What is an Environmental Crime?

Violations of environmental laws take many different forms. Some are done intentionally and may be criminal violations.

Typical environmental  violations which result in investigations may involve, but are not limited to:

  • Illegal disposal of hazardous waste
  • Export of hazardous waste without the permission of the receiving country
  • Illegal discharge of pollutants to a water of the United States
  • The removal and disposal of regulated asbestos containing materials in a manner inconsistent with the law and regulations
  • Conspiracy
  • Money laundering relating to environmental criminal activities

Violation Scenario

Containment areas set up prior to abatement. This ensures that no asbestos fibers will enter non-abatement areas


The owner of an apartment complex solicits bids to remove 14,000 square feet of old ceiling tiles from the building. Three bidders inspect the building, determine that the tiles contain dangerous asbestos fibers, and bid with understanding that, in doing the removal, they would be required to follow the work practice standards that apply to asbestos removal. The fourth bidder proposes to save the owner money by removing the tiles without following the work practice standards. The owner hires the fourth bidder on this basis and, so, the work is done without following the work practice standards. The owner is guilty of a criminal violation of the Clean Air Act.

Remember: Your Safety Comes First!

Do not put yourself in harm’s way. Please review these safety tips and do not try and investigate on your own – report what you see at www.epa.gov/tips.

  • If you are not sure that an area is safe, stay away
  • Do not enter confined spaces or low-lying areas
  • Do not lean over open waste containers, or kick, rock or puncture waste containers
  • If trained to enter, wear appropriate protective gear
  • Do not take samples unless trained
  • Keep others away from the scene until assistance arrives
  • Be sure to keep children and pets away
  • Do not track toxic material into your car

For more information on environmental crime, see Criminal Investigations – Violation Types and Examples  or review the Report an Environmental Violation – General Information Brochure.

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