The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and the Towns of Davidson and Matthews have Pollution Control Ordinances that outline what is considered an illicit discharge, the steps for responding to violations, and the enforcement actions that can be used. In many cases, violators of these ordinances unknowingly cause illicit discharges and correct them as soon as possible. In other cases, violators knowingly and repeatedly cause pollution and need incentive to correct their actions. The following lists potential local civil penalties that can be issued for violations of a Pollution Control Ordinance in each jurisdiction:
- City of Charlotte: up to $5,000 per day per violation
- Mecklenburg County: up to $10,000 per day per violation
- Davidson: up to $5,000 per day per violation
- Matthews: up to $1,000 per day for 1st violation, increasing by $1,000 per day for each additional violation up to a max of $25,000
Additional enforcement remedies are also available, such as cease and desist orders and injunctive relief through the court system. State laws also prohibit illicit discharges and activities that cause the pollution of streams and lakes with penalties of up to $27,500 per day per violation.
In the City of Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, the first steps for responding to a violation are notification, education and assistance. As soon as staff knows about a violation, the violator is immediately notified so they can stop the illicit discharge or violation. Staff will send a Notice of Violation that outlines the illicit discharge, the actions that must be taken by the violator to come into compliance, and the potential penalties for noncompliance. They will also offer education and assistance to help a violator come into compliance.
There are many examples when Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have issued civil penalties to violators of the Pollution Control Ordinance, but fines are not always issued. For minor offenses, when a violator does not have a history of previous violations, the desired outcome is compliance with the corrective actions outlined in the Notice of Violation. In these cases, the Notice of Violation is issued as a warning and means of education. For more serious offenses, when a violator has a previous history of non-compliance, and/or there is a violation with willful intention, a civil penalty may be issued. Staff from the City of Charlotte follows procedures outlined in the City of Charlotte Storm Water Pollution Control Ordinance Penalty/Enforcement Guidance to help determine whether a civil penalty should be issued and the penalty amount. This helps ensure consistency and fairness in enforcement matters.