Dec 10, 2008

Illinois EPA Warns Against Fraudulent Inspectors

Two facilities were contacted by individuals claiming to be EPA inspectors, then persuaded to buy products to address alleged violations

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is urging personnel at regulated facilities, such as wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, to verify the identification of government inspectors, after receiving reports that at least two facilities were contacted by individuals falsely claiming to be EPA inspectors, who then cited potential algae violations and penalties.

In both cases, a short time later, a salesman for a chemical firm showed up offering products to address the alleged violations. One community made a $15,000 purchase and the other made a $10,000 purchase.

Both communities have contacted the Illinois Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Division about the incidents. In addition, the IEPA Division of Legal Counsel is investigating the matter in cooperation with other agencies. IEPA's Bureau of Water is also reaching out to facility operators through their association newsletters and web sites, and this news release.

How to verify the inspector is legitimate:
• Know your inspector. IEPA and U.S. EPA inspectors carry identification with a photograph issued by the State of Illinois and the Federal Government, respectively. If you have not met the inspector, ask to see their ID. Some facilities routinely request that inspectors show their ID.
• Make sure you have a telephone number for the inspector so you can request additional information. Responsibilities of a field inspector include inspection of facilities, education of permittees and issuing noncompliance advisories (NCAs).
• Violation notices (VNs) are issued by the IEPA Compliance Assurance Section in Springfield. All letters from the IEPA are issued on official letterhead. If you receive an NCA or a VN, call the telephone number provided in the letter if you have questions about the contents.
• If you are approached by someone claiming to be an inspector, who you suspect is not representing the IEPA or the USEPA, please contact your regional office, or call Bruce Yurdin at IEPA headquarters in Springfield, at 217.782.3397.

The IEPA only issues VNs by letter. Any facility that receives a VN will be given an opportunity to respond—usually within 30 days of receipt of the letter. If the facility does not provide an adequate response to the VN, the IEPA may issue a notice of intent to pursue legal action. This action can lead to a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Attorney General's Office. Only then will the facility receive a notification of monetary penalties for violations.