Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

July 1 Deadline For California’s Revised Industrial Storm Water Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and state water quality laws (including California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act) govern activities that may affect “waters of the United States.” Routine discharges from industrial and public sources make up most potentially polluting discharges, and are subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and California Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs), but additional requirements also apply to potential “storm water” runoff from rainwater and snow, which can entrain oils and other pollutants and wash them down storm drains into water bodies. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the first broad-based national program in 1990, and has revised and expanded requirements over the past quarter century (often in response to court decisions finding its efforts inadequate). States have followed suit. For example, in 2014 California updated its industrial storm water requirements, replacing a general permit adopted in 1997 with a new one that becomes effective on July 1, 2015. The new permit revises and expands requirements, including narrowing exemptions for “light industry” facilities to become conditional exemptions subject to certification requirements, and addition of detailed requirements for “preproduction plastic” materials. The remainder of this note summarizes the new California requirements, which generally are comparable to EPA’s national general permit (last updated in 2008)–so readers outside California should remember that your facilities face analogous responsibilities.

Which Facilities Are Subject To California’s Industrial General Permit?

California defines storm water associated with industrial activity as “the discharge from any conveyance which is used for collection and conveying storm water and which is directly related to manufacturing, processing, or raw materials storage areas at an industrial plant.” However, the following types of discharges and activities, are excluded:

  • Discharges from construction activities of five acres or more (regulated separately).

  • Discharges from facilities that have a current NPDES permit containing storm water provisions.

  • Discharges from facilities determined by a Regional Water Quality Control Board to have potential water quality impacts not adequately addressed by the general permit.

  • Discharges from facilities that discharge into municipal sanitary sewer systems or combined sewer systems or do not discharge to surface waters or storm sewers.

  • Discharges from facilities on Indian lands (these are regulated by EPA).

  • Most silviculture activities such as tree thinning or harvesting operations, surface drainage, or road construction and maintenance.

  • Qualifying discharges from oil and gas facilities and mining facilities.

The Industrial General Permit provides a conditional exemption to light industry (so-called “Category 11” dischargers) that meet all of the following conditions:

  • All prohibited non-storm water discharges have been eliminated or otherwise prevented. 

  • All areas of past exposure have been inspected and cleaned, as appropriate.

  • All materials related to industrial activity (including waste materials) are not exposed to storm water or authorized non-storm water discharges.

  • All industrial activities and industrial equipment are not exposed to storm water or authorized non-storm water discharges.

  • There is no exposure of materials associated with industrial activity through other direct or indirect pathways, such as particulates from stacks and exhaust systems.

  • There is periodic re-evaluation to ensure the above conditions are continuously met.

How Do Facilities Comply?

Each facility must determine its requirements. If a facility is subject to a general order it must file either a Notice of Intent (NOI) to seek coverage, or a No Exposure Certification (NEC). For facilities seeking coverage:

  • Complete the NOI (electronically using SWRCB’s Storm Water Multiple Application Reporting and Tracking System (SMARTS)), providing the following information:

    • Operator and owner information

    • Facility location and contact information

    • Billing information

    • Receiving water information (water body and/or storm drain system)

    • Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)

    • Certification that all information and documents are correct and true

  • Include a facility site map:

    • To scale

    • Identify buildings, material handling and storage areas, roads, names of adjacent streets, and discharge locations

    • Include a north arrow.

  • Pay the permit fee ($1,791).

A facility that has filed its NOI becomes subject to the Industrial General Permit, and thereafter must implement its SWPPP and monitoring, provide annual reports, and pay annual fees ($1,791).

For facilities seeking exemption:

  • Complete the NEC (electronically using SMARTS), providing the following information:

    • Operator and owner information

    • Facility location and contact information

    • Billing information

    • NEC checklist prepared to demonstrate that, based upon a facility inspection and evaluation, industrial materials or activities are not, or will not be in the foreseeable future, exposed to precipitation (e.g., maintained indoors or other cover)

    • Site map (as above).

  • Pay the fee ($200).

A facility that subject to an NEC thereafter must maintain conditions that prevent exposures to storm water, provide annual certifications of continuing eligibility, and pay annual fees ($200).

Self-Assessment Checklist

Does my organization have any “industrial” facility, as defined by California’s Industrial General Permit (if facility is not in California, the organization should consider similar requirements administered by EPA and the state in which the facility is located)?

Has the 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, along with supporting documentation and required fee?:

  • NOI to operate subject to Industrial General Permit (as revised with compliance required beginning July 1, 2015)?

  • NEC?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

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:

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 About the Author 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:

photo credit: WAUK-C_RiversXingPond_oct2012_06 via photopin (license)

Tags: Health & Safety, California Legislation, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Hazcom