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Gathering and Preserving Information and Evidence Showing a Violation

Information about most agency protocols, procedures, or guidelines to use when collecting and submitting information or evidence to TCEQ.

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 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 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 and must complete a notarized affidavit in English or Spanish. Your contact information will be handled as confidential but please be advised that you must be willing to testify in any formal enforcement hearing in regards to your affidavit.
  • 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.
  • If you have questions about these protocols and procedures, or about these laboratories, you can call us toll-free at (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 (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 TCEQ

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 TCEQ.

If you have any questions about information on this Web page, please contact your regional TCEQ office at: (888) 777-3186.