Step 6: Protect Your Watershed: Reviewing EPD Files

STEP ONE: Who is Discharging in my Watershed?

Check EPA's Website
The quickest and easiest way to determine who is discharging in your watershed is to access the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency's website and type in the requested information.  The website can be found here.  The Georgia Environmental Protection Division used to maintain a list of all NPDES permitees in the state on its website, but no longer does.  You can submit a request to EPD's water protection branch for a a copy of that list.

Prioritize your search
Depending on your watershed, there may be just a few permits, or there may be hundreds. If your watershed has numerous discharges, you may need to prioritize your search. Consider identifying targets based on the following factors:

Community experts – talk to people that are most impacted by pollution or may have special knowledge of problems, such as:

STEP TWO: Locating the Permittee’s File for Review

Once you have determined what permittees you want to focus on, the next step is actually reviewing the documents that EPD has on that facility. Under the Georgia Open Records Act, you have the right to review all of these files on a particular facility within three days of requesting access to that file. Unfortunately, filing quality and organization varies widely among offices and facilities, and the documents you need may be scattered. After compiling a list of all the NPDES permittees in your area, call your local EPD office to locate the files you are looking for. Here's a list offices, or you can call EPD's central number for water protection at 404-362-2680 (ask for the file room).

Ask for help in gathering file contents
Typically, unless it is very small, a file is broken down into three parts: permits, discharge monitoring reports and correspondence (the correspondence file will include notices of violations and consent orders). Make sure that all of these files have been given to you. If the file appears incomplete or you cannot find what you are looking for, ask someone for assistance. Someone in the office should be able to help you find the information or explain why the information is not in the file. If you are dissatisfied and believe that you have not seen the entire file, remember, the Open Records Act guarantees you use of these files. Also, you can contact GreenLaw for advice and assistance on obtaining files.

STEP THREE: Reviewing the File

Reviewing NPDES files is one of the most crucial and vital actions a concerned citizen can take in protecting our natural resources. Facilities with NPDES permits often take advantage of the EPD’s lack of funds and work force by exceeding their effluent limits and polluting waterways. Citizen action, however, can and does stop these illegal activities. Reviewing the permit is not difficult, but many times the files are voluminous and disorganized. But if you know what you are looking for and are familiar with the contents of a typical file, you can find your information much more quickly.

The Permit: The first and most important part of the file to review is the permit itself. Most permits are approximately 20-25 pages long. However, most of these pages are boiler-plate and not very helpful. We have posted a sample permit here.

Go to Step Seven.