Frequently Asked Questions

A. Background/General

B. Facility Search Information

C. Enforcement/Compliance

D. Technical

E. Comments/Corrections/Data Quality

 A. Background/General

 What is ECHO?

ECHO, Enforcement and Compliance History Online, is a web tool developed and maintained by EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for public use. The ECHO website provides environmental regulatory compliance and enforcement information for over one million regulated facilities nationwide. It also offers information about compliance and enforcement activities at the state level.

 What kind of information does ECHO contain?

The ECHO website includes environmental permit, inspection, violation, enforcement action, and penalty information about EPA-regulated facilities. This facility information generally covers four major environmental statutes over the past five years. Data are available for large facilities and many smaller facilities. Facilities included on the site are Clean Air Act (CAA) stationary sources; Clean Water Act (CWA) facilities with direct discharge permits, under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System; generators and handlers of hazardous waste, regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); and public drinking water systems, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). ECHO also includes information about EPA cases under other environmental statutes. When available, information is provided on surrounding demographics, and ECHO includes other EPA environmental datasets to provide additional context for analyses, such as Toxics Release Inventory data. In addition, aggregate data on compliance and enforcement activities by state are provided in the State Comparative Maps and Dashboards features.

 What are the benefits of ECHO?

ECHO provides communities with important environmental enforcement and compliance information about regulated facilities. ECHO integrates data specific to enforcement about facilities from six disparate database systems. ECHO makes the data accessible online in an understandable and searchable format, with data from these systems provided in a comprehensive and organized way. ECHO also allows users to sort and analyze data in many ways, according to their needs. The public can monitor environmental compliance in communities, corporations can monitor compliance across facilities they own, investors can more easily factor environmental performance into decisions, and more.

 What are the key search interfaces in ECHO?

1. Quick Search

Find facility information from the home page Quick Search. Search by Location (by entering a city, state, and/or zip code) or by Facility Name/ID (by entering a facility name or ID number). The search results list facilities in the area with brief compliance information, which can be downloaded. Search results link to each facility's Detailed Facility Report, a multi-program report with Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act data, as applicable to that facility, as well as Toxics Release Inventory and demographic information for context. Summary information is provided for inspections and enforcement actions. Three-year compliance history by quarter also is provided for facilities regulated under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and/or Safe Drinking Water Act.

2. Multimedia Compliance Data Search (All Media Programs Facility Search)

Perform detailed compliance analyses for facilities regulated under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and/or Safe Drinking Water Act. Search options include facilities not previously inspected, facilities with multiple violations, facilities in a sector, and facilities matching geographic criteria. 

3. Single-program Compliance Data Search (Air, Drinking Water, Wastewater/Stormwater/Biosolids, Hazardous Waste)

Perform detailed compliance analyses for facilities regulated by one of the statutes listed above. Search options are similar to the multimedia search, but vary based on the statute; for example, users can search for facilities near impaired waters with the water program interface.

4. EPA Enforcement Cases Search

Use the Find EPA Cases quick search or select from a more extensive list of criteria to search for EPA enforcement case information from the Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS). ICIS tracks formal civil administrative and judicial enforcement actions taken by the U.S. EPA. Allows searches for any EPA enforcement case concluded after Sept. 30, 2000. Searches can be performed based on a variety of criteria, including facility name, penalty amount, geographic location, and statute violated.

For more information on ECHO features, see the ECHO Tool Guide.

 What reports are available from the ECHO site?

1. The facility summary results report is the first screen you see after a facility search is run. It contains a list of facility names meeting your search criteria along with the number of inspections (5 years), quarters with noncompliance (3 years), and formal enforcement actions (5 years). A yes/no indicator is used to designate whether a facility has significant violations. Additional columns of data can be added by clicking the Customize Columns button, and the results can be downloaded into Excel. This table also contains links to other available ECHO reports. The main areas where users can expect to access ECHO reports are noted in the descriptions below, and report icons are used throughout the ECHO website to link to information about facilities.  

2. The Detailed Facility Report provides information about the facility location, characteristics, regulatory category along with inspection dates, compliance history, pollutants with violations, enforcement actions taken by the government, informal enforcement actions taken by the government, penalties assessed, and demographics of the area surrounding the facility. This report contains links to  other ECHO reports and several embedded links that allow you to jump to additional detail. Facilities that have Clean Water Act permits can get a report from EPA's Envirofacts website that lists permit limits. Additional detail about TRI reported releases also are available via links to Envirofacts.

