Nonpoint Pollution refers to pollution that enters any waters from any land-based or water-based activities. This
fact sheet describes the Thurston County Health Department’s approach to implementing the hazardous waste sections of the
Nonpoint Source Pollution Ordinance (Article
VI [PDF] of the Sanitary Code) and explains the procedures that govern its enforcement.
The ordinance, which took effect in May 1993, is part of the
Business Pollution Prevention Program’s efforts called for in the County’s Hazardous Waste Plan,
which was adopted by
Thurston County and its incorporated cities.
Proactive & Reactive Field Inspections
The Health Department implements the ordinance with either a proactive or reactive approach.
Proactive inspections are those in which the Health Department approaches businesses rather than waiting for inquiries or
complaints. Typically, these inspections will be directed within a limited time frame at all businesses of a given type, and will be preceded by an opportunity for education about the
ordinance. The process is designed to resolve all violations while avoiding inequitable or arbitrary enforcement of the ordinance among competitors in the same field.
When the Health Department receives a complaint from the public about a violation of the ordinance, the Department reacts and
investigates. In these cases, enforcement action may be taken. Nonetheless, the goal is still to correct the violation rather than issue tickets, so field staff
will work as constructively as possible with the violator to make necessary changes.
What The Ordinance Says
The following is an excerpt from
Article VI [PDF], Section 4, of the Sanitary Code:
- 4.1 (a) Moderate risk waste and petroleum products including, but not limited to, oil and grease, shall be disposed of by
recycling or use of a hazardous waste management facility operating under interim status or with a permit issued by EPA or an authorized state . . .
No person shall, intentionally or negligently, dump or deposit, or permit the dumping or depositing of any such waste in any other manner, including
onto or under the surface of the ground or into surface or ground water.
- 4.1 (b) Moderate risk waste, petroleum products, and hazardous materials shall be kept in containers and shall be stored in such
a manner and location that if the container is ruptured, the contents will not discharge, flow, be washed or fall into surface water or ground water.
- 4.1 (c) Any person violating this section or owning or in possession of the premises, facility, vehicle or vessel from or on which
waste is discharged or placed in violation of this section, shall notify the Department of the location and nature of the violation and shall immediately
take or cause to be taken all necessary steps to prevent injury and protect waters from pollution.
If Health Dept Staff Observe A Violation of Article IV
Field staff have three options for response to violations. The ordinance specifies that compliance officers must respond to any violation they believe
has occurred or is occurring. The three options are:
- an informal notification to the violator explaining the violation and recommended options for correcting the problem;
- a Notice of Violation, which begins formal administrative enforcement; and
- a Notice of Civil Infraction, which is similar to a traffic citation in that it carries a fine and is resolved in court.
Which option is used will depend on the type and severity of the violation and prior opportunities the violator has had to learn about and comply with the
law. It is important to understand that, regardless of the initial response chosen and time frame allowed, the ordinance requires the Health Department to
follow-up with increasingly stronger measures until the violation is eventually corrected.
If You Receive An Informal Notice of
An informal notification offers an opportunity to comply voluntarily. The Health Department’s approach to compliance assumes that the majority of
hazardous waste generators want to “do the right thing” and simply need to recognize how to make it happen.
The informal notification would typically consist of a letter or notice of noncompliance following a voluntary technical assistance visit during which a
violation was observed. It is intended to help the business understand the reason for the violation and the options available for correcting the problem.
This notification will not specify an exact time frame for compliance.
If You Receive a Formal Compliance Inspection
A formal compliance inspection involves a visit to your business by a County hazardous waste specialist. The specialist will examine your facilities and
practices with respect to two issues:
- hazardous wastes and petroleum products (all must be recycled or sent to a permitted disposal facility); and
- storage of hazardous wastes, petroleum products, and hazardous products (all must be kept from reaching ground or surface water).
At the end of a compliance inspection, you will receive a Notice of Compliance, a Technical Assistance Notice of Noncompliance, or a Notice of Violation.
