPA’s March 26, 2020 enforcement discretion memo and provides similar compliance guidance. It also applies retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020 and until further notice.
In this advisory, EPA is giving Regional Offices considerable discretion to enforce the NPDES reporting and monitoring requirements. Regional Offices are being directed to handle each situation on a case-by-case basis. EPA is expecting regulated facilities to maintain compliance unless doing so is not reasonably practicable.
Temporary Reporting Guidelines
If data is missing in reports because of the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA strongly encourages permittees and authorized NPDES Programs to use a “No Data Indicator” code. This code was created specifically for the COVID-19 situation. When an electronic reporting tool is unavailable or a permittee is not able to report electronically, permittees must submit an electronic reporting waiver request to EPA or their authorized NPDES Program.
If a permittee is unable to timely report electronically and unable to obtain a waiver to report on paper, authorized NPDES Programs and EPA Regions are being directed to advise permittees to do the following:
- Continue to make every effort to comply with their environmental compliance obligations
- Return to compliance as soon as possible
- Document and report any instances of noncompliance including the nature and dates of the noncompliance as required by their applicable permit or regulations using existing procedures such as verbal notice
- Act responsibly under the circumstances to minimize the effects and duration of any noncompliance caused by COVID-19
- Document how COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the decisions and actions taken in response
- Report any missing DMR or other required report as soon as practicable to show that the data was received even if late and to document that noncompliance was caused by COVID-19
The advisory also provides noncompliance scenarios and detailed options for how facilities should respond.
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