3. The EPA Enforcement Case Report provides details about civil and criminal enforcement cases that EPA has taken. Case reports can be accessed by using the EPA Enforcement Case Search. This report is also available as a link from the Detailed Facility Report in the "Formal Enforcement Actions" section for enforcement cases in the last five years. 

4. The Air Pollutant Report presents ten years of EPA programmatic air emissions data for a selected facility. Emissions are presented as facility-level aggregates and organized by pollutant and EPA program. By consolidating emissions data from four different EPA programs into one report, the Air Pollutant Report provides a single source for users looking to understand a facility’s complete air emissions profile. This report is available as a link from the Air Facility Search Results and the Detailed Facility Report under the “Related Reports” section of the Facility Summary.

5. The Effluent Charts page presents dynamic charts and tables of wastewater point source discharges, including effluent limits, pollutant releases, and violations over time for Clean Water Act (CWA) wastewater discharge permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). This information is reported to EPA on Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs). This report is available as a link from the Facility Search Results and the Detailed Facility Report under the “Related Reports” section of the Facility Summary.

6. The Effluent Limit Exceedances Report presents detailed information about effluent exceedances of permit limits under the Clean Water Act NPDES permit program for a single permit. This report is available as a link from the Detailed Facility Report under the “Related Reports” section of the Facility Summary.

7. The DMR Pollutant Loading Report presents detailed information about a single NPDES permit and pollutant loadings calculations (based on DMR data) by reporting year.

8. The TRI Pollutant Loading Report presents detailed information about TRI water releases for a facility reporting to TRI and related environmental information.

9. The Multi-Year DMR and TRI Loading Report presents a side by side comparison of the last five years of DMR pollutant loads and TRI chemical surface water releases. The report is available as a link from a DMR Pollutant Loading Report or TRI Pollutant Loading Report.

10. The NPDES Permit Limits and Monitoring Requirements report presents permit limits and monitoring requirements for facilities permitted under NPDES. 

11. CWA Program Area Reports are available for facilities with applicable data, including the Biosolids Facility Report and the Sanitary Sewer Overflow Event Report. These reports are available as a link from the Detailed Facility Report under the “Related Reports” section of the Facility Summary.

You can learn more about ECHO reports by viewing the recorded webinar "Advanced ECHO Webinar: Reports" on the ECHO Training page.  This webinar reviewed the features and data available through various reports in ECHO and explained how to access each report through ECHO searches. Reports covered in this webinar include the Detailed Facility Report, Enforcement Case Reports, Effluent Charts, Air Pollutant Report, and Water Pollutant Loading Tool Reports. Additionally, the Reports Legend page describes the reports available in ECHO and shows the corresponding report icons. 

 Where does the information come from?

ECHO extracts data from many EPA and some non-EPA databases and organizes the information to facilitate cross-database analysis. ECHO includes air, water, and hazardous waste data from the Integrated Compliance Information System for Air (ICIS-Air), Integrated Compliance Information System - National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (ICIS-NPDES), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Information System (RCRAInfo), Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS), Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS), Facility Registry Service (FRS), Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and U.S. Census. EPA, state and local environmental agencies, and the facilities collect the data that are submitted to most of these systems.

 How frequently are the data updated?

Generally, ECHO data are updated weekly. Some exceptions exist. Safe Drinking Water Act data, for example, are updated quarterly. Most data on the State Comparative Maps and Dashboards come from frozen datasets. The data in ECHO are only as current as the most recent refresh date. Refresh dates are listed on the About the Data page.

"Real time" data are not presented on this site. Although the information is updated frequently, the lag time for data to become available on the website varies depending on the data system, activity, and negotiated reporting cycle. For example, an inherent lag time exists between the date an inspection is performed, the entry of the inspection into the state database, the uploading of data from the state to EPA, and the posting of data on ECHO. Data may enter the system quickly, but in some circumstances the lag time could be several months. Longer delays apply to data on drinking water systems; see the Drinking Water FAQs for details.

 How reliable is this information?

The information is very reliable. Data has been available on ECHO for more than 10 years, along with an online error reporting process that allows users to alert EPA and the states to possible errors. In addition, EPA and states employ database-specific procedures to limit the introduction of data errors. Analyses of several projects have shown that information entered into the Integrated Compliance Information System for Air (ICIS-Air), Integrated Compliance Information System - National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (ICIS-NPDES), and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Information System (RCRAInfo) normally is of very high quality. 

