On April 1, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) adopted a statewide, general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for industrial storm water discharges (General Permit). The General Permit, which becomes effective July 1, 2015, replaces Water Quality Order 97-03-DWQ, the general industrial storm water permit previously issued by the State Board in 1997. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 industrial storm water dischargers will be covered under the General Permit.
Dischargers that are covered under the General Permit must submit Permit Registration Documents (PRDs) via the State Board’s SMARTS online database system, making the information more readily available to the public. The General Permit also differs significantly from the previous order in several other important respects:
- The previous permit exempted light industry facilities from permit requirements upon self-certification that non-storm water discharges at the facility did not exist or had been eliminated and that any industrial activities were not exposed to storm water. The General Permit requires all light industrial facilities to submit PRDs before claiming a conditional exclusion by filing for No Exposure Certification (NEC) coverage certifying that their facility has no exposure of industrial activities or materials to storm water. Dischargers that qualify for NEC coverage must pay an annual fee and submit an annual compliance evaluation and are subject to inspections by their respective water board’s staff, but are not required to comply with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and monitoring requirements.
- The previous permit allowed dischargers to “consider” which structural and non-structural Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be implemented to eliminate or reduce the amount of contaminants discharged in storm water from the site. The General Permit requires dischargers to implement a set of minimum BMPs, which are mostly non-structural. Where implementation of the minimum BMPs does not meet the General Permit’s requirements, a discharger must implement advanced BMPs, which may include treatment control, exposure reduction, and storm water containment/retention and discharge reduction.
- Importantly, the General Permit employs a system of Numeric Action Levels (NAL) Exceedances and Exceedance Response Actions (ERA). If a discharger’s sampling results show an exceedance of an annual NAL or an instantaneous maximum NAL value for a pollutant parameter during a reporting year, then the discharger must evaluate and revise its BMPs and submit an evaluation report. If an NAL exceedance occurs for the same parameter in a subsequent reporting year, the discharger must submit a more extensive Level 2 Action Plan and Level 2 Technical Report. Additional information is required for subsequent NAL exceedances.
The new requirements, including more frequent monitoring and reporting requirements, are significant. Covered industrial facilities must submit the required documentation and register for enrollment by July 1, 2015, for Notice of Intent coverage, or October 1, 2015, for NEC coverage, but permittees are advised to prepare in advance of these deadlines. For more information on the General Permit requirements, please contact Brittany Lewis-Roberts firstname.lastname@example.org.
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