DNREC releases environmental enforcement statistics for first half of 2010

by Dave on August 24, 2010

Enforcement statistics for the first six months of 2010 on investigations into violations of Delaware’s environmental laws were released today by DNREC’s Environmental Crimes Unit.

DNREC’s Environmental Protection Officers (EPOs) investigated 1,744 complaints in the first six months of 2010 – covering a wide range of violations and emergencies of Delaware’s air, land and water that threatened public health, safety and the environment. EPOs are sworn police officers who enforce environmental laws, investigate complaints and prosecute environmental violators.

Illegal dumping arrests increased by almost 140 percent over last year – attributed to DNREC’s new “TrashStoppers” campaign – the agency’s program to curtail and eliminate illegal trash dumping throughout the state.

“We launched our “TrashStoppers” campaign with an appeal to Delawareans to help stop illegal dumping of garbage, debris, and hazardous wastes along Delaware’s roadways,” said Chief William P. “Chip” McDaniel. “The response has been tremendous. Tips provided by citizens enable us to identify locations to deploy our new digital cameras. The new digital cameras are the single biggest factor leading to the increase in illegal dumping arrests.”

“TrashStoppers” encourages citizens to get involved by calling DNREC Environmental Complaint Hotline (800-662-8802) to report trash dumpsites and by identifying photos posted on the agency’s website of people who have illegally dumped trash throughout the state. In June, DNREC announced that up to 20 surveillance cameras would be deployed covering Delaware’s known dumping sites.

During the first six months of 2010, Environmental Enforcement Officers responded to individual complaints that included: 317 open burning: 265 illegal dumping that included 32 arrests; 235 water related discharges; 225 spills; 153 permit checks; 83 air pollution related releases; 74 odors; 54 vapor recover checks (from gas stations); 37 asbestos; 20 erosion; 16 idling vehicles, and 3 white powder incidents.

More than 160 the complaints involved DNREC Emergency Response Team calls. EPOs and environmental scientists in DNREC’s Emergency Response Branch responded to emergencies that included industrial spills and releases, transportation accidents and other potentially hazardous incidents.

In addition, officers apprehended 9 fugitives with active arrest warrants from other police departments. Approximately 30 percent of the complaints were investigated on weekends and after hours.

Following is a breakdown of the January through June 2010 statistics per county:
Total Complaints: 1,744

New Castle County: 867
Kent County: 397
Sussex County: 480

Total Enforcement Actions: 141
New Castle County: 47
Kent County: 39
Sussex County: 55

DNREC receives environmental complaints in three ways – from citizens who contact the agency’s Citizen Complaint and Emergency Response Line, through proactive patrols by EPOs, and from referrals from other regulatory programs and organizations.
Citizens are encouraged to call the toll-free, 24-hour Environmental Complaint Line at 800-662-8802 to report an environmental complaint or emergency. Verizon Wireless customers in Delaware can reach the line by calling #367 on their cell phones.
EPOs are trained to take innovative actions to solve problems, by working with other police departments and citizen groups to ensure safe and secure communities. The Unit offers a Community Policing Program which trains municipal and county police officers to identify environmental violations. A ride-a-long program and liaison with community groups is part of the Unit’s education and outreach efforts.
The minimum fine for illegal dumping is $500, and the fine for most other minor environmental violations is $100 for the first offense plus the cost of a permit, if the violation included an activity without the appropriate permit. For each subsequent offense, the fine increases from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $1500.

For more information, contact Chief William McDaniel at 302-739-9401 or visit http://www.awm.delaware.gov/Pages/Enforcement.aspx.

Press release from DNREC

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