Users should be aware that information for larger facilities is much more complete than that for smaller facilities, as some data for smaller facilities may not be required to be entered by states. State environmental agencies may have more detailed information, particularly about smaller facilities. For information on what data are required to be reported to EPA, see the Data Entry Requirements page. 

 Does ECHO contain information about all environmental law violations/enforcement actions?

No. ECHO focuses on violations/actions at Clean Air Act (CAA) stationary source facilities, Clean Water Act (CWA) major direct discharge facilities, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste handlers, and systems violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA regulates facilities under many other programs and statutes that are not shown in the ECHO site. Examples of data not generally available within ECHO are: most violations at CWA direct discharge non-major facilities, CAA mobile source and asbestos violations, Toxic Substances Control Act and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act violations, Superfund violations, and CWA wetlands and pretreatment violations. State enforcement actions shown in the ECHO site are focused exclusively on the four categories discussed above (CAA stationary sources, CWA direct dischargers, RCRA, and SDWA violators). Federal enforcement actions shown in ECHO include a wider range of data, encompassing all environmental statutes.

 How can I use the information I find on the site?

This information is important to communities for several reasons. Though the public has participation rights when facilities apply for environmental permits, discovering whether facilities are complying with permits and regulations has not been easy. The ECHO site can assist citizens in determining whether facilities are complying with environmental laws or permit limits. Knowledge of this information can be a powerful incentive for facilities to maintain high environmental standards or quickly resolve problems that are occurring. Knowledge of compliance information can assist communities in asking the right questions of nearby facilities or regulators – particularly if releases are over permitted standards. The site also may help communities identify facilities that have not reported under environmental laws. For example, facilities with direct water discharges that are not shown in the ECHO database may be operating without a permit. This information can be passed to regulatory officials.

 Is it safe to release facility data?

EPA has taken extensive measures to ensure that none of the data it releases threatens national security. EPA conducted a comprehensive evaluation of all resources provided to the public on the Internet and removed possibly harmful information. New data available within ECHO that do not appear on other EPA sites were then assessed and found to present no threat. EPA believes that the ECHO site balances the need to protect sensitive information with maintaining access to the information citizens need to protect their health and environment. EPA will continue to monitor the data provided by ECHO to ensure that any new data will not present a threat to homeland security.

 How do I log in?

ECHO does not require users to log in. State and other government employees who want access to government-only data should follow the instructions on Login and Access Help to obtain a account and join the ECHO Government community, or to add ECHO Government access to their existing account. EPA employees can log in with their PIV cards or EPA Single Sign-On.

If you are having trouble logging in, please see the Login and Access Help.

 What if I need help?

ECHO Video Tutorials offer short videos that help users understand the facility searches, Detailed Facility Report, Effluent Charts, and dashboards. ECHO includes comprehensive help documentation, which can be accessed by selecting the Help button at the top of many of the pages or the Data Dictionary button on the Detailed Facility Report. Requests for more information can be directed to ECHO support.

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 B. Facility Search Information

 What do the data tell me about the facilities?

The data provide a snapshot of a facility's environmental compliance record. The data indicate a facility's record of compliance with environmental regulations (primarily the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act) by showing dates and types of violations and the seriousness of the violations. The data also show if a facility has had an enforcement action by the state or EPA and any penalties assessed. Information on the facility's surrounding demographics provides perspective for the enforcement and compliance information and the activities of the facility as a whole.

 Are all facilities shown in all ECHO default searches?

No. The ECHO Quick Search "Search by Location" excludes inactive facilities, as does the All Media Programs Facility Search. The ECHO Quick Search "Search by Facility Name/ID" does include all facilities. To return all facilities on the All Media Programs Facility Search, users should change the Active/Operating option from "Yes" to "Any". For the Air and Hazardous Waste facility searches, users will need to include all designations under Facility Characteristics, as well as inactive facilities. Default searches include:

  • Clean Water Act - active major and non-major NPDES Individual, General Permit Covered Facility, Unpermitted Facility, and NPDES Master General permittees.
  • Clean Air Act facilities that are required to be entered into EPA databases - including Title V major permittees, Synthetic Minor Sources (e.g., those sources that potentially could be major permittees, but have agreed to operating conditions below major source thresholds), national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) minors, and minor facilities that have serious violations or recent enforcement actions. Optional selection on "Other Minor" will add all other sources in the Integrated Compliance Information System for Air (ICIS-Air) database that are not required to be entered by states but may be entered voluntarily.
  • Active Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRAInfo) facilities designated as treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDF), large quantity generators (LQG), small quantity generators (SQG), very small quantity generators (VSQG), and transporters of RCRA Subtitle C-regulated waste.
  • Active public drinking water systems, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
  • Default queries also will show facilities that have had recent federal enforcement actions brought against them, regardless of the type of permits held.

