The Clean Water Act’s (CWA’s) national water quality purview includes National Pollutant Discharge Elimination system (NPDES) provisions for “stormwater” that may contain pollutants such as oil, industrial contaminants, and sediment. This means run-off of rain or snow melt containing pollutants from manufacturing, processing, or raw material storage areas at an industrial site, that passes through a “conveyance” (such as a storm drain) into waters of the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers or delegates permit programs covering discharges from the following:
Industrial activity (EPA defines 10 categories)
Construction sites that disturb more than 1 acre of land (including sites smaller than 1 acre that are part of a larger common plan of development or sale, if the larger common plan will ultimately disturb more than 1 acre)
Municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s; which convey stormwater from facilities and roadways to receiving waters).
EPA estimates that over 100,000 facilities are subject to industrial facility requirements. Facilities can obtain an individual permit, but most instead comply with a general permit. Regulators prefer that option, since the general permit process stipulates regulatory conditions in advance for sufficiently similar dischargers, which qualifying dischargers can meet.
EPA issues the following general permits for stormwater discharges (individual EPA regions and states issue some superseding general permits applicable within their jurisdictions):
EPA NPDES Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity (MSGP; latest June 2015 (2015 MSGP))
EPA NPDES General Permit for Discharges from Construction Activities (known as the “Construction General Permit (CGP)”; the 2012 CGP has expired but remains in force while EPA develops a successor)
EPA NPDES General Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Small MS4s.
EPA exempts most stormwater discharges from oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations, or transmission facilities, including associated construction activities, from these requirements.
What Do Industrial Stormwater Permits Require?
A facility in a targeted sector that determines it has no discharges (for example, if all materials handling is indoors) can file a No Exposure Certification Form (EPA Form 3510-11) with its stormwater permitting agency. Otherwise, the facility must either:
Comply with EPA’s 2015 MSGP (or other applicable general permit).
Incorporate stormwater provisions into the facility’s NPDES permit for routine discharges (on EPA Form 1 (General Information) and Form 2F (Application for Permit to Discharge Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity)).
To apply for a general permit, a facility first submits a Notice of Intent (NOI) for industrial (or construction) activities. Each NOI requires the legal name and address of the facility’s owner and operator, the facility’s name and address, the type of facility or discharges, and the receiving stream. NOIs must be submitted to EPA prior to commencement of the activity covered under the permit.
Full applications require dischargers to provide comprehensive information, including the following:
Estimate of impervious areas
Identification of significant materials treated or stored on site together with associated materials management and disposal practices
Location and description of existing structural and nonstructural controls to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff
Certification that all stormwater outfalls have been evaluated for any unpermitted non-stormwater discharges
Information regarding significant leaks or spills of toxic or hazardous pollutants within the 3-year period prior to the permit application
Sampling reports of the facility’s stormwater taken during “storm events”
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
General stormwater permits also require that each facility prepare and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The objective of the SWPPP is to identify sources of pollution in facility stormwater and implement practices to remove them. The permittee must evaluate, select, and describe the pollution prevention measures, best management practices (BMPs), and other controls that will be implemented at the facility.
The focus of the construction site permit’s SWPPP is a site description (including a site map), a description of erosion and sediment controls (e.g., sedimentation basins, traps, silt fences), and information on how these controls will be maintained and inspected. EPA has developed a guidance document entitled Developing Your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans – A Guide for Construction Sites (May 2007). This document is also available from EPA.
The MSGP imposes two types of monitoring requirements:
Quarterly Visual Monitoring, conducted during normal working daylight hours at each outfall, from samples collected within the first 30 minutes after runoff or snowmelt begins discharging from your facility, from a “measurable storm event” that occurs more than 72 hours after the preceding measurable storm event.
Quarterly Benchmark Monitoring, for specific industry sectors and industry-specific pollutants identified in the MSGP (e.g., general sawmills and planing mills monitor for COD, TSS, and Zinc).
Permits are renewable. A facility can exit stormwater regulation by submitting a Notice of Termination (NOT) Form, if it can eliminate all release of the pollutants regulated under the general permit from stormwater.
Does the organization have any “industrial” facility, as defined by EPA’s MSGP?
Has each such facility evaluated whether its operations include materials or activities outside where they may be exposed to rainwater that may become contaminated prior to flowing to a water body or storm drain?
Has the organization filed one of the following for each such facility, along with supporting documentation and required fee:
NOI to operate subject to Industrial General Permit?
Application to incorporate stormwater discharges into the facility’s individual NPDES permit?
Does each such facility comply with applicable SWPPP, monitoring, and reporting requirements?
Where Can I Go For More Information?
- EPA stormwater program webpage
Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include:
About the Author
Jon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 12 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National Guide and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.
Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).
Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).
You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.