15.20.11.06

.06 Verification.

A. The applicant shall employ a certified verifier who does not hold an interest in the agricultural operation, as defined by this chapter, in order to apply to the Program.

B. A certified verifier shall provide the following to the Department for the applicantís application:

(1) Information as required on a Department form;

(2) A map delineating the boundaries of the operation and showing field identification numbers and locations of BMPs on site; and

(3) Information following an inspection and review of records for an operation applying for a Certainty agreement including:

(a) Review of the NMP and documentation of any outstanding issues;

(b) Review of the SCWQP and documentation that it:

(i) Is fully implemented to address nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff; or

(ii) Fails to address any conditions causing movement of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that are impacting water quality;

(c) A farm summary showing outcomes of the MNTT assessment and an operationís status in meeting the Chesapeake Bay or local TMDL; and

(d) Any additional BMPs implemented to meet the nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment thresholds required by the local or Chesapeake Bay TMDL for the watershed in which the operation exists.

C. As required by law, the verifier shall keep confidential information that is collected and submitted to the Department as a result of the verification for the Certainty certification.

D. Reviews.

(1) The Department shall schedule site reviews and inspection of records at least once every 3 years for each certified operation under the Program to verify current conditions on the operation and compliance with Certainty agreement requirements.

(2) The Department shall notify MDE of operations that are to have site reviews conducted and provide copies of the verifierís report of interim site reviews.

(3) The Department shall assign a certified verifier who:

(a) Meets qualifications set forth in Regulation .07 of this chapter;

(b) Does not hold an interest in the certified operation; and

(c) Is not the same individual who conducted the verification of the operation at the time of application.

(4) Certified verifiers assigned by the Department to conduct interim inspections and reviews shall:

(a) Contact the operator in advance of the inspection to make an appointment so the operator or his representative can be present and have records available for the review;

(b) Present a photo identification at the time of the inspection as proof of credentials; and

(c) Adhere to all biosecurity and other measures necessary to protect health and safety at the operation.

(5) Information collected and submitted as a result of the inspection shall be maintained by the verifier and the Department, as required by law, in a manner that protects the identity of the person who holds the certification for the operation.

(6) An operator shall receive a copy of the report prepared by the verifier conducting a review and inspection of records within 30 days and:

(a) May dispute information in the report that the operator believes is in error or does not accurately represent the condition or management of the operation; and

(b) May address any concerns about the verification report in writing with the Department and copy the verifier within 30 days of receiving a copy of the report.

(7) The Department may conduct an investigation that may include additional inspections to determine the actual condition and management of the operation.

E. Documentation Required by Verifiers.

(1) The certified verifier shall provide a certified report within 30 days of the interim site review and inspection to the Department as required on a Department form that includes:

(a) A map providing the boundaries of the agricultural operation that shows field numbers and the locations of any BMPs on site;

(b) A review of the NMP and implementation records to assure the plan is in accordance with COMAR 15.20.07 and 15.20.08 and is being fully implemented and documentation of any outstanding issues and necessary corrections; and

(c) Either:

(i) A review of the SCWQP and documentation that it is implemented and that it addresses all nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff issues; or

(ii) A documentation of site evaluation and any nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff issues that are outstanding or require correction, including necessary BMP maintenance.

(2) At each review the certified verifier shall provide the operator of the operation with information concerning any applicable new laws, regulations, or requirements that have become effective since the operationís Certainty agreement and that will need to be addressed at the end of the 10-year Certainty agreement period.

F. Department Certainty Agreement Compliance Requirements.

(1) The Department shall determine whether an operation is in compliance with all State water quality programs in effect when the Certainty agreement was signed pertaining to nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment, and review information submitted from the verifier to ascertain compliance with the Certainty agreement.

(2) The Department shall notify and provide information received from the verifier to MDE. MDE may seek additional information to assure compliance with laws, regulations, permits, or other requirements administered by MDE, including a site visit if needed and in coordination with the Department.

(3) The Department may take the following actions based on the outcome of any inspections or the report of the verifier:

(a) Determine if an operation is in compliance with the Certainty agreement;

(b) Corroborate any conditions identified as a violation of the Certainty agreement;

(c) Corroborate any conditions creating nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment runoff and determine, in concurrence with MDE, whether they:

(i) Occurred through any fault of the operator; and

(ii) Can be corrected in a timely manner under a written agreement with the operator; or

(d) Address any failure to comply with any of the conditions described in Regulation .04E of this chapter or in the Certainty agreement as follows:

(i) Provide a time frame for the operator to come into compliance as a condition of retaining any existing Certainty agreement;

(ii) Require the operator to apply for a new Certainty certification without penalty when changes to the operation have occurred; or

(iii) After an opportunity for a hearing, revoke or suspend the certification.