DEQ’s regional offices are the primary point of contact for many of those who do business with the agency. Contact any of the six regional offices for more information on day-to-day operations.
Responding to citizen concerns about pollution
Citizens often have questions and concerns about pollution-related incidents. DEQ’s Pollution Response Program ensures that pollution complaints are investigated and provides knowledgeable responses to citizen reports on air, water and waste pollution incidents, often using public concerns as a way to measure which areas require pollution response. DEQ counts on citizen help to locate, identify and stop pollution. Even if an incident is not an emergency, it is helpful for DEQ to receive reports on known or suspected pollution problems.
Monitoring air, land and water
Monitoring is an essential part of protecting the environment. DEQ scientists measure chemical and biological parameters in air, water and soil samples that help the agency decide how to address specific situations. This information enables DEQ to set priorities and deal with environmental concerns in a timely manner. DEQ maintains a statewide monitoring network that provides real-time air quality information for several key pollutants. In addition, DEQ tests Virginia’s rivers, lakes and tidal waters for pollutants. More than 130 pollutants are monitored annually to determine whether the waters can be used for swimming, fishing and drinking. DEQ also conducts soil and sediment sampling to identify cleanup needs at solid and hazardous waste sites.
Issuing environmental permits is a way for DEQ to ensure that businesses, industries and local governments operate in a manner that protects the environment and public. Permits serve as blueprints describing the restrictions placed on permit holders, and the steps they are required to take to minimize pollution. Permits may be written for specific facilities, or concerning specific pollutants or processes. They cover a broad range of environmental activities, including pollution discharges to state waters, wetlands protection, surface and ground water withdrawals, emission of pollutants to the air, and solid waste disposal. Energy generation is a new focus area for DEQ, with permits by rule having been developed for wind and solar projects to protect the environment and wildlife.
To help ensure that regulated facilities are complying with their permits, DEQ conducts announced and unannounced inspections. Permit holders must provide regular status reports to DEQ with information on types and amounts of pollution that is released from facilities. Inspections cover areas such as air emissions, discharges to water, disposal of solid waste and storage of hazardous waste.
In addition to inspections, DEQ uses a variety of tools to ensure compliance with environmental permits and regulations. If DEQ identifies a potential violation, the agency’s first goal is to bring a regulated facility into compliance and meet environmental requirements. There are formal and informal ways to accomplish this, and DEQ begins with the least adversarial method appropriate. Initial steps include offering technical assistance or seeking corrective action. If appropriate, DEQ also may issue enforcement orders or seek further legal action.
Collaborating with stakeholders
DEQ communicates and collaborates regularly with individuals and organizations interested in environmental policy and procedures. DEQ’s community involvement policy recognizes that stakeholders are valuable partners and tries to engage people early and often in environmental decision-making. DEQ provides opportunities for meaningful community involvement in all agency programs, looks for new ways to enhance public input, and develops education materials and training opportunities for the public. Often, this involves holding public meetings and other information sessions that help the public understand complex environmental issues and provide input on actions that DEQ takes to protect the environment.
These days it’s easier than ever to contact DEQ and get the answers you need. Visit the agency website to “Connect with DEQ.” Web visitors also can sign up for news feeds, and receive public meeting notices through the Virginia Town Hall.