When faced with an environmental concern, many people wonder “What can I do?” or “Who should I tell?”
While the system for reporting environmental concerns isn’t perfect, there are resources for concerned citizens. Reporting environmental concerns can help the problem be addressed quicker and aid the appropriate authorities in tracking releases.
Reporting a Violation of Environmental Law
The Environmental Protection Agency has a webpage with instructions for how to report a suspected violation of environmental laws or regulations. The information you provide is forwarded to EPA or other regulatory personnel.
Reporting an Immediate Environmental Emergency
Sometimes citizens discover or are faced with an immediate environmental emergency that poses a threat to health and safety. This can occur when there has been: oil and/or chemical spills, radiation emergencies, and biological discharges. If medical help is needed, call 911 first. Then, citizens are directed to call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.
Reporting a Non-Emergency Pesticide or Chemical Spill
In the event that you become aware of a non-emergency pesticide spill or chemical spill, you can contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
Reporting to State or Local Authorities
Most states have their own environmental agencies that may also be interested in environmental concerns.
For example, in Louisiana the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has jurisdiction over violations of many state environmental laws and regulations. LDEQ has a webpage where citizens can make formal complaints.
Call or Write Your Elected Officials
If you don’t get the answers you were looking for from a complaint to one of the agencies above, reach out to your elected officials. Local, state, and federal elected officials work for you. If your community is being polluted by an industry or there has been a release of chemicals, you deserve answers. Be respectful. Ask your elected officials for information and follow-up with them if you don’t hear back. They are very busy, but the health and safety of the communities they represent should be a top priority.
If reporting to authorities and reaching out to elected officials doesn’t get you the answers you want– ORGANIZE! Others in your community may share the same concerns you have. Lois Gibbs and a group of the Love Canal area residents organized and helped bring light to the disaster at Love Canal in New York. The actions of these citizens garnered national attention and 900 families were relocated from the toxic area.
Don’t give up. Keeping this information to yourself will not help you or your community. If you believe there has been an environmental release or disaster, let people know.