woman inspecting tree

An environmental compliance inspector could...

Investigate complaints of illegal pollution from an individual or a business. garbage in water Inspect water treatment facilities to make sure they are in compliance with standards. person checking water treatment facility
Provide expert testimony in court about environmental violations. testify Make sure a landfill is processing trash in compliance with local environmental regulations. landfill
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Our environment on planet Earth is made up of the air, water, and land. Environmental compliance inspectors work to protect and preserve our environment and the public by making sure communities, individuals, businesses, and state and local governments are in compliance with pollution laws and regulations.
Key Requirements Detail-oriented, analytical, observant, responsible, with excellent communication skills
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus; if available, environmental science, physiology, statistics
Median Salary
Environmental Compliance Inspector
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)
  • Meet Robert Courtnage, an environmental protection specialist with EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, as he talks about his career at EPA.
  • Watch this video about David Kaduk, an environmental specialist at John Deere Reman facility in Nisku, Alberta.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Education and Training

The minimum requirement for this occupation is a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental sciences, environmental law, or a related subject. A post-graduate degree is recommended for advancement into senior positions. Some positions might require registration with a professional association.

It is beneficial to have working knowledge of environmental management systems (such as ISO 14001), occupational health and safety systems, waste/wastewater legislation, statistics, and accounting procedures.

Other Qualifications

Environmental compliance specialists must be analytical and detail-oriented, with the ability to collect, compile, evaluate and interpret data within the context of pollution regulations. They must be able to work independently and within teams and have excellent written and oral communication skills.

In this video you will see how environmental scientists and specialists, like compliance inspectors, work to identify, measure, and control the pollutants that damage the environment and public health.

Nature of the Work

Environmental compliance specialists inspect and investigate sources of pollution to protect the public and environment and ensure conformance with federal, state, and local regulations and ordinances.

A junior-level environmental compliance specialist is responsible for monitoring facility operations and preparing reports. The responsibility of an intermediate-level environmental compliance specialist advances from monitoring facility operations to analyzing reports in order to identify cases of non-compliance and the appropriate enforcement. Other responsibilities include managing overall reporting, and conducting internal audits. A senior-level position requires establishing working relationships with regulatory authorities, and an integrated practice and knowledge of environmental regulations, reporting requirements, standards, and codes.

Work Environment

Work involves a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor work is performed in an office setting. Outdoor work includes field surveys and site visits to various institutional, commercial, and industrial settings. Travel may be required for this occupation.

On the Job

  • Determine the nature of code violations and actions to be taken, and issue written notices of violation; participate in enforcement hearings as necessary.
  • Examine permits, licenses, applications, and records to ensure compliance with licensing requirements.
  • Prepare, organize, and maintain inspection records.
  • Interview individuals to determine the nature of suspected violations and to obtain evidence of violations.
  • Prepare written, oral, tabular, and graphic reports summarizing requirements and regulations, including enforcement and chain of custody documentation.
  • Monitor follow-up actions in cases where violations were found, and review compliance monitoring reports.
  • Investigate complaints and suspected violations regarding illegal dumping, pollution, pesticides, product quality, or labeling laws.
  • Inspect waste pretreatment, treatment, and disposal facilities and systems for conformance to federal, state, or local regulations.
  • Inform individuals and groups of pollution control regulations and inspection findings, and explain how problems can be corrected.
  • Determine sampling locations and methods, and collect water or wastewater samples for analysis, preserving samples with appropriate containers and preservation methods.
  • Verify that hazardous chemicals are handled, stored, and disposed of in accordance with regulations.
  • Research and keep informed of pertinent information and developments in areas such as EPA laws and regulations.
  • Determine which sites and violation reports to investigate, and coordinate compliance and enforcement activities with other government agencies.
  • Observe and record field conditions, gathering, interpreting, and reporting data such as flow meter readings and chemical levels.
  • Learn and observe proper safety precautions, rules, regulations, and practices so that unsafe conditions can be recognized and proper safety protocols implemented.
  • Evaluate label information for accuracy and conformance to regulatory requirements.
  • Inform health professionals, property owners, and the public about harmful properties and related problems of water pollution and contaminated wastewater.
  • Analyze and implement state, federal or local requirements as necessary to maintain approved pretreatment, pollution prevention, and storm water runoff programs.
  • Perform laboratory tests on samples collected, such as analyzing the content of contaminated wastewater.
  • Review and evaluate applications for registration of products containing dangerous materials, or for pollution control discharge permits.
  • Research and perform calculations related to landscape allowances, discharge volumes, production-based and alternative limits, and wastewater strength classifications, then make recommendations and complete documentation.
  • Participate in the development of spill prevention programs and hazardous waste rules and regulations, and recommend corrective actions for hazardous waste problems.
  • Maintain and repair materials, worksites, and equipment.
  • Conduct research on hazardous waste management projects in order to determine the magnitude of problems, and treatment or disposal alternatives and costs.
  • Respond to questions and inquiries, such as those concerning service charges and capacity fees, or refer them to supervisors.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Environmental Compliance Inspectors

