Russ Neumiller, Inspector II with Spokane Clean Air, peers into his computer. He’s looking at the inside of a local auto body shop and making notes. On the other end of the video call is the owner of the shop. Neumiller asks him to move the camera to show him a specific piece of equipment and follows-up with a few questions.
This is the start of a virtual inspection of a registered source. Spokane Clean Air has five inspectors conducting a total of 10-15 inspections per week. In addition to video calls, inspectors will request records and photos for review.
“It’s vital for our inspection team to adapt and retain a sense of normalcy during the pandemic,” explained Lori Rodriguez, Spokane Clean Air Compliance Manager. “Virtual inspections allow us to continue to carry out our mission during this dynamic time.”
There are over 700 commercial operations in Spokane Clean Air’s registration program. Currently, virtual inspections are focusing on surface coaters with auto body shops. As the process is streamlined, inspectors will begin moving to other registered sources.
Neumiller has found that the contacts with registered sources have been understanding and accommodating to this new approach.
“Many of them are doing other aspects of their job remotely as well and are familiar with some sort of virtual technology,” he said. “For example, at auto body shops personnel are already working with insurance adjusters remotely.”
As inspectors have become comfortable with the technology of virtual inspections, many are finding that there are more similarities than they expected between a virtual and an on site inspection.
“When it comes right down to it, the primary goal of our inspections, in whatever form, is to show a
presence and provide a reminder of their permit conditions and ongoing regulatory requirements,” Neumiller said. “We also want to be available to sources to answer questions and provide guidance for changes to their equipment or operations.”
Maintaining a presence during the pandemic has been challenging. Virtual inspections are helping us continue to offer personalized assistance to our registered sources.
“During these times of uncertainty, you can be certain that our team is still working to the best of their ability to uphold clean air standards and support our registered sources,” Rodriguez said.