Note that EPA does regulate other facilities beyond those in the ECHO site. For example, the ECHO site does not include Superfund enforcement data.

 What is the difference between larger facilities shown in ECHO and smaller (such as "minor"/"non-major") facilities?

Larger facilities have a relatively higher level of pollutant discharge than do those known as "minor"/"non-major" facilities and are subject to full reporting of data to EPA. The Clean Air Act program uses the term "federally-reportable", the Clean Water Act program uses the term "major", and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program uses the terms "Large Quantity Generator" and "Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility." Facilities with these designations are more closely monitored than minor/non-major facilities. Examples of larger facilities are petroleum refineries, electric utilities, and wastewater treatment plants with more than one million gallons of discharge per day. Examples of minor/non-major facilities are gas stations and neighborhood dry cleaners. Refer to Guide to Regulated Facilities for more information.

 Are all facilities within ECHO operating, or could they be closed?

Inactive facilities are excluded from most search results, but can be added to the search. Should a multimedia search return a facility that is active in one media but not the other, the applicable permit is designated as inactive on the Detailed Facility Report. Default ECHO facility searches may return information on hazardous generators and other handlers regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that are no longer operating or handling hazardous waste. Because hazardous waste generators are not required under federal regulations to notify the Agency once they cease handling hazardous waste, activity status is determined from the information most recently submitted by a facility's representative or determined by EPA or state authority. 

 Why does a facility have violations identified?

Please refer to What does it mean if a facility has identified violations?

For additional detail on compliance data displayed in ECHO, we suggest contacting the regulatory agency that reported the violation, as indicated on the ECHO Detailed Facility Report, or the agency that issued the applicable permit. This is likely either a state environmental agency or a regional EPA office. Links to state agencies can be found on Access State Websites. Contact information for EPA Regions can be found on the EPA Region webpage.

 I tried searching for a particular facility, but could not find it in the database. What can I do?

First, on the ECHO All Media Programs Facility Search, ensure that the Active/Operating parameter is set to "Any" (not "Yes"). Facilities are sometimes known by different names, so it is helpful to try some search variations. Some things to try:

  • truncate the name to the first five or six letters
  • if the facility has multiple words in the name, try searching by just one word
  • search by ZIP code (or city and state) only and see if the facility comes up in the results list, or
  • type in the previous name of the company if there has been a recent change.

There are several reasons why a facility may not be in the database. For example, the facility could be below regulatory thresholds, thus not regulated. Small Clean Air Act (CAA) facilities are not required to be entered into EPA's database, but may be regulated by the state. All Clean Water Act (CWA) direct dischargers, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) handlers, and public water systems as defined by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) should be listed in ECHO. If you suspect a facility should be regulated under one of the four programs (CAA Stationary Source, CWA direct discharge, RCRA hazardous waste, or SDWA systems violators) but cannot find them in the site, you can submit a comment to ECHO support.

 Does ECHO contain corporate linkage data?

ECHO does not contain any corporate linkage data. To track facilities that may not have a common name, we recommend building a list of facility IDs by using an iterative search process. If you need to monitor compliance data for a specific set of facilities over time, we recommend searching by facility IDs, because these are a unique identifier in ECHO. Users can enter these IDs directly into an ECHO search form to quickly return these facilities. To see a list of the search criteria available in the ECHO Facility Search, please view the Search Criteria Help page.

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 C. Enforcement/Compliance

 What are the general stages of the enforcement process?

Responsibility for enforcing environmental laws and regulations is divided among EPA Headquarters offices, EPA regions, and state and local agencies. Five aspects of EPA's enforcement activities - compliance monitoring, civil enforcement actions, criminal enforcement actions, compliance incentives, and compliance assistance - are discussed on the EPA Enforcement Website. When EPA brings a civil enforcement action, whether administrative or in court, the respondent/defendant has the opportunity to contest EPA's allegation of violations. The enforcement action can proceed through multiple steps. The enforcement process may conclude that a violation has not occurred.

