The primary mission of the Environmental Compliance Team (ECT) is to provide leadership and support to ensure that APHIS pest and disease control and eradication programs comply with appropriate environmental statutes and adhere to the Agency's policy on environmental monitoring, APHIS Directive 5640.1, which can be viewed at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/library/directives/pdf/5640_1.pdf.
The ECT develops environmental monitoring plans (EMPs) which when implemented provide data useful for evaluating the validity of assumptions and conclusions from risk assessments prepared for the program in compliance with environmental statutes. The ECT trains field staff in the intricacies of implementing the EMPs such that the data quality objectives can be met. Field staff is comprised of APHIS personnel as well as State, municipal, or private cooperators. There is continuous dialog between the ECT and field staff for the duration of program operations to address questions and situations that might arise requiring clarification or refinement of the EMP.
Another responsibility of the ECT is to participate in meetings with local governments, non-governmental organizations, and the public during which APHIS operational programs are described and discussed. ECT members provide information on risks to the environment and public health possibly posed by program operations.
Often the EMP calls for environmental or quality control samples to be collected by the field staff for chemical analyses. The ECT compiles the chemical residue data with the environmental data provided by the field staff and conducts analyses to evaluate the potential for effects on the environment and human health. The ECT prepares environmental monitoring reports that draw conclusions regarding the validity of earlier risk assessments. Recommendations are also made in the reports on how to improve or refine future monitoring, and whether any changes in program operational procedures need to be considered.
The ECT works very closely with the Environmental and Risk Analysis Services (ERAS) staff in Policy and Program Development (PPD). Among other things, ERAS is responsible for the preparation of risk assessments and acts as the primary liaison with sister agencies charged with implementing environmental statutes. The ECT supports the latter function by being fully involved in liaison activities that require a technical component such as negotiating protection measures for endangered and threatened species, or negotiating what data are required to support the unregistered use of a pesticide.