One of the scariest moments for any business is when a government regulator walks in the door and asks to inspect your facility. Businesses that handle hazardous wastes need to be particularly concerned if they have not maintained compliance with their hazardous waste generator requirements. The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is the California state agency that is tasked with regulating the generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. As part of their agency mandate they monitor compliance with State and Federal hazardous waste requirements by conducting facilities inspections.
The California Health and Safety Code section 25185 provides the DTSC with the authority to conduct inspections. As part of these inspections they are allowed to conduct sampling activities, inspect and copy documents, and take photographs at sites or establishments where hazardous wastes are stored, handled, processed, treated, or disposed. It is DTSC policy that they will conduct inspections and write inspection reports as part of their duties. The DTSC is granted the broadest authority of any branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency. DTSC inspectors are responsible for identifying and documenting all violations at a facility during an inspection, and if they discover violations at a facility they have authority to initiate enforcement actions on the spot.
The most common inspection is the Compliance Evaluation Inspection (CEI). This is a rigorous inspection that checks all aspects of a facility’s hazardous waste operations. With all but a few exceptions, NO PRIOR NOTICE IS GIVEN TO A FACILITY PRIOR TO AN INSPECTION. This means that inspectors will show up at a facility, identify themselves as DTSC inspectors, present their agency credentials and ask for the person in charge of maintaining the facility’s hazardous waste compliance program. The inspector informs the compliance manager about the purpose of the inspection and requests, obtains and documents consent to conduct the inspection from the operator prior to beginning the inspection.
Prior to the inspection, inspectors go through an offsite facility background check including researching available resources to become familiar with the facility’s hazardous waste activities, regulatory status, the regulatory standards the facility shall meet, and health and safety requirements. Typical background checks include: