Industrial facