Skip to main content

Complying with the regulations

Environmental regulations established by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency all have procedures by which a business has to demonstrate to the agencies that it meets each of the requirements. When the DNR or the EPA perform an inspection or request records and find you are not in compliance with any particular requirement, you can be found in violation and can face an enforcement action by one or both agencies. The following fact sheets and tools are intended to help you comply with the requirements.

The SBEAP staff provide a basic level of expertise with environmental regulations. We partner with other programs and organizations that have additional expertise in environmental regulation and pollution prevention. The links provided below will take you to other web sites with information or contacts that may help you understand environmental regulations or help you find ways to reduce emissions and improve your environmental performance overall. In addition, there are resources to help you minimize your liability by conducting audits of environmental requirements. Also provided are some listings for funding opportunities.

Other agencies' regulatory programs and requirements

Those responsible for their company's environmental requirements may also be responsible for things like chemical inventory and emergency response, as well as their worker's safety programs. DNR does not enforce those programs, but the following resources can help you find out what is required:

  • A report called Tier II (not to be confused with Green Tier's Tier 2 status) is required by every company with hazardous chemicals on their property. This requirement falls under U.S. EPA's Emergency Response and Community Right to Know Act or EPCRA. The Wisconsin Emergency Management program is responsible for collecting the Tier II reports and works with local emergency responders in the event of accidental spills, releases, fires and other incidents. Reports are filed through Wisconsin Hazmat Online Planning and Reporting System or WHOPRS. Forms and resources are available as well, including a short guide to explain who is required to report: WDMA Forms and Resources.
  • Another report under EPCRA is the TRI or Toxics Release Inventory. EPA collects toxics release information through the Chemical Data Exchange (CDX). Criteria for those required to report is explained on their webpage: Reporting for TRI Facilities.
  • Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regulates storage tank requirements for petroleum and other hazardous liquids, where they inspect for leaks, spills and proper emergency response systems that reduce environmental and safety issues: Petroleum/Hazardous Liquids Storage Tanks Overview.
  • Worker's safety comes under the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Environmental, health and safety assistance providers
Environmental assessments, audit policies and consulting resources

There are programs available that may help to limit your liability if you conduct an audit and find issues that do not comply with environmental regulations; you may want to review the DNR and EPA compliance audit policies to see if you are eligible first. Unfortunately, assistance with environmental audits and other compliance services are usually NOT available as a free resource. Sometimes you need to hire a professional to focus on your individual business needs. The SBEAP has provided a list of environmental consultants with offices in Wisconsin, but the program has not evaluated any claims regarding their ability to provide the listed services.

  • DNR's Enviro-Check Program — Available to businesses that follow the steps required by statute, as explained on the webpage.
  • The EPA has a general Audit Policy as well as a specifically designed Small Business Policy.
  • Basic Elements of Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments (SB-007) — Development on an old commercial or industrial site should be preceded by a Phase I ESA to determine if there is any contamination of the site. If contamination is found, then a Phase II ESA would determine the extent of contamination.
  • Before purchasing property you may need to know more about the history of the site to ensure you are not disturbing an important resource. The Wisconsin Historical Society has a list of Historic Preservation and Archaeological consultants available.
  • Tips on Hiring an Environmental Consultant (SB-005) — A brief overview on what to look for and questions to ask when seeking the services of an environmental consultant for your air pollution issues.
  • Consultants List (SB-004) — A partial listing of Wisconsin companies that provide environmental consulting services to small businesses. The specific services they provide are identified, including emissions inventory reporting, stack testing, air permit applications, air dispersion modeling, hazardous waste, soil remediation, wastewater and storm water.

National compliance assistance resources

There are many compliance assistance links available from federal as well as other state and local sources. We will attempt to provide as many as seem useful to small businesses.

National industry sector-based resources

EPA's latest effort to assist certain business sectors is called the Smart Sectors Program. EPA's Smart Sectors will include aerospace, agriculture, automotive, cement, chemical manufacturing, concrete, construction, electronics and technology, forestry/paper/wood products, iron and steel, mining, oil and gas, ports and maritime transportation, and utilities and power generation.

Companies looking to switch materials for lower impact options should review EPA's Safer Choice site for resources.

In addition to those sectors, the EPA archived previously created sector pages that provide assistance and resources for the following sectors.

The following are some resources to help you manage air pollution requirements.

