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Project Information

Title of Project: Improve Ohio's Water and Wastewater Compliance Inspection Process using Electronic Forms and Hand-Held Computers

Agency and Departments: Ohio Environmental Protection Agency - Division of Surface Water and Division of Drinking and Ground Waters

Brian Hall, Information Resource Manager; Division of Surface Water; Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; 122 S Front St, PO BOX 1049; Columbus, OH 43216-1049; Phone: (614) 644-2033; Fax: (614) 644-2745; Email: brian.hall@epa.state.oh.us

Focus on RCRA Activities: No

In Cooperation with or funded by by another Federal Program: No

Regulatory Flexibility Needed: None requested

Ohio EPA Director's Support: Director Jones has selected this proposal as Ohio's application for the Innovation Grant.


Environmental regulations implemented over the last thirty years in the United States are largely self-policing. Much of the information gathered by the regulatory agencies comes directly from the regulated. Self-policing regulations require that frequent inspections and auditing be conducted to ensure the dependability of the information being supplied. The work involved in conducting these inspections and audits could be greatly enhanced with the use of updated forms and hand-held computers. Ohio EPA has over 3,000 NPDES permitted facilities and over 5,500 Public Water Systems (PWS) that must be inspected. Developing an improved inspection reporting system would increase the efficiency and the number of the inspection conducted annually.

Project Schedule

Proposed Activities

Ohio EPA proposes to integrate existing USEPA Sanitary Survey software for hand-held computers into its water and wastewater information management systems. For the water program, the Sanitary Survey software will be modified slightly to meet the specific needs of Ohio. The information collected during sanitary surveys will then be integrated into the division's existing information management system. The information is ultimately reported to Federal Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS/Fed).

For wastewater, this will involve more significant customization of the Sanitary Survey software to fit their program since it was initially developed for water treatment plant inspections. Additionally, wastwater will be converting EPA Form 3560 and its associated checklists into electronic forms that could be integrated with Ohio's information management system. The new software application would also automate reporting writing and data submittal to the Permit Compliance System (PCS). The new application would make use of hand-held computers to allow the inspector to gather and evaluate compliance information while conducting the inspection.

The bulk of the work for both programs will be developing middleware to allow the seamless migration of information between USEPA's Sanitary Survey software and our main information management systems. Both programs have comprehensive client/server information management systems.


This project involves both the water and wastewater programs. It will take approximately two years and start in the summer of 2004. Listed below is an outline of the major milestones:

  1. Hire a consultant to conduct system requirements analysis of current process and develop recommendation of new process - three months
  2. Review system requirements analysis and recommendations - one month
  3. Hire a consultant to design new application - six months
  4. Purchase hand-held computer units and programming software - to be completed during the design phase
  5. Hire consultant to build new application - within 12 months of grant award.
  6. Test and improve hand-held software within 24 months of grant award.
  7. Develop report on applicability of handheld computers ability to increase inspection efficiency. Complete 12 months after deployment of application.

Program Criteria

Target Environmental Area

Compliance inspections and sanitary surveys are a vital part of the environmental regulatory scheme. The compliance inspection plays a role in reviewing compliance data submitted over a period of time and helps determine the regulated community's performance. Sanitary surveys are the main mechanism used by the water program to directly interact with the PWS to ensure adequate quantities of safe reliable drinking water are provided to the public.

The compliance inspection process is a lengthy process that involves three areas of focus- pre-compliance review, actual inspection of the facility and it's controls, and post-compliance documentation. Ohio has over 3,000 NPDES permitted facilities and over 5,500 PWS that must be inspected to ensure both water quality goals are achieved and safe drinking water is produced. The resources that are needed to conduct these compliance inspections are significant.

The compliance inspection process used in the evaluation of NPDES permitted facilities has not changed in the last several years. Streamlining the NPDES compliance inspection process by using electronic forms and hand-held computers can improve the level of inspection coverage necessary to assess permit compliance.

The water program is currently in the process of reevaluating the entire sanitary survey process. A workgroup was formed last year to determine the most effective and efficient ways to exchange information during surveys. Although the workgroup has not completed all their tasks, one recommendation is to use technology to increase inspection efficiencies. The use of hand-held computers and the seamless integration of information obtained during inspections into existing systems is key for this gain in efficiency.

Improvements as Result of Project

For wastewater, the use of electronic forms (EPA Form 3560) and hand-held computers as a tool for compliance inspections is an improvement on the current NPDES compliance inspection process. Currently all compliance inspections are completed using hand written notes and checklists. Upon completion of a compliance inspection the hand written forms and checklists are taken back to the office where a report summarizing the results of the inspection is developed. This process can take several days to several weeks to complete. Then once the summary report is completed data is then submitted to the Permit Compliance System.

For both programs, developing a software application for a hand-held computer so that forms and checklists could be completed during the inspection would allow the inspector great flexibility in completing the inspection report. The new application could capture pre-inspection data and allow the inspector to take the information with them to the facility preventing classic inspection oversights. The application would also be designed so that the inspection report and deficiency letter, if necessary, could be generated at the close of the inspection. Informing the facility of the results as soon as possible is also an important aspect of this project. This documentation then could be synchronized with the information management system to allow timely updates to the database.

Measures and Accountability

The goal of this project is to increase the number, quality and efficiency of water and wastewater compliance inspections conducted by Ohio. In 2003, Ohio reported 600 compliance inspections to PCS and over 1800 sanitary surveys were conducted at PWS. Ohio would not only like to increase this number to have a greater field presence, but also provide better service and more information to the regulated community during inspections. Inspection totals in PCS and SDWIS/Fed would be used as one measure of this goal.

The short-term results of this project will be that more compliance inspections will be conducted with better service provided. Over time this short-term goal should result in better compliance rates of the permitted. This in turn should yield better water quality results and safer, more reliable drinking water to the public.

Transference of Innovation

Increasing the efficiency of the compliance inspection process will increase the level of inspection coverage ensuring better communication between the regulator and the regulated. This in turn ensures that improved water and water quality can be achieved.

The focus of this proposal is on the NPDES and Safe Drinking Water Programs. The EPA and other States conduct similar inspections and could benefit from this project. It is possible that this application if successful could be included with the Integrated Compliance Information System-PCS Modernization project currently under design by the EPA. Also this software application would be easily duplicated for the NPDES and Safe Drinking Water programs in other states and for other focus areas (air, hazardous wastes). This technology can also be applied to other water programs. Ohio is also investigating using hand-held computer in conducting biological and water quality monitoring assessments.

The States of Region 1 have developed a drinking water sanitary survey application that makes use of electronic forms and a hand-held computer that allows them to conduct the type of compliance inspections that is being proposed in this pre-application. This application is currently being tested by Ohio.

Ohio would have no objection to providing consultation and or mentoring to other States wishing to adopt this application.

Budget Summary

Agency and Departments: Ohio Environmental Protection Agency - Division of Surface Water and Division of Drinking and Ground Waters

Title of Project: Improve Ohio's Water and Wastewater Compliance Inspection Process using Electronic Forms and Hand-Held Computers

<Budgetary Information Withheld by U.S. EPA>

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