When EPA and/or the state identifies an alleged violation through compliance monitoring activities (inspections, information gathering, etc.) or as a result of self-reported information, EPA or the state often issues a warning letter or a notice of violation to the alleged violator as a first step in the enforcement process. Such notification indicates to the regulated entity that the enforcement agency believes that the entity is in violation of the law and that it should come into compliance or be prepared to defend its actions in subsequent enforcement. These alleged violation do not represent a final, legal determination that a violation has occurred until an adjudication is complete.

The next step or, in a number of cases, the first step in the enforcement process is the initiation of a civil administrative action or civil judicial action (in some serious cases, criminal enforcement actions may be taken). A civil administrative action is taken by the EPA or a state under its own authority, without involving a judicial court process. It typically begins with the issuance of an Administrative Order to bring about compliance. Civil judicial actions are formal lawsuits, filed in court, against individuals or entities that failed to comply with statutory or regulatory requirements or with an Administrative Order. These cases typically are brought to court by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA or by the states' Attorneys General on behalf of the state regulatory agency.

Civil administrative and judicial actions often end with a settlement, an agreed upon resolution to an enforcement case. Settlements in civil administrative actions are often in the form of Consent Agreements/Final Orders. Settlements in civil judicial actions are generally embodied in Consent Decrees, signed by all parties to the action and filed in the appropriate court. In the settlements, EPA or the state often requires injunctive relief (actions needed to return to compliance and correct environmental damage) and the payment of penalties. Settlements also may include Supplemental Environmental Projects, which are environmentally beneficial projects which a defendant/respondent agrees to undertake in settlement of an enforcement action, but which the defendant/respondent is not otherwise legally required to perform.

Violation, noncompliance, significant noncompliance, high priority violation, and serious violator are all terms used by the ECHO site to describe the facility status in regard to compliance with the law. In many cases, these terms reflect determinations made by EPA or states when conducting inspections or reviewing facility self-reports. These determinations assist the government in tracking resolution of violations through the enforcement process and do not necessarily represent a final adjudication by a judicial or administrative body. In such cases, these characterizations should be considered alleged violations.

 Does EPA use this information in its enforcement and compliance program?

Yes, the data are used by EPA and states to analyze trends in environmental performance and enforcement effectiveness. EPA and the states use these data, as well as tips, complaints, and other information, to help determine where to focus compliance assistance and/or enforcement efforts. The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance is moving toward performance-based management that relies in part on the analysis of information in the system. Part of this increased use of data for making decisions can be attributed to the easy access that Web-based computer systems provide. EPA and the states also routinely develop reports to assess where compliance problems are appearing that need to be addressed. In many cases, initial priority-setting decisions are based in part upon what the databases say about the state of compliance.

 How is compliance and enforcement work performed by EPA and states?

EPA and state and local government agencies are responsible for administering federal environmental laws. EPA and the states work together to assure compliance with these laws. In most instances, state environmental agencies take the primary role in compliance assurance. This role includes educating the regulated community on the requirements, reviewing and approving necessary permits, inspecting for compliance with applicable laws and permit terms, detecting violations, and taking appropriate enforcement response, either informal (e.g., verbal notification) or formal (e.g., administrative orders, civil/judicial litigation). The ECHO site includes data regarding both EPA and state inspections, violations, enforcement actions, informal enforcement actions, and penalties. For information on EPA's enforcement program, please see Enforcement Basic Information.

 What does it mean if a facility has not been inspected in the last five years?

EPA and states consider several factors in determining what facilities to inspect, such as facility size, potential for environmental harm, citizen tips, geographic initiatives, statutory requirements, protection of sensitive ecosystems, demographics, industry type, and violation history. It is not possible to inspect every regulated facility every five years. Smaller facilities may receive inspections less frequently than every five years. In addition, inspections conducted at smaller facilities may be tracked only in the state database and not be entered into the federal database. Because of this, a smaller facility may appear uninspected in the ECHO database. Even if a facility has not been inspected, EPA or the state may be aware of the facility's status and are using other means to assess compliance; e.g., facilities are required to self-report certain information.

