Director Message
Dear Readers:

Itis my pleasure to present to you, on behalf of the staff of the Department of Environmental Management, our Annual Report for 1999. It has a new look and presents information in accordance with the promise we made last year to focus more clearly on priorities and on environmental results. One of our most important goals was to reenergize the Department's performance and to become more accountable to you about that performance. This is our progress report.

The following sections track the Department's Work Plan for the years 2000-2001. The development of that Work Plan last summer was itself a major achievement, as it translated department-wide goals and priorities into specific work plans. The goals include clean air, clean and plentiful water, livable communities, healthy ecosystems, viable natural resource-based industries, abundant open space and recreational opportunities, as well as open and effective government.

The Department also developed work plans for two pilot watershed regions to guide contributions by all offices to local efforts to restore water quality, protect water supplies, preserve open space and promote sustainable economic activity. The Department also began quarterly evaluations to make sure we make appropriate progress towards meeting our Work Plan goals. By the end of 1999, 94% of DEM projects were on track. Among the highlights are the following.

Openess and Responsiveness.
The Department appointed Tom Getz to the new, senior level position of Ombudsman. He has authority to conduct independent investigations of external or internal complaints about how the Department handles certain matters. Since such investigations may indicate a need for the Department to change its ways, Tom also plays a major role in efforts to retool the Department's performance, from permit streamlining to personnel matters and vehicle use policies. The Department also began quarterly meetings of a business roundtable and an environmental roundtable to give constituents a regular opportunity to raise concerns and provide feedback. They are well attended and productive meetings.

One area in which the Department needed to be particularly responsive is compliance and enforcement. Many complaints were heard about our field inspections and the effectiveness of our enforcement. We made this a top priority and developed draft Inspection Guidelines which balance the need to conduct regulatory inspections with the need to respect private property. After public review the guidelines will be finalized as part of a comprehensive new enforcement policy. Other elements of the policy are earlier notice to responsible parties that the Department has evidence of violations, so that they can be stopped and remedied more quickly, as well as more consistency in procedures, from timelines to penalty calculations. The hazardous waste program that has been criticized so severely increased formal enforcement actions from two in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 1998 (October 1997 to September 1998) to twenty in FFY 1999, resolved over 80 percent of outstanding enforcement cases dating back to the 1980s, and received praise from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Permit Streamlining. We completed design of computer infrastructure that will enable the Department to process and track permit applications more efficiently and that will allow for ultimate inclusion of the compliance assistance and enforcement programs. We will begin to use the system this year. In addition, the Department is on a schedule to evaluate all permitting programs, identify inefficiencies and develop administrative, regulatory or statutory solutions. The first, very active taskforce is on track to finalize recommendations for the wetlands program before the Summer.

Pollution Prevention. Together with the Department of Health, the Davies Vocational School and industry representatives, we launched an ambitious initiative to reduce impacts to workers and the environment from toxic materials in the autobody repair industry. The focus is on reducing the toxic content of products such as body fillers and paints, as well as use of better technologies and housekeeping practices to recycle materials and prevent discharges to the environment. We are working with industry to develop standards and operating procedures, education and technical assistance, and a program that, instead of requiring permits, allows businesses to certify compliance with these standards. The Department intends to expand this self-certification approach to other industry sectors (for example, dry cleaning).

Watershed Restoration. Many initiatives fit under this heading. First, as the work plans for two pilot watersheds indicate, the Department is reorienting many of its programs to a watershed focus. This means we take a more holistic look at environmental challenges. We use better science to address water quality and water supply issues. (See details in this report on our new schedules for issuing wastewater discharge permits, and for determining Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) that take into account both point and nonpoint sources in an entire watershed; our septic system and stormwater management programs; and our work with many watershed partners to develop a water "budget" that reconciles competing demands on a limited source of water.) We partner with cities and towns, businesses and nonprofit groups to develop more effective and equitable, regulatory and nonregulatory solutions. We listen to the needs of the watershed and the watershed communities first, instead of presuming that we, as state regulators, know best. We make the connection between water and land protection. We recognize farmers, foresters and fishers as stewards of our resources and try to help them stay in business by helping farmers through last year's drought and being better prepared this year; helping farmers and foresters develop business plans; and improving fishing port facilities. We develop incentives (such as the planning grants in the proposed open space bond issue) to plan for economic growth and resource protection at the local level. And we work with the Coastal Resources Management Council and others on passage of legislation to establish a collaborative habitat restoration program.

We still have a long way to go and I hope that this report demonstrates the Department is making good progress. I would like to thank, first of all, DEM staff for responding so well to new leadership, taking so much initiative themselves, and working extremely hard to meet goals and deadlines. I thank in particular the Governor for the strong support he is giving me and the Department, and for his leadership on issues like open space protection and restoration of water quality (including his all-important proposals for new bond funding). Similarly, I thank the leadership in the General Assembly for their support and accessibility. And last but not least, the Department thanks the many advisory groups members, stakeholders, customers who write or call in with feedback, and partners, for volunteering your time and helping us do our job.

Jan H. Reitsma