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Environmental Complaints Program Impact

Complaint investigations are an important tool for achieving compliance with environmental regulations.  In fact, investigating a complaint filed by a concerned citizen is one of the primary methods by which the agency discovers environmental pollution.  The agency receives complaints through several sources, but all complaints are handled by the ECLS Environmental Complaints Office.  The Complaints Office receives complaints from the agency’s website, email, field inspectors, and the Complaint Hotline. The Complaint Hotline is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and receives about 3,000 calls per month. 

Of all the calls, contacts and inquiries received monthly by the Complaints Office, about 1,200 are requests for information or general questions, about 80 calls or complaints are transferred to other governmental entities; the remaining are complaints that fall within DEQ’s jurisdiction.  It is these complaints that are sent to local ECLS Environmental Specialists for investigation. These complaints are taken very seriously and are worked under strict timelines to assure compliance with all environmental laws and rules of the State of Oklahoma.

The majority of complaints investigated at the local level concern illegally dumped solid waste and surfacing sewage from individual on-site sewage treatment systems, making up an average of 42 % of the total number of complaints received last year. Based on the investigation of these complaints, 53,879 cubic yards of solid waste was removed from illegal dumpsites and either recycled or disposed of in permitted landfills and 26,000,000 gallons of sewage was removed from the environment by the correction of failing on-site systems. These pollutants would still be present in the environment if concerned citizens had not cared enough to file complaints, and working these complaints to a satisfactory solution is an important metric for measuring the agency’s effectiveness at protecting Oklahoma’s environment.

In additional to environmental protection, ECLS strives to meet and exceed citizen expectations.  To measure our effectiveness at this, ECLS sends by mail customer satisfaction surveys to complainants and responsible parties each year to gauge their experience in dealing with DEQ and DEQ employees.  Twenty-three percent are returned, which is impressive given that the average rate of return for surveys of this type is between two and six percent.  Ninety-four percent of the surveys returned, from both complainants and responsible parties, indicate satisfaction with the results of the complaint, their interactions with DEQ employees, and with the performance of the agency as a whole.

Concerned citizens contacting DEQ through the hotline provide important assistance and information to the agency, which helps bring about a positive impact on Oklahoma's environment.