 How do EPA and states respond to violations of environmental laws? Do all violations receive formal enforcement actions?

If violations are detected during inspections or are reported to the government by regulated facilities (Clean Water Act (CWA) and Clean Air Act (CAA) permits often require disclosure of information by the facility that reflect violations), there are several paths that may be taken to return the facility to compliance. In some situations, violations are minor. Many of these violations are corrected by the facility without the need for an enforcement action. Other violations may require an "informal" notice to the facility that an enforcement proceeding may occur if the violation is not quickly resolved. More serious or continuing violations that are not corrected quickly by the facility may warrant formal enforcement actions. This could include administrative orders, administrative penalty orders, or civil judicial cases filed in Federal court. The ECHO site shows violations that are noted by the government; serious violations will be marked as "Significant Noncomplier" for Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) facilities, "Significant/Category 1 Noncompliance" for CWA facilities, "High Priority Violation" for CAA facilities, or trigger "Serious Violator" status under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

The ECHO site shows informal actions that may have been taken to resolve violations, as well as formal enforcement actions (e.g., administrative orders and judicial cases). EPA does not disclose information about initial deliberations that may lead to an administrative or judicial enforcement action (such as referrals to the Department of Justice). Therefore, it is possible that internal enforcement review is occurring against violators even though the ECHO report does not contain a reference to this review. Please note that there is also a time lag in getting information into the systems, so it is useful to continue checking back on the enforcement actions against a facility. The data are updated monthly (usually around the third week of the month).

 What does it mean if a facility has identified violations?

In general, a violation identified at a facility means the facility has been noted as out of compliance with an environmental requirement set forth by the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or Safe Drinking Water Act statutes and their respective regulations. EPA learns of violations by several means, depending upon the statute, including regular reporting by the regulated facilities and EPA or state inspections. A violation may indicate that the facility released excessive pollutants, that a hazardous waste handling requirement was not met, or that a facility failed to submit a required report. The type of violation identified will be indicated in the Detailed Facility Report.

Violation, noncompliance, significant noncompliance, high priority violation, and serious violator are all terms used by the ECHO site to describe the facility status in regard to compliance with the law. In many cases, these terms reflect determinations made by EPA or states when conducting inspections or reviewing facility self-reports. These determinations assist the government in tracking resolution of violations through the enforcement process and do not necessarily represent a final adjudication by a judicial or administrative body. In such cases, these characterizations should be considered alleged violations.

 What does it mean to have a status of Significant Noncompliance (SNC), High Priority Violation (HPV), or a Serious Violator?

SNC (this term is used in the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act programs), HPV (this term is used in the Clean Air Act program), or Serious Violator (in the Safe Drinking Water Act program) is the most serious level of violation noted in EPA databases. This designation provides an indication of whether violations or noncompliance events at a given facility may pose a more severe level of concern for the environment or program integrity. The definitions of what constitutes an SNC or HPV designation are discussed in more detail in the documentation provided with the Detailed Facility Report. Click on the Data Dictionary link, identified with a book icon, from any Detailed Facility Report for a list of violation categories included in the SNC and HPV definition. For Serious Violators under the Safe Drinking Water Act, see the Drinking Water Search Results Help.

Violation, noncompliance, significant noncompliance, high priority violation, and serious violator are all terms used by the ECHO site to describe the facility status in regard to compliance with the law. In many cases, these terms reflect determinations made by EPA or states when conducting inspections or reviewing facility self-reports. These determinations assist the government in tracking resolution of violations through the enforcement process and do not necessarily represent a final adjudication by a judicial or administrative body. In such cases, these characterizations should be considered alleged violations.

 Does the absence of violations mean a facility is in full compliance with the law?

The ECHO website presents what is known to the government based upon the most recently available information for more than one million regulated facilities. EPA and states inspect a percentage of facilities each year, but many facilities, particularly smaller ones, may not have received a recent inspection. It is possible that facilities do have violations that have not yet been discovered, thus are shown as compliant in the system. EPA cannot positively state that facilities without violations shown in ECHO are necessarily fully compliant with environmental laws. Additionally, some violations at smaller facilities do not need to be reported from the states to EPA. If ECHO shows a recent inspection and the facility is shown with no violations identified, users of the ECHO site can be more confident that the facility is in compliance with the programs included in this website. The compliance status of smaller facilities that have not had recent inspections or review by EPA or the states may be unknown or only available via state data systems.

