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Ohio EPA Identifies Improvements to Wastewater Discharge Permit Renewals
Efforts reduce bureaucracy, improve water quality
Efforts by an Ohio EPA process improvement team are expected to speed up the wastewater discharge permitting renewal process and ensure permit holders are following the most recent water quality standards. The effort was part of Lean Ohio, a quality improvement process that uses Kaizen and Six Sigma principles and typically improves efficiency by 50 percent.
Wastewater discharge permits are required for any entity that discharges water into Ohio’s waterways. When a permit is renewed, it requires the entity to follow the most current requirements. Delays in renewing permits result in entities continuing to operate under their original permit, which may have less stringent requirements.
“By improving the efficiency of our renewal process, we can ensure that more entities throughout Ohio are operating under the most current water quality standards,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler. “I’m proud of our team members for taking steps to improve customer service, reduce bureaucracy, and most importantly help keep Ohio’s waterways clean.”
“The Lean Ohio Team has been excited to assist Ohio EPA and Director Craig Butler with streamlining the NPDES permitting process,” said Lean Ohio Team Leader Bill Demidovich. “Through the Lean value stream mapping process, Ohio EPA is able to identify ways to more efficiently serve its surface water permitting customers. Lean Ohio looks forward to working with Ohio EPA and other agencies in 2015 as we improve our government processes by making them simpler, better, faster and less costly to customers.”
Ohio EPA began the Lean Ohio quality improvement process in Oct. 2014 to identify ways to improve the quality of customer service with a timely turnaround while eliminating duplicative reviews. During the process it surveyed stakeholders and reviewed the entire permit renewal process. Identified issues included redundancies in the process; a lack of standardization; inconsistent application of rules; and little oversight, planning and training.
As a result of the team’s efforts, one standard process will be used to renew all wastewater discharge permits, which will increase efficiency. Additional changes will include:
- Creation of a standard review procedure to eliminate duplication and errors;
- Increased internal and external communication about the permit renewals to help applicants understand and be better able to provide required information for the permit; and
- Development of a web-based permit tracking tool to allow applicants and the public to easily see where permits are in the renewal process.
Ohio EPA is committed to continue evaluating this program’s effectiveness and has additional Lean Ohio events planned on other pieces of the permitting renewal process. Stakeholder involvement, outreach and training will be scheduled in Spring 2015.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.