Basics of Good Reporting

The following are good practices to follow for reporting a potential pollution problem and for providing information that will be helpful to the follow-up investigator.

Take Good Notes

A good set of notes will provide a complete and accurate set of facts for others. Use the following as a checklist when reporting a suspicious event:

  • Location of observation.
  • Time / date of your observation.
  • Does it occur at a certain time? (e.g., everyday at 6:00 a.m.)
  • Could you determine the source?
  • How did the water look?
  • Did you observe any dead fish?
  • Are there any odors?
  • Were there other witnesses?


Photographic evidence can be very valuable in establishing the presence of pollution, especially where erosion problems exist. When taking photographs, remember to record the time, date, and location that the photo was taken. Wherever possible, try to include an established landmark so that the location of the pollution problem cannot be challenged. Digital photos are very helpful to investigators in understanding the location and severity of certain discharges.

Taking Samples

Don't take any samples. Because of the potential for personal injury from contact with dangerous chemicals or entry into unsafe environments, sample collection should be left to local authorities.

Things to Watch For

Be careful, safety first, do not attempt anything dangerous. Do not sample unknown liquids.