Gathering and Preserving Information and Evidence Showing a Violation
You can provide us with information for use in an enforcement case
When you believe someone is causing an environmental problem and possibly violating the law, you can either file a complaint with the TCEQ, or you can submit information documenting the problem. The executive director is authorized by statute to initiate an enforcement action based on information provided by a private individual (Tex. Water Code §7.0025; 30 Tex. Admin. Code §70.4).
- If you file a complaint, we will investigate according to the procedures described on our Web page, Reporting an Environmental Problem and Submitting Information or Evidence to the TCEQ and in the print publication, Do You Want to Report an Environmental Problem? Do You Have Information or Evidence?/¿Desea Presentar una Queja Ambiental?, (GI-278). Order a hard copy or view and print out a copy in English or Spanish.
- If you prefer to collect and submit information or evidence to the agency, you must follow procedures and guidance provided by this Web page or the reference on it to ensure that the information or evidence is scientifically reliable and legally defensible.
- If you want the agency to use the information you provide as evidence in an enforcement case, you cannot remain anonymous.
- TCEQ rules do not authorize you to enter the property of another person for purposes of gathering information to document a violation.
You must use agency protocols, procedures, or guidelines when collecting and submitting information or evidence
- Protocols vary depending on the nature of the problem, for example, water quality sampling procedures are very different from nuisance odor evaluation.
- If a protocol has specific training requirements, you must complete that training before submitting information based on it.
- If you gather information in the form of physical sampling data, the analysis of that data must be completed by a laboratory that follows established protocols to produce scientifically reliable information. See a list of laboratories in PDF.
- If you have questions about these protocols and procedures, or about these laboratories, you can call us toll-free at 1-888-777-3186.
We may initiate an enforcement case based on your information
The executive director may initiate an enforcement case based on the value and credibility of the information you submit.
- The case may be pursued either through an administrative enforcement action by the Commission, or through a civil or criminal court.
- Information you submit may be supplemented by information gathered by agency investigators.
- You will be required to sign affidavits authenticating the information you provided, and confirming that TCEQ protocols and procedures were followed.
- If the case proceeds to a formal hearing or trial, you will be required to testify in that proceeding. You may be asked to explain the information you provided, and you may be cross-examined by the defendant's attorney. This could include questions regarding your testimony and motives.
Information about the protocols, procedures, and guidelines for gathering, preserving, and submitting information
There is no comprehensive list of agency protocols.
- Most are established and maintained by either the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or professional associations such as the American Public Health Association, the American Water Works Association, and the Water Pollution Control Federation.
- They are subject to change as new methods are developed or old methods are no longer used.
- The TCEQ executive director may approve alternate methods if they are shown to be reliable and acceptable.
- Many are not available electronically. In those cases, a reference for obtaining the document is listed.
- Call us at 1-888-777-3186 if you have questions about which protocol to use or how to obtain a copy of one that is not readily available.
References to protocols for collecting and presenting information or evidence to the TCEQ
- If you have a photograph (digital or non-digital) or video that you believe documents a violation, see Photographic Documentation Procedures in PDF.
- To sample the water quality or water quality indicators in a lake, stream, or other surface water body, see Surface Water Quality Monitoring Procedures Manual.
- To sample the water quality from a public water supply system (not your private well), see Public Water Supply Chemical Sampling Procedures in PDF.
- For procedures to disinfect or sample the water quality of your private well, go to EPA Web Site at Private Drinking Water Wells.
- For procedures to sample water from wastewater discharge points, use this document, see Water Quality Sampling and Shipping Procedures in PDF.
- For information regarding Sampling and Analytical Methods for Hazardous Waste, see Quality Assurance Project Plan for Environmental Monitoring and Measurement Activities Relating to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Underground Injection Control (UIC) in Microsoft Word or PDF at: RCRA/UIC QAPP.
- For procedures to take tape lift samples of particles which have been deposited from the air, see Microscopy Tapelift Sampling Procedure in PDF.
- For procedures to evaluate nuisance odors: see Odor Complaint Investigation Procedures in PDF.
- For information regarding measurement of stack opacity using EPA Method 9, Visible Determination of Opacity of Emissions from Stationary Sources or Smoke School –– The Visible Emissions Evaluation Certification (VEEC) Program go to Smoke School: Visible Emissions Evaluators or visit the EPA Web site at www.epa.gov/ttn/emc/promgate.html and scroll to "Method 9 - Visual Opacity.
- For information on evaluating opacity from fugitive sources, see the EPA Web site at www.epa.gov/ttn/emc/promgate.html and scroll to "Method 22 - Fugitive Opacity."
- For all other EPA-approved test methods for air quality evaluation, go to the EPA Web site at www.epa.gov/ttn/emc/tmethods.html.
You must also follow the appropriate chain of custody procedures
- Proper chain of custody procedures for handling of a sample once it is collected are included in some of the protocols discussed above. If not, you can develop your own form using the guidelines listed below or obtain a generic chain of custody form by contacting the agency. You may also be able to obtain a chain of custody form from the laboratory where you will submit your samples for analysis.
- In general, the chain of custody document is a form that details the history of the sample from the time it is collected to the time that the sample is analyzed in the laboratory. This information is needed to prove that the sample is handled and transported in a manner that preserves its integrity. The chain of custody form should indicate:
- the name of the person who collected the samples and their signature;
- the date and time the samples were collected;
- where the samples were collected;
- sample identification numbers and codes;
- sample collection locations and depths;
- how the samples are preserved; and
- what the samples are to be analyzed for, and the specific analytical methods that are to be used (if known).
- At the laboratory, the technician should sign the chain of custody form, and note the date and time the sample was received and the condition of the sample at the time of its arrival.
- A sample without the proper chain of custody documentation will not be acceptable to the TCEQ.