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Criminal Investigations

Understanding Criminal Investigations

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EPA Special Agents investigate the most significant and egregious violations of environmental laws which pose significant threats to human health and the environment.  Your Safety Comes First - never try and investigate on your own - report what you see at  Criminal investigations may be prompted by reports from victims or concerned citizens, or from violations which cause significant harm. 

Frequently, the investigations of environmental crimes will uncover other types of crimes, such as lying to the government, fraud or conspiracy. These crimes could also be prosecuted.  Some environmental concerns are handled by State and Local Authorities who have immediate jurisdiction over such matters. Click the "Recognizing Violations" tabs below for more information.

What is an Environmental Crime?

Generally speaking, an environmental crime is a negligent, knowing or willful violation of a federal environmental law. "Knowing" violations are those that are deliberate and not the product of an accident or mistake. 

Recognizing Violations  - What to Report

  • Signs of Environmental Violations that should be Reported to EPA

    Environmental violations are not always obvious. Here are some signs of possible environmental violations. If you notice any of these signs, please report them at

    • Strong, offensive, or unusual chemical odors
    • Large numbers of dead birds, fish or other animals
    • Pipes or valves appear hidden or bypass waste treatment systems
    • Tank trucks discharging into drains, manholes or bodies of water
    • Oily slicks on bodies of water
    • Drums or containers dumped at odd hours in out-of-the way places
    • Corroded, leaking waste containers
  • Examples of Environmental Concerns that should be Reported to State and Local Authorities

    Please contact your State and Local Health Department Officials, and/or State and Local Environmental Authorities by phone or web with these types of concerns.

    • The residential or household dumping of vehicle and/or lawnmower oil
    • The disposal of litter
    • The use of a residential garage to paint vehicles
    • The presence of mold in residences or rental units
    • The venting of air coolants from a single car
    • Surfacing sewage in the yard of a residence

    Please contact your State and Local Health Department Officials, and/or State and Local Environmental Authorities by phone or web with these types of concerns.

  • Common Violation Types and Scenarios

    Typical violations which result in investigations may involve, but are not limited to:.

    • Illegal disposal of hazardous waste
    • Export of hazardous waste without the permission of the receiving country
    • Illegal discharge of pollutants to a water of the United States
    • The removal and disposal of regulated asbestos containing materials in a manner inconsistent with the law and regulations
    • Illegal importation of certain restricted or regulated chemicals into the United States
    • Tampering with a drinking water supply
    • Mail fraud/Wire fraud
    • Conspiracy
    • Money laundering relating to environmental criminal activities

    Click here for typical violation scenarios (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and RCRA)

Criminal Investigations - Major Cases

Criminal Provisions of Environmental Laws
Task Forces and Partnerships in which EPA's Criminal Enforcement program participates