Guest Column by Joy Padgett: Ohio EPA-DEFA-Office of Outreach & Customer Support
Are you a small business owner who needs help with environmental regulations? Or a business that is looking to lower costs by reducing the energy you use, waste that you generate or pollutants that you emit from your operations? Are you a municipality or utility looking for attractive financing for your drinking water or wastewater infrastructure or to simply jumpstart recycling & litter prevention efforts in your community? Who do you call?
For decades, Ohio EPA has had an office that focused on helping small businesses navigate state and federal environmental rules and regulations and the paperwork that goes with permitting and compliance. Ohio EPA also had offices offering financial and technical support programs, from financing water and sewer infrastructure to reducing waste and increasing recycling.
In 2015, Ohio EPA combined these offices to create a new Division that serves as a “one-stop-shop” for businesses and communities needing compliance, technical and financial assistance. The new division retained the name Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance (DEFA) but now provides a wider variety of services and better customer assistance. “I believe this merger has enhanced the way we serve our customers and improved our own internal operations. We are now better positioned to help even more regulated entities with a greater level of service,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler.
DEFA consists of three offices:
The Office of Outreach and Customer Support (OCS) serves as the “front door” to the Division. OCS staff connect Ohio businesses and communities with the Division’s services through in-person meetings and presentations. We also communicate services with newsletters, monthly emails, webinars, etc.
The Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention (OCAPP) helps thousands of small businesses annually comply with environmental regulations. Among the services provided: on-site assistance, help completing forms, training events, and plain-English publications. OCAPP helps entities identify and implement pollution prevention (P2) measures that save money, improve performance and benefit the environment. The office also works to recognize the outstanding efforts of businesses, communities and other entities that are making a commitment to environmental stewardship through Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program.
The Office of Financial Assistance (OFA) administers two low-interest state revolving loan fund programs that finance drinking water and wastewater capital improvement projects. Eligible projects include building or renovating drinking water or wastewater treatment plants and sewers, improving home sewage disposal systems and best management practices for agriculture or forestry to reduce and prevent water pollution. Funding is also provided for recycling, litter cleanup, and scrap tire management activities. OFA also provides technical assistance to help small community wastewater plants improve operations and comply with permit limits.
By combining its resources under one division, DEFA has positioned itself to improve the agency’s responsiveness, as well as increase the level and range of services that can be provided to Ohio EPA customers.
For more information on the new DEFA, visit: epa.ohio.gov/defa
For compliance-related questions, please call our compliance assistance hotline at (800) 329-7518. To receive our quarterly electronic newsletter and monthly listserv updates, or for any other inquiries, please email [email protected] or call 614-644-2798 between 8 am and 5 pm, ask for the Office of Outreach and Customer Support (OCS).