  • A source that has been issued an Air Pollution Operation Permit and is required to report air pollution emissions annually, will have to submit two different certifications. To learn more about the two requirements, read Annual Reports and Certifications Required for Air Permits and the Air Emissions Inventory (AM-529).
  • Air Permit Compliance Calendar (SB-202) [DOCX] — This tool from Wisconsin's Small Business Environmental Assistance Program (SBEAP) can serve multiple purposes for a facility that needs to comply with an air permit, show it is exempt from permitting, track compliance with regulations that apply outside of a permit or just maintain reminders about certain due dates like annual reporting for the air emissions inventory. Keep this calendar on file for five years and it can serve as your official record!
  • How to Use Your SDS for Air Pollution Requirements (SB-112) — Calculations needed for demonstrating compliance with certain air pollution control requirements that apply to your facility will usually involve use of a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This fact sheet explains what information you really need to find on the SDS and how to use it.

Fugitive dust control

"Fugitive dust" is a term used to describe any particulate matter (PM) emissions released through any means other than a stack or duct of some kind. Any business creating enough dust, smoke or fumes to be a noticeable source of air pollution must control those emissions. The following are examples of activities that would create fugitive dust:

  • large trucks transporting materials along unpaved roads;
  • unpaved parking lots;
  • piles of materials stored on site, like grain; and
  • dry materials directed to equipment not collected by another device, whether by baghouse, cyclone, wet scrubber, etc.

Any business that creates fugitive dust must do as much as possible to control those emissions and keep them from escaping into the environment. The following are a few suggestions based on the type of activity. Other best management practices recommended by industry experts are provided in the fact sheet Fugitive Dust Management (AM-556).

  • For roads or storage piles, this may mean using water or chemicals to prevent dust plumes. Paving roads will reduce dust. Storage piles can be kept within a three-sided building to minimize emissions.
  • To know how much of an additive is allowed in water for dust prevention, refer to the storm water standards for Water quality review procedures for additives, and the two companion documents: Allowable usage rates for water applied additives and Allowable usage rates for land applied additives.
  • Mechanical collection devices (i.e., cyclones and dry filters) are effective, low-cost ways to control PM emissions from processing equipment. Unfortunately, higher collection efficiency in any type of equipment can often mean higher costs. For example, a baghouse can be a very high efficiency control option but is more expensive than the others.

Whether you need a permit or not — be prepared

  • Recordkeeping: What's Involved and Why It's Important (SB-118) — Do you need to maintain records even when you don't need a permit? Yes. Find out what you need to do by reading this fact sheet.
  • Monthly Emissions Example Calculations (SB-302) [XLS] — Examples of how to calculate monthly emissions for a range of operations. The file will download onto your computer.
  • Facilities with VIC emissions may be required to maintain monthly, 12-month rolling average, or daily records. The following spreadsheets have example calculations for these requirements:
  • Annual emissions calculations (SB-301 [XLSX] – Calculate emissions at the end of the year for permit compliance, completing the air emissions inventory report or Under-Threshold Notification.
  • A DNR Air Program Inspector is Coming... What Can I Expect? (SB-120) — A fact sheet describing the things you might expect during an inspection and some items you should be prepared with upon the arrival of the inspector.
  • Dust, Smoke and Fumes — Particulate Matter Emissions (SB-111) — This fact sheet summarizes the air pollution requirements for those sources with particulate matter emissions and discusses some of the ways to reduce those emissions as well.
  • Controlling Odors (SB-110) — A fact sheet summarizes the requirements that no business may allow emissions from their business that create an objectionable odor off their property. There are a couple ways the DNR may determine if an odor is objectionable and some suggestions for how to avoid or control odors.
  • Stack Testing Requirements (SB-119) — The DNR may require you to perform emissions testing at your exhaust stacks at any time. Testing may be required after receiving a construction permit, if a new regulation applies to a process, or to confirm emissions factors used to calculate your emissions. It's best to know all the elements summarized in this fact sheet because you do not want to repeat any testing due to misunderstanding the process.
    • If you are required to perform stack testing by an air pollution permit, there are a number of resources you can try for stack testing firms. The first one is the yellow pages. There is also a state-by-state listing online at The DNR's Air Program maintains a list of stack test facilities in the Wisconsin area. Contact Andy Seeber at 608-267-0563 for a copy.
    • Or you can check Clean Air Consultants (SB-004). We recently asked those on the list to update the services they have available, whether they be permits, emissions testing, etc. (SBEAP has not reviewed the firms on this list, and their inclusion does not imply any endorsement. The information is provided for your assistance.) We also have a fact sheet on Tips for Hiring an Environmental Consultant (SB-005), which gives information about the questions to ask when hiring an outside consulting firm.