 What does "Resolved Pending" mean under the Clean Water Act (CWA)?

"Resolved Pending" under the CWA program is a compliance status designation indicating that the permittee is in compliance with an enforcement order, but has not achieved full compliance with permit conditions. In most circumstances, this category indicates that an enforcement agreement with interim permit limits has been entered that will return the facility to compliance based upon terms and schedules noted in the agreement. Rather than continuing to designate these facilities with "Significant Noncompliance," the facility status is "Resolved Pending." Violations of enforcement agreements may return the facility to significant noncompliance, while completion of all terms of the agreement will remove noncompliance designations.

 What is the cause of permit exceedances shown under the Clean Water Act (CWA)?

ECHO shows the percent over limit for CWA direct dischargers. Exceedance may be attributable to a variety of factors, including operation and maintenance problems, design inadequacies, high strength waste from industrial contributors that cannot be adequately treated, and wet weather infiltration/inflow into municipal wastewater treatment systems.

 Why is there limited information on Maximum Contaminant Levels and contaminant measured values in the drinking water data?

The Safe Drinking Water program is primarily implemented by the states. The US EPA collects data from the states regarding violations. A subset of the states' data is sent to the national database, however the magnitude and amounts are not required, and are generally not available. The states collect and maintain very detailed records, so for these data please contact your state drinking water program.

 Why does ECHO show that there are public water systems that have had formal enforcement actions issued, but have not returned to compliance?

A formal enforcement action is an enforceable method used to return a system to compliance. It provides a path to compliance, but does not automatically bring the system back into compliance. Once a system returns to compliance, the responsible enforcement agency (state or EPA) will record that fact in SDWIS as a "resolving enforcement action", and the system will be shown as having returned to compliance.

 Why doesn't ECHO show a full list of public water systems that are in compliance?

ECHO can display a list of all public water systems that had no identified open violations recorded in the database in the last quarter. This can be accomplished by selecting "No Violations Identified" from the Latest Violation Status criterion in the Compliance Information section of the Drinking Water System Search form.

 What caveats should I know about the data in the Drinking Water System Search?

Please see the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Resources and FAQs.

If you believe the information found in ECHO is incorrect, please see the What can I do to notify EPA of possible data errors found in ECHO reports?

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 D. Technical

 How does ECHO relate to other EPA information and data management initiatives? 

ECHO is the public access point for data from several major EPA compliance and enforcement data systems. ECHO also utilizes other EPA projects that assist in integrating data from many programs – for example, the Facility Registry Service (FRS). 

 How does ECHO differ from other data on the EPA websites?

ECHO has two unique features that are not found on other EPA websites – the ability to integrate information in a way that allows users to perform analysis, and the provision of data regarding inspections, violations, and enforcement actions. Other EPA websites specialize in searching individual datasets (e.g., searching for Toxics Release Inventory data). These specialized search engines often provide more detail about particular subject areas, but do not bring information together across systems on a facility-level basis. EPA does maintain the Envirofacts system that allows cross program searching, but it doesn't integrate the data. There are many differences between ECHO and Envirofacts. Primarily, Envirofacts is geared toward geographic and sector searches for a wide range of facility location, permit, and pollutant release information. The ECHO site is specialized toward compliance and enforcement data and provides additional analytic functions that allow users to combine pollutant, demographic, and compliance criteria in their searches. ECHO is included as a linked site from Envirofacts (meaning that the queries are run from the ECHO system, not from Envirofacts).

 Are there differences between facilities listed in Envirofacts versus those in ECHO?

Generally, the data within the two systems will be very similar, though some slight differences may be apparent if similar queries are run. These differences are normally attributed to: situations in which Envirofacts has posted an update that has not yet been captured by ECHO's refresh process (or vice versa) or differences attributed to a different set of data systems that are queried in ECHO versus Envirofacts.

 Is any additional information available on permitted discharges and chemical releases?

Yes. The Detailed Facility Report available within ECHO provides hyperlinks to other EPA data sources. For example, in ECHO facilities with major direct discharge permits under the Clean Water Act have information about parameters (chemicals) that are over permitted limits. A hyperlink from the Detailed Facility Report to Envirofacts allows you to view the complete permit limits and measurement data. Similarly, a link from the Detailed Facility Report will provide additional details about information reported by the facility to the Toxics Release Inventory. In addition, detailed Clean Water Act discharge data is available in the Water Pollutant Loading Tool. Users also can search for additional Clean Air Act pollutant release data (particularly criteria pollutant data such as SOx, and NOx) at

 Is there a downloadable version of the data included in ECHO?

