EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center: The Science Behind Environmental Enforcement


[Music] Carol Rushin/ NEIC Director: The science at
EPA has really been a gold standard. When we set up rules and regulations, other countries
take a look at the work that our scientists and our researchers have done to figure out
what exposures are dangerous, and what exposures are a level that could be deemed safe. Tom Norris/NEIC Deputy Director: The country
decided to take a tack of having an enforcement-based agency apply itself to protecting human health
and the environment. One of the important aspects of that is the need for facts. [Music] Narrator: IN THE EARLY PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY, PROGRESS WAS HAPPENING AT THE EXPENSE OF THE ENVIRONMENT.
IN 1970, CONGRESS CREATED THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY TO HELP PROTECT HUMAN HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT. EPA WAS CHARGED WITH ENFORCING SCIENCE-BASED REGULATIONS TO IMPLEMENT NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS PASSED BY CONGRESS. Carol Rushin: The National Enforcement Investigation
Center is actually a part of a larger laboratory enterprise that EPA has. What we do is find
out the — what is causing an environmental problem, and in some cases, because of our
researchers, and our lab, and our field ability, we’re able to pinpoint where that contamination
came from. [Music] [Plants rustling] Narrator: EPA WORKS TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND, WHEN WARRANTED, WILL TAKE CIVIL OR CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT ACTION AGAINST INDIVIDUALS OR COMPANIES WHO POLLUTE THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUT AMERICANS AT RISK. INVESTIGATING THESE CASES IS A VERY COMPLEX PROCESS. ANY EVIDENCE COLLECTED MUST BE ANALYZED CAREFULLY. Tom Norris: Forensic science is basically
providing facts, data, and information, neutral and unbiased, into the enforcement process,
civil or criminal. It answers basic questions that help the enforcement community make the
right decision about where to go next. Narrator: IN THE EVENT OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL
INCIDENT, A TEAM OF FORENSIC SCIENTISTS AND AGENTS CAN BE ON THE SCENE WITHIN 24-HOURS TO CONDUCT A FIELD INVESTIGATION. USING STATE-OF-THE-ART EQUIPMENT, THEY GATHER SITE-SPECIFIC EVIDENCE FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES LIKE AIR, WATER AND SOIL. NEIC’s ENVIRONMENTAL AND PHYSICAL SCIENTISTS, ENGINEERS, AND STATISTICIANS USE A VARIETY OF ANALYTICAL TECHNIQUES TO EVALUATE POLLUTANTS AND THEIR POSSIBLE SOURCES. Tom Norris: Often, what we are involved in
is trying to understand what chemicals are present in various materials; that can be
waste, it can be raw materials from a facility, it can be environmental samples of air or
soil or water from a river. Samples are taken and sent to us to answer the question, “what
is this stuff”? Based on our answer to that question, that may then lead to, “Oh, there’s
no need to further investigate on the part of our criminal agent partners”, or there
may be a conclusion, “Hmm, this looks like an industrial source. We better find out where
this stuff is coming from, and go back and talk to the people and find out just what’s
going on.” [Music] Narrator: TO ENSURE THE ACCURACY OF THEIR
FINDINGS, THE FORENSIC SCIENTISTS USE DOCUMENTED AND RELIABLE PROCEDURES TO VERIFY THEIR DATA IS SCIENTIFICALLY VALID AND LEGALLY DEFENSIBLE. Carol Rushin: In prosecuting cases, both on
the civil and on the criminal side, when we have enforcement cases that are going in front
of a judge or a jury, we want to make sure that we have the best science possible. Tom Norris: In a laboratory setting like this,
you can use different methods to determine, for example, what’s in a waste. A typical
laboratory will use a method, analyze the material, and come up with information that
says there’s … here are the following metals that are in this waste. NEIC, because of the
scrutiny that our information is put under through the enforcement process, we use other
methods to verify the result that we reach. Carol Rushin: Scientific integrity is one of the hallmarks of our work, and that trust of producing good
data and good research is pivotal in environmental protection across the country. [Music]

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