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Environmental Liabilities

Small businesses that produce hazardous waste are required to obtain proper permitting, registration and disposal under federal and state guidelines. As a business owner, you should be knowledgeable regarding the materials you use and produce as part of your business operations. If you are purchasing an existing business, the liabilities for the previous owners’ operations may be transferred to you. If you are purchasing real estate that was used by a business using/ producing hazardous materials, you may be held liable for any contamination as the new owner. It is important that you are aware of all regulations regarding environmental liabilities to protect your investments and the operation of your business.

Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention is any strategy that reduces or eliminates the volume or toxicity of pollutants at the source – reducing waste before its generated. Pollution prevention can take place by using less-toxic raw materials, using alternative technologies, modifying processes, and includes onsite conservation and reuse of energy, water, and materials. Pollution prevention is not waste treatment, off-site recycling, or end-of-pipe controls. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Pollution Prevention (P2) Program provides free onsite assessments that can identify pollution prevention opportunities such as water conservation, energy efficiency, and waste reduction. Pollution prevention strategies may reduce your emissions and waste to the point where permits or other regulatory requirements are no longer necessary. For P2 technical information or assistance visit the CDPHE Pollution Prevention Program Office at

Solid Waste and Hazardous Materials

The CDPHE Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division regulates solid and hazardous waste. Businesses that may need to comply with waste regulations include photochemical processing stores, auto repair shops, and any business that uses and disposes of batteries and fluorescent light bulbs. To determine if your business must comply with waste rules and regulations, call the Division’s public assistance hotline. This service will help you ascertain if your business is required to comply with any waste regulations and answer any questions you have on hazardous and solid waste.

Water Pollution and Drinking Water Quality

The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division regulates water quality in Colorado. Two types of activities are regulated by the Division that are applicable to small businesses:

  1. Discharges of pollutants to waters within the state
  2. Compliance with regulations for public drinking water systems

Discharges of pollutants (ranging from pumping groundwater from an excavation to pouring out water used in industrial processes) may require a permit. In addition, industrial sites and construction sites may need permits to control pollutants washed off as stormwater runoff. Public drinking water systems that provide drinking water to 25 or more people for more than 60 days of the year must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations. For more information and assistance on whether or not your business needs to comply with water quality regulations, call the Water Quality Control Division.

Air Pollution

The 1990 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments expanded the number and types of businesses that must comply with air quality standards. Examples of businesses that may need to comply with air quality regulations include dry cleaners, print shops, refrigeration and air conditioning services, furniture manufacturers, feedlots and cement/ asphalt companies. As a business, you may be required to file for an Air Pollution Emissions Notice (APEN) and possibly obtain a permit under the “Colorado Pollution Prevention and Clean Air Act.” Whether or not your business needs to file an APEN depends on the amount and type of annual air emissions produced and the location of your business. Once your APEN form is completed and submitted to the CDPHE Air Pollution Control Division, it is used to determine if your business must obtain a permit. There is a fee for filing an APEN.. The Division provides technical assistance to small businesses through the Small Business Assistance Program (SBAP). The SBAP has developed “how to” documents to help businesses calculate their emissions. They also have developed some industry specific APEN forms. The SBAP can assist your business in understanding and complying with air pollution requirements. For information or assistance visit

Colorado Environmental Leadership Program

The Colorado Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) is a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment voluntary program which recognizes Colorado entities which go beyond environmental regulations and reach towards the goal of sustainability. The ELP consists of three levels: Gold Leader, Silver Partner and Bronze Achiever with varying criteria components such as; the implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS), established goals and metrics, and clean compliance records.

The following are only a few examples of businesses that may be subject to environmental liabilities and regulation:

  • Auto shop products, including batteries, gasoline, oil, paint and tires
  • Bakeries, canneries, meat packing plants and other food processors
  • Breweries and distilleries
  • Cement, asphalt, tar and other“paving” materials
  • Chemical manufacturers and processors
  • Dry cleaners
  • Furniture manufacturers
  • Explosives manufacturers
  • Lumber mills and paper products producers
  • Medical laboratories
  • Hemp and marijuana producers
  • Plastics and synthetics materials manufacturers
  • Paint shops and manufacturers
  • Pest control
  • Print shops, publishers, photofinishing and copiers
  • Refrigeration and air conditioning manufacturing/repair
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