The Municipal Ombudsman serves as a resource for communities seeking to comply with the Clean Water Act and works directly with Agency leadership and regional offices to ensure uniform application of agency policies to municipalities.
Consistent with the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, the Municipal Ombudsman will coordinate with the appropriate EPA offices to assist communities in navigating EPA resources. Specific resources include:
- Federal assistance opportunities
- Technical assistance
- Permitting and enforcement flexibilities, and
- Information on integrated planning and example municipal integrated plans.
Jamie Piziali, Municipal Ombudsman
Frequently Asked Questions about the Municipal Ombudsman
- What is an Ombudsman?
- What does the Municipal Ombudsman do?
- What does the Municipal Ombudsman not do?
- Who may contact the Municipal Ombudsman for assistance?
- When should I reach out to the Ombudsman?
- Does the Municipal Ombudsman cost money?
- How can I invite the Municipal Ombudsman to my meeting or conference?
- Are there other Ombudsman at EPA?
- What are the limits on confidentiality for the Municipal Ombudsman?
- Who is the Municipal Ombudsman?
An ombudsman provides an alternate, informal way to resolve issues. Many organizations, both government and private, have an ombudsman. EPA’s Municipal Ombudsman was established by the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (Public Law No. 115-436) signed in January 2019. Federal Ombudsman are often established pursuant to legislative action (e.g., statute) or written agency policy that sets forth the structure, role, and jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.
The Municipal Ombudsman is an independent, impartial, and confidential* resource to assist municipalities in navigating EPA’s Clean Water Act programs.
The Municipal Ombudsman will coordinate with EPA offices to assist communities in navigating EPA resources and to advocate for fair processes and uniform application of Clean Water Act policies. In general, the Ombudsman listens and learns about all perspectives on a process issue and may:
- Consider the applicable laws, regulations, policy, and data, and
- Talk with the municipality and stakeholders involved, and coordinate with EPA Officials
Upon completion of that review and to assist, the Ombudsman can:
- Facilitate discussions,
- Brainstorm and evaluate options and resources,
- Share relevant EPA contacts,
- Gather technical resources and information on best practices from EPA programs,
- Offer an impartial perspective,
- Engage in shuttle diplomacy as an intermediary, and
- Provide options pertaining to Clean Water Act matters.
The Municipal Ombudsman does not:
- Delay any statutory, regulatory, or other EPA deadlines;
- Negotiate permit conditions or other regulatory provisions;
- Make decisions or legal determinations for the EPA, including but not limited to, funding or civil rights decisions;
- Provide its own interpretations or legal clarifications of law or policy;
- Serve as a formal office of legal notice for the EPA;
- Address internal human resources matters;
- Address the merits of matters that are the subject of ongoing administrative proceedings, litigation or investigations, including but not limited to civil rights, financial assistance disputes or suspension and debarment. Where the ombudsman is involved in a Clean Water Act matter his/her findings will not substitute for administrative or judicial proceedings; and
- Discuss, research or decide allegations of discrimination filed under 40 CFR Parts 5 and 7, or make determinations involving financial assistance, including appeals submitted under 2 CFR Part 1500.
A city, town, borough, county, parish, district, association, or other public body created by or pursuant to State law and having jurisdiction over disposal of sewage, industrial wastes, or other wastes, or an Indian tribe or an authorized Indian tribal organization, or a designated and approved management agency may contact the Municipal Ombudsman for support on Clean Water Act concerns
If in doubt, reach out. While the focus of the Municipal Ombudsman is on the Clean Water Act, the Ombudsman may help a municipality make broader connections to Agency experts as resources allow.
Use the Municipal Ombudsman when you have not had success with the existing EPA avenues for addressing your Clean Water Act concerns.
You’re welcome to reach out at any time, but we ask you to try your existing local, state, and EPA program contacts for resolution first.
If your concern is not resolved through those regular avenues, the Ombudsman looks forward to hearing from you.
Use of the Municipal Ombudsman is entirely voluntary and free of charge.
The Municipal Ombudsman regularly conducts outreach to share resources.
If you’d like the Municipal Ombudsman to join you for a meeting or conference to share about our role, send an email to her at Piziali.Jamie@epa.gov or give the Ombudsman a call at 202-564-1709.
Confidentiality allows municipalities to seek the Municipal Ombudsman’s assistance without concern for retaliation or retribution. For purposes of the Municipal Ombudsman role, confidentiality means that, except in instances described below, the Municipal Ombudsman will not share, internally or externally, information submitted to the Municipal Ombudsman by external parties to the extent permitted by law. Confidentiality attaches to a communication only when (1) requested by the external party, (2) offered by the Municipal Ombudsman—all at the Ombudsman’s discretion (except in the cases described below) —or (3) when confidentiality is required by law.
The Municipal Ombudsman may share identifying information if the individual raising the issue agrees. The Municipal Ombudsman also may share the information if there is a threat of imminent risk of serious harm or an allegation of government fraud, waste, or abuse, or if required by law. The Ombudsman’s Office will testify about individual matters or otherwise share identifying information if required by law, such as disclosure to a court or under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Please note, the EPA may be required to disclose agency records under the FOIA unless the information falls under one of nine exemptions, which protect interests such as personal privacy, inter- or intra-federal agency deliberative communications, national security, and law enforcement. See 5 U.S.C. § 552. For questions regarding the disclosure of Agency records under the FOIA, please visit the EPA’s FOIA website at epa.gov/foia, or contact the EPA’s FOIA Public Liaison at email@example.com or 202-566-1667.
Jamie Piziali is the Municipal Ombudsman and she looks forward to working with you.