The results of individual queries can be downloaded in comma delimited text form by using the "download" link on the Search Results page. If the data retrievals available through ECHO do not meet your needs, national data download files are available. In addition, EPA has published the web services that support the website, along with updating the national data download files.  

 Where can I find historical data prior to the 3-5 years displayed through the ECHO search?

The ECHO Data Downloads page provides information available in the national EPA data systems. Data may be available dating back to the inception of each EPA program; however please note that the data quality prior to November of 2000 has not been assessed and should be considered unknown.

Helpful information about the files and data contained in each download can be found in each of the Download Summary links on the Data Downloads page. You can find additional information about the data presented in ECHO on the About the Data page.

 What should I do if I encounter a technical error or potential bug when using the site?

If you are experiencing technical difficulties when using ECHO, we first recommend performing a hard refresh on the page. This will clear your browser's cache and force the browser to load the most recent version of the page. For most browsers, hold down CTRL and press F5. In Chrome, press F12 to open developer tools, then right click on the refresh button and select "Empty Cache and Hard Reload."

We also suggest that you check and update to the most recent version of your browser. Additionally, if available, try using a different browser.

If the problem persists, please Contact Us with the specific details, including the name or URL of the page, the steps taken leading up to the error, and the browser and version you are using.

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 E. Comments/Corrections/Data Quality

 What role do the states have in the maintenance and accuracy of the site?

EPA has worked with the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) to develop and maintain the information shown in ECHO. ECOS is the national non-profit, non-partisan association of state and territorial environmental commissioners. EPA and ECOS worked together to develop a template for putting compliance and enforcement data on the Internet and have compiled a network of data stewards who can respond to possible data errors that are discovered through site use. To date, state and local environmental agencies have provided more than 100 data stewards who are responsible for researching and resolving data errors. Also, states continue to enter the federally required data into the national databases on which ECHO relies.

 What can I do to notify EPA of possible data errors found in ECHO reports?

ECHO users viewing the Detailed Facility Report, Effluent Charts, or Air Pollutant Report can submit corrections online by clicking the "Report Error" button. Corrections will be routed through the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) error correction process. OEI will use the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance's list of regional and state enforcement and compliance data stewards as the responsible officials for examining and correcting data errors. This comment feature is primarily designed for facilities that see errors in their data; however, members of the public also can use this error feature. Please note that error reporting is not yet available in the SDWA Public Water System Report. General comments about the website should be submitted to ECHO support and not put through the facility-specific error correction process.

 Can I request that an old violation be designated as resolved in the database because it has been corrected?

Yes. In many cases, violations that have been corrected by the facility can be designated as resolved if the proper documentation is provided. The best way to go about requesting a change is to report an error on the Detailed Facility Report. To do this, click on the red "Report Error" button on the top right of the report. This will bring a similar report up on the screen that allows you to select the line of data with the error. Locate the line with the error, click on the arrow sign in the right-hand box, then follow the prompts. In the message text, specify that you are a responsible party at the facility, and that you have knowledge that the violation has been corrected and should be designated as resolved in the database. After you submit the comment, you will receive an email with the name and email address of the person handling your request. This person will contact you about what is needed to document that the violation is no longer present.

 As an employee or official of a facility, I am aware of violations at a facility, yet none are listed in the report. What should I do?

If you believe that EPA or a state with a federally-authorized program is unaware of the violation, you should consider self-disclosing under EPA's Audit Policy. EPA will coordinate with the state and either refer the self-disclosure to the state or agree to proceed with the implementation of EPA's Audit Policy, if applicable. Facilities that wish to formally self-disclose violations should refer to EPA's Audit Policy documents. If you believe that EPA or the state is aware of the violation and would like to submit the violation as an error in the data system, you may use the "Report Error" button available on the Detailed Facility Report. If you would like your comment to be treated as a "tip/complaint" for follow-up by EPA enforcement personnel, you can report the potential violation. Although most environmental violations are handled by your state environmental office, tips or complaints provided through this site will be reviewed by the regional EPA office responsible for your area for possible further action.

 Who can I contact if I have any questions or comments?

Questions and comments should be directed to ECHO Support.