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Enforcement

National Compliance Initiative: Reducing Significant Non-Compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits

Problem

Compliance with NPDES permits is critical to protecting our nation’s waters. There are approximately 46,000 major and minor individually NPDES-permitted facilities in the country. Over 29 percent of these facilities were in significant noncompliance (SNC) with their permits in FY 2018. Violations range from significant exceedances of effluent limits, which can cause harm to human health and the environment, to failure to submit reports, which can mask serious deficiencies.

Goal

The objective of this initiative is to improve surface water quality and reduce potential impacts on drinking water by assuring that all NPDES permittees are complying with their permits, not just industrial contributors. This NCI aims to reduce by half the national SNC baseline rate of 29.4 percent by the end of FY 2022, while assuring that the worst SNC violators are timely and appropriately addressed.

This effort furthers the EPA’s FY 2018–FY 2022 Strategic Plan, which calls for measurable efforts to increase the environmental law compliance rate.

Results

This NCI addresses significant noncompliance by all individually-permitted NPDES permittees, not just specific categories.  The following chart shows the percent of individually-permitted major and minor permittees that were identified as being in significant noncompliance (SNC) at any time during the year.

In FY2019, states reported an increase in the number of state inspections of permittees. These results can be viewed on the State Water Dashboard.

Some states are experiencing data problems related to the incomplete upload of data from the state’s data management system to EPA, causing facilities that have satisfied permit reporting requirements to be depicted in EPA’s national database as being in SNC due to non-submittal of required reports. EPA is working with state agencies to resolve these issues. 

More Information

View EPA’s Discharge Monitoring Report Pollutant Loading Tool, which provides various data about water pollution discharges across the country.  

Read about the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program, which addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into U.S. waters.