Step 5: Know your Watershed: Getting the Big Picture
Online watershed resources
Now that you have a general understanding of the Clean Water Act, it is time to learn more about your watershed and what you can do to protect it. Various public agencies publish reports on the condition of our nation’s water. Familiarizing yourself with this information can be useful before jumping into the NPDES permitting process because it will help you decide where to focus your efforts.
NPDES Point Source Dischargers
In the past, EPD used to post a list of all NPDES permittees on their website. They no longer post this list. However, you can visit EPA's website and find out the dischargers in your neighborhood here.
Other Watershed Web Sites
Scorecard.org. This is a great Web site because it provides links to many government reports. The links offered are (1) your watershed status, (2) a summary of EPA watershed indicators, (3) EPA water quality indicators, and (4) EPA watershed vulnerability indicators.
305(b) Reports. The Clean Water Act requires a publishing of the 305(b) report every two years. The report gives a detailed analysis of the state’s overall health of surface waters and helps determine pollution control and management priorities at all governmental levels. The amount of information at this sight might seem overwhelming at first, but it will also be very informative as you learn about the permitting process.
303(d) Lists. Another requirement of the Clean Water Act, the 303(d) List is a list of all impaired waters in Georgia. Impaired waters are those not meeting water quality goals even after all current regulatory requirements are met. EPD must include plans to clean up the polluted waters on this list.
Surf Your Watershed. This Web site is provided by the U.S. EPA. It contains useful information on water quality, land use, trends, threats, and links to other sources of information. This is an excellent site.
Topozone. This Web site is a good place to find free topo maps.
Getting Information from EPD
Much of the information that you may need, such as permits, Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs), correspondence, and other documents about a specific facility may not be available on the Web. In Georgia, you have a right to review any of that information under the Open Records Act, which says that any Georgia citizen has a right to see the records of any public agency (except records specifically exempted from public disclosure such as documents that contain trade secrets).
Here are some basic rules under the Open Records Act:
- Once a reasonable request for information has been made, it is the burden of the public agency to explain why the records should not be furnished.
- The individual in control of the records has a maximum of three business days to determine whether to release the information.
- The Open Records Act applies to counties, municipalities, school districts, and state agencies.
How can you get information like EPD files under the Open Records Act?
Typically, it is easiest to just pick up the phone and call EPD to find out how to review the documents that you would like to see. Here's a list of EPD contacts. For NPDES Permits – the central number is 404-362-2680, ask for the file room.
Submit a request in writing
Sometimes an agency will require you to submit a request in writing. You should also send a letter when you want to document any missing information that EPD says it can’t find, or to ask why you have been refused access to any information.
You can find a sample Open Records Act Request here.
If you have problems obtaining documents from EPD, GreenLaw may be able to help you obtain those documents. Contact us if you have any questions.
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