Report an Environmental Problem
How the Public can Contact DEC with Environmental Concerns
If you see something happening in the environment, whether you believe that it is a violation of environmental law or a natural occurrence, we appreciate it when you let us know. The guide below will help you locate the correct office to contact.
If You Witness a Violation of Environmental Conservation Law
Reports from citizens are vital for effective enforcement of New York's environmental laws. There are more than 300 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators in New York State, each patrolling an average of 400 square miles. You can help by reporting every Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) violation that you observe or suspect.
The department provides different ways for citizens to report to DEC. To ensure a prompt response to your complaint, please be prepared to provide detailed information when reporting a violation of law.
Complaints may be filed in several ways:
- DEC dispatchers are available 24/7 to take your poaching and polluting complaints toll-free at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267). Callers may request to file a complaint anonymously.
- Citizens can also report a violation online.
- Contact the ECO responsible for your area. ECOs work out of their homes and patrol in and around the county they live in. Links to the regional ECO rosters are listed in the right hand column of this page. When ECOs are on patrol you may contact them through the Division of Law Enforcement dispatch at 1-877-457-5680.
Information about Commonly-Reported Environmental Problems
Citizens report problems and issues of concern ranging from injured wildlife, to stream erosion, to trash burning to the DEC every day, and we are grateful for the information. Generally, it's best if you can send your concern or question directly to the specific DEC division or region that handles that topic, and our Contact Us page will help you find out how to do that. A guide to some of the most commonly reported problems is also given below.
With several exceptions, open burning is prohibited in New York. Some of these exceptions include:
- campfires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter;
- small cooking fires; and
- ceremonial or celebratory bonfires.
Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished. Only charcoal or clean, dry, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned. Additional information on DEC's open burning regulations is available. To report an illegal open fire, call a DEC dispatcher at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).
Dumping into a Storm Drain
Chemicals and petroleum products should never be poured down a storm drain. From there, those pollutants can enter into the local streams, rivers, and lakes. Unfortunately, this activity occurs and is a clear violation of the ECL. If you notice this happening, report it to a DEC dispatcher at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).
Very often well intentioned individuals attempt to help young wildlife that appears to be orphaned. However, the best thing to do is leave them alone. If an animal is obviously injured and/or orphaned you can call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice and help. To locate a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the Regional Wildlife office for your county.
New York's Returnable Container Act (RCA) requires at least a 5 cent deposit on carbonated soft drinks, beer and other malt beverages, mineral water, soda water, and wine cooler containers. Retailers that sell carbonated beverages and/or water must charge the deposit and provide refunds for returns on those brands that they sell. If a store doesn't comply with the RCA, you can contact the Division of Law Enforcement regional office for your county and request a complaint form.
Accidental releases of petroleum, toxic chemicals, gases, and other hazardous materials occur frequently throughout New York State. Relatively small releases have the potential to endanger public health and contaminate groundwater, surface water, and soils. To report a spill, call the NYS Spill Hotline: 1-800-457-7362.
Hunting and Fishing
Many people mistakenly contact DEC to report hunting or fishing activity that is not in violation of any regulation. If you know that you are witness to a violation, you can contact a DEC dispatcher as described above. However, if you need information about:
- hunting, including information on seasons and limits;
- fishing, including seasons and catch limits;
- licenses; or
- game harvest reporting, you can contact the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.
More about Report an Environmental Problem:
- Report an Environmental Violation Online - use this form to report a violation to NYSDEC Environmental Conservation Police.