Recognizing and Reporting Environmental Violations
This is a short list of the more frequently committed environmental crimes. Complaints from local residents are often instrumental in identifying and prosecuting environmental crimes. Anyone having knowledge of these types of illegal activities should report it to the local enforcement agencies listed below.
The more information and detail you can provide the agencies, the better equipped they will be to identify and investigate the possible environmental crimes. Try to answer the following questions for yourself before contacting the agencies:
- Who is involved in the activity? Who owns the property or business? Who else knows what is going on?
- What did you see, hear, and smell? What types of chemicals or materials were involved? What type of environmental damage took place?
- Where did it happen? What is the street address? Can you draw a simple map to help investigators pinpoint where the violation occurred?
- When did the activity occur, how frequently, and for how long? Do you suspect it is likely to happen again?
- How were the chemicals or materials disposed of? Were they buried, burned, or abandoned into a body of water, onto the ground, or into a storm drain or sewer?
- Is there any visible evidence remaining (ex. chemical containers, foul smell, discolored water)? Was anyone able to safely photograph or video record the violations or the aftermath of the violations?
Illegal Storage/Disposal/Transportation of Hazardous Waste
This involves hazardous (usually something that is toxic, flammable, corrosive, or reactive) waste (not usable products) that is stored, treated, transported and/or disposed of without required government approval (usually a permit).
Examples of hazardous waste includes asbestos, cracked batteries, fluids with a pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5, solvents, used auto fluids including oil, and pesticides.
In Napa County, the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Planning, Building, and Environmental Services (“PBES”) takes the lead on regulating hazardous waste. You can email the Environmental Health Division or call (707) 253-4471.
You can also contact the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the state agency responsible for regulating hazardous waste, by calling (800) 72TOXIC (800-728-6942).
Illegal Discharge of Anything Other Than Rainwater to Storm Drains or Waterways
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates activities that affect our rivers, streams and other natural waterways. It is illegal for any person to pollute any stream with trash, waste, chemicals, and even silt or dirt. It is also illegal for any person to alter the bed, banks, or channel of any river, stream, or lake. If you are aware of any such activity, please report it by calling the Department of Fish and Wildlife CalTip Hotline at 888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), texting “CALTIP” along with the message to 847411, or by visiting the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
The Environmental Health Division of PBES is responsible for the permitting and inspection of alternative sewage treatment systems, liquid wastewater haulers, winery wastewater ponds and holding tanks in unincorporated Napa County. If you suspect illegal dumping of wastewater, contact Environmental Health via its website or by calling (707) 253-4471, or contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Illegally Dumping Garbage
Dumping garbage within 150 feet of a waterway is a misdemeanor. Enforcement agencies are the Napa Police Department, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and PBES Code Compliance.
Improper Storage of Hazardous Materials
The Uniform Fire Code, adopted by state law and by local ordinances, restricts the amounts of hazardous materials that may be stored, the manner in which they are stored, and prohibits the storage of incompatible materials (for example, placing corrosive and reactive materials next to each other). Enforcement agencies are the city and county fire departments.
Non-recreational outdoor burns are prohibited, with limited exceptions. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District enforces air pollution laws and regulations in Napa County, and issues permits for allowable outdoor burns. You can report air pollution complaints to their website or call (800) 334-ODOR (6367).
Illegal Automotive Repair
Automotive repair for hire requires a state license from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair. Permits are also usually required from local fire departments and Air Pollution Control Districts. City and county ordinances may restrict zoning where this activity may occur. This type of illegal activity may also involve the illegal storage and use of hazardous materials and waste. Report suspected illegal automotive repair activity to the Bureau of Automotive Repair on its website or by calling (800) 952-5210.
Illegal Development of Hillsides
No person can grade or otherwise perform any agricultural project or development on hillside slopes in excess of 5% unless they have filed and received approval for an Erosion Control Plan from the Conservation Division of Napa County PBES. No development of hillsides may occur between October 15 and April 1 of each year. If you believe any hillside in Napa County is being developed without an approved plan and/or during the prohibited time period, you should report the activity to Napa County PBES Code Compliance on its website or by calling (707) 253-4417.
The California Highway Patrol inspects commercial vehicles transporting hazardous materials and/or hazardous waste, and it investigates roadway spills. You can contact the CHP to report a non-life threatening emergency on the CHP website or by calling (800) TELL-CHP (1-800-835-5247).
Illegal Pesticide Use and/or Dumping
The Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office regulates and investigates pesticide use in Napa County. You can report non-emergency suspected illegal pesticide use on its website or by calling (707) 253-4357. If you observe the dumping of pesticides near a waterway, please report it to the Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling the CalTip Hotline at 888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), texting “CALTIP” along with the message to 847411, or by visiting its website.