Notice of Compliance — documents your good-standing at the time of the inspection
If you are managing your hazardous wastes properly ― either recycling them at your facility or sending them to another facility for disposal or recycling ―
you will receive a Notice of Compliance for you to file as a record of your status. If you are recycling the waste on site, the inspector will need to see
the recycling methods and/or equipment used and may want to verify the proper operation of the equipment. If you are sending the waste off site, the inspector
will need to see documentation of at least one recent pick-up that includes the name and phone number of the collection service.
Note that a Notice of Compliance documents your status only with respect to the Nonpoint Source Pollution Ordinance and only on the day of the inspection. It
does not preclude a later change in status if your practices change, or if new information indicates the inspection results were inaccurate. It also does
not comment on compliance with any other laws you may be subject to, such as fire, building, zoning, licensing, and worker safety regulations.
Technical Assistance Notice of Noncompliance — identifies why the site is out of compliance
A Technical Assistance Notice of Noncompliance typically is used for lack of secondary containment or lack of waste disposal documentation. It is
signed by both the violator and the inspector and includes a mutually agreeable grace period for the site to come into compliance.
Notice of Violation — first step in the “formal” administrative enforcement process
Field staff typically issue a Notice of Violation (NOV) in cases where the alleged violator has already had at least one opportunity to learn about, and
comply with, the ordinance. It may also be issued immediately in cases of flagrant or particularly negligent violations. The NOV can be presented to the
violator in person or sent by registered or certified mail. It will state the section of the ordinance that was or is being violated, a brief description of
facts supporting this finding, a list of actions that must be taken to resolve the matter, and a date by which these actions must be taken.
The process for responding to an NOV and your rights under this process are described on the
back of the NOV. Some important elements of this process are listed below.
- You have the right to appeal. You may do so by
submitting a written request for an administrative
hearing to the Health Officer at the Thurston County
Health Department, 412 Lilly Road NE, Olympia, WA
98506 within fifteen days of the date of issuance of the Notice of Violation.
The request must be written on a
form provided by the department and submitted with
all required fees.
- A hearing will be conducted within thirty
calendar days of the hearing request being filed, unless alternative
scheduling is agreed to mutually by the involved
- Corrective actions are postponed until after the hearing. If you file a request for a hearing, you may temporarily postpone taking corrective actions pending the hearing outcome.
- Administrative hearings allow an opportunity to present evidence that you did not violate the ordinance. Evidence may include testimony of witnesses, affidavits and documents, and other exhibits such as photographs.
- You may appeal the results of an administrative hearing. If you are unsatisfied with the results of an administrative hearing, you may appeal these findings and actions to the Thurston County Board of Health.
Additional information on Administrative Hearings is provided in Section 8 of
Article I [PDF] of the
Sanitary Code for Thurston County.
If You Receive a Notice of Civil Infraction
Violations of Article VI [PDF] of the Sanitary Code are civil infractions enforceable by the
court and subject to fines (including court costs). Once a Notice of Violation has been issued, the process of issuing and enforcing a civil
infraction will not begin until and unless the administrative process described above runs its course without resolution.
If you do not, in the specified time frame, take the actions required by a Notice of Violation, or those required by
a subsequent administrative or Board of Health hearing, you will be issued a Notice of Civil Infraction (a “ticket”), which is handled similarly to a traffic citation. You may:
- pay the penalty;
- request a hearing to contest or explain the circumstances of the alleged violation; or
- ignore the ticket, which would automatically result in your being found guilty and responsible for the full amount of the fine.
The Notice of Civil Infraction, when issued, explains in more detail your options and rights under the civil process.
If you have questions on the Nonpoint Source Pollution Ordinance or any part of the Sanitary Code, please call the Business Pollution Prevention Program at
360-867-2664 or TDD 360-867-2603, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Other information that may be of interest:
Hazardous Waste Update Articles