This section will provide compliance resources for hazardous waste and solid waste requirements, and other specific topics for demolition/renovation.

  • The waste program has created many fact sheets and guidance documents on a range of topics. You can find a list of publications on Hazardous Waste resources, on the Guidance tab.
  • Questions on Solid Waste requirements can be found on the Solid Waste overview webpage.
  • Reading the rules is an important step in complying with the parts of the waste requirements that may apply to your business. The DNR has provided a list of direct links to the different waste rule chapters here: solid and hazardous waste codes and statutes
  • In order to keep up with new or changing rules, the DNR Waste programs provide newsletters from many of their topic areas. Go to the main managing waste and materials page and look for the Subscribe box on the right side of the page.
  • The first step in complying with the waste requirements is for each business to identify their wastes and determine whether it is a hazardous waste. The fact sheet Waste Determination and Recordkeeping (WA-1152) describes the four-step process to help you determine if your waste is hazardous waste. This determination should be updated periodically, as processes or materials change.

Hazardous waste

Solid waste

Demolition/construction/renovation wastes

This section provides compliance resources for both wastewater discharge and storm water runoff/discharge requirements.


  • The DNR has many of the wastewater permit application systems available electronically, or if not fully electronic there are PDF fillable forms available on the water permit application page.
  • In case you need help getting started with the electronic application process there are instructional videos available.
  • There is a long list of guidance documents available on the wastewater discharge requirements.
  • If you need help understanding the water data reporting system, go to the eReporting page.
  • For information on industrial pretreatment system requirements and guidance on the permitting process, go to the construction of industrial wastewater pretreatment systems page.
  • The DNR has a page specific to all of the industrial and municipal wastewater general discharge permits that are available, including fact sheets that describe the permit and application forms. Review the fact sheet if you have questions on a particular general permit or contact the wastewater permit specialist listed on the page.

Storm water runoff

Both the DNR and EPA provide a range of resources to help small public drinking water sources manage their systems.

Public water systems

It is important to first know whether you have a public or private water system. All but the smallest businesses will likely be defined as a public water system, even if members of the public do not enter your facility, because of the number of employees that may access your water supply. Businesses that might be a small public water system are those with 25 employees for at least six months of the year. Or in DNR's terms, a Non-transient, Non-community (NN) water system. If your business fits that description, here are some resources to help you comply with state and federal rules.

Other resources available from outside the DNR:
  • The EPA offers a compliance assistance page for the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.
  • Training available for homeowners may also assist small businesses owning their own well.
  • The EPA has resources to help you reduce your water use.
  • For operators of small systems, the page offers a range of resources. You can subscribe to their newsletter and blog. They have videos for training.

Water quality data

Whether you own a water system or use one at your business, you may want to check on the water quality data available on your system or neighboring systems.

  • Do you know if your system is reporting contamination? Check out the water quality data page.

Pollution prevention (P2)

  • Cascade Asset Management provides an asset management program for businesses or institutions in the Madison and southeast Wisconsin area that need assistance in managing their electronic equipment. While Cascade does charge a fee for processing the equipment, they also provide a rebate to you from the recycling or reuse value of the equipment. They will also pick up the equipment you wish to recycle for a fee. For a list of all their fees and services, you can contact Cascade Asset Management at 1-888-222-8399.
  • If you need to find a place to recycle some of your wastes, you can search the Recycling Markets Directory, which is managed by the UW Extension Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center.
  • Green Tier facilities that recycle electronics:

Improve your environmental performance

  • Practical Guide to Environmental Management for Small Business — This publication based on Environmental Management Systems (EMS) concepts is designed to help small businesses organize their environmental management responsibilities in a productive and cost-effective way.
  • Documenting your Environmental Management Plan — The workbook allows the small business owner to get environmental management issues organized one step at a time. Each section includes an explanation of what needs to be done, worksheets to help the business owner complete the tasks and examples of completed documentation from two hypothetical small businesses. The workbook serves as a support document to the Practical Guide to Environmental Management for Small Business.
  • Environmental Management Systems and Small Business (SB-006) — What is an EMS and what does it mean to be ISO certified?
Additional resources