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
It is important to ensure that we all have good clean water to drink that is not contaminated by heavy metals or chemicals. One common pollutant in a water supply is lead in old pipes or paints that can leach into the water and cause lead poisoning. There are different kits available for testing the presence of lead and other contaminants in water. Test your water supply, and also the water in some local ponds, lakes or streams. The same contaminants that can harm you can also harm wildlife. … Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
What does the phrase, "Like a breath of fresh air," mean to you? This common phrase can have different meanings: calming, relaxing, invigorating, energizing or CLEAN! After all, you never hear anyone say, "Like a breath of dirty air," do you? Find out how clean the air is in this simple experiment. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
There is strong interest in "going green," including using products that cause less environmental damage when they are disposed of. In this environmental sciences project, you will compare the toxicity of "green" and conventional liquid detergents using worms as test organisms. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Smog days are often posted in your local newspaper. Check how many smog days your city has had in the last year. How does it compare to to other years? You can also take pictures of your city landscape on high and low smog days. How do the pictures compare? How does smog in the atmosphere affect visibility? What is smog made of? You can use tongue depressors smeared with Vaseline to check for smog particles in different areas; just stick in the ground and look at them a few days later. … Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
To survive, we need oxygen in the air we breathe. Oxygen is also essential for most aquatic organisms, but there is much less oxygen available in water than in air. How much oxygen can dissolve in water? Does the temperature of the water matter? Learn how to measure dissolved oxygen and then see how oxygen concentration changes with water temperature. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
One way to test for the presence of toxic compounds in a water sample is a bioassay. In a bioassay, a living organism serves as a detector for toxins—the same way canaries were used in coal mines to detect invisible toxic gases. In this project, water fleas (Daphnia magna), a freshwater crustacean, are used in a bioassay to monitor water quality. Many variations of this experiment are possible. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Electronic devices can be designed to detect dangerous fumes or other hazards, such as smoke or carbon monoxide. In this electronics project, you will build another potentially life-saving detector—a radon detector. Radon gas is radioactive and can pose a hazard to your health if you live in an area where it leaks from the ground. In this electronics science project, you will learn how to collect radon with an ordinary dusting cloth mounted on the intake of a fan, and then measure its… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
The element lead is a neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous to young children. Among other uses, lead compounds were common paint additives until being phased out for safer titanium-based additives beginning in the 1960's. Lead compounds were also added to gasoline to prevent engine knocking, until being phased out beginning in the 1970's. Although paint and gasoline sold today no longer contain lead, soil can have contamination from older sources of lead, such as paint from old… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Some plants grow only in water-logged environments. These plants are usually native to wetlands and are important for the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems. Wetland ecosystems are very fragile and susceptible to the toxic dumping of sewage and fertilizer run-off from neighboring farm land. One very common aquatic plant called duckweed inhabits many wetland marshes. Duckweed grows by asexual reproduction and floats at the surface of the water with tiny roots extending into the water below.… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever heard the expression "a canary in a coal mine"? In the 1900's and earlier, coal miners brought canaries with them into the mines to act as early warning signals. The canaries were very sensitive to low levels of dangerous gases, so if the birds stopped singing, or got sick, then the miners knew to leave immediately, even if they felt fine. As it turns out, our froggy friends are also very helpful at signaling problems, not in mines, but in and around bodies of water. Try this… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Silt is a fine sediment that collects on the bottoms of rivers, streams and lakes. The natural process of the decay of organisms into the water can lead to the production of silt at the bottom of a lake. Silt can be a rich source of nutrients for fish and bottom dwellers like crayfish. However, it can also be introduced by unnatural processes. One problem for rivers, lakes and streams is the buildup of excess fine sediment introduced by industry. Because it often contains harmful chemicals it… Read more

Ask Questions

Do you have a specific question about a career as an Environmental Compliance Inspector that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.

Additional Information

  • Board of Certified Safety Professionals: www.bcsp.org/
  • National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP): www.naep.org


Free science fair projects.