Prepare for an inspection

Ecology inspects facilities to ensure they handle, store, and dispose of dangerous waste correctly. We have legal authority to visit during normal business hours, and our inspectors may show up unannounced. Inspections usually take two to three hours.

What do inspectors look at?

Dangerous waste compliance inspectors look for problems that could harm people or cause pollution. They check to see if you are complying with the dangerous waste regulations. It's much easier and cheaper for everyone involved to prevent accidents and pollution than to deal with them after something goes wrong. Our staff can help your business manage and prevent dangerous waste and improve efficiency. Get technical assistance from Ecology's experts.


Inspectors will ask to meet the site contact person listed on your notification form or Dangerous Waste Annual Report. They will then check records relating to dangerous waste management, such as:

  • Dangerous waste transport manifests.
  • Storage and inspection logs.
  • Records of safety equipment inspections.
  • Employee training records.

Facility areas

Inspectors look at production areas, 90- or 180-day accumulation areas, satellite accumulation areas, and “bone yards” or other storage areas. The inspector may take pictures of violations they find, or of examples of proper dangerous waste management. If something can be easily corrected right away, the inspector will usually point it out to you during their visit.

What are the most common violations found?

  1. Containers not labeled with the risk (flammable, corrosive, toxic, or reactive) and the words "dangerous waste" or "hazardous waste."
  2. Failure to designate wastes.
  3. Improper management of, or failure to label, universal waste.
  4. Not including an accumulation start date on containers.
  5. Containers not closed.

Some violations can be resolved during the inspection.

What happens after an inspection?

The inspector will hold an exit conference with your facility representative. Afterwards, the inspector will write an inspection report and compliance certificate and mail them to your facility. The compliance certificate shows:

  • The violation cited, if any.
  • A summary of any problems you must fix.
  • A deadline for resolving the issues.

A representative from your facility must complete the compliance certificate, showing what was done to correct any violations, and return it to Ecology.

Will we get a penalty?

Normally Ecology gives facilities a chance to correct compliance issues before issuing a penalty. Our staff can offer technical assistance to help facilities resolve problems, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.

However, if a facility doesn't correct problems, we may resort to formal enforcement. This usually includes an administrative order to comply and a monetary penalty based on the number and severity of violations. Each violation can result in a penalty of up to $10,000 per day.

We issue larger penalties for problems like:

  • Generators refusing to come into compliance.
  • Recurring problems after multiple inspections.
  • Violations that threaten or damage human health or the environment.

How does Ecology choose which facilities to inspect?

Ecology has authority to inspect facilities that generate dangerous waste. Inspectors choose facilities based on many factors:

  • Generator status and facility size
  • History of problems
  • Unexplained changes in generator status
  • Complaints
  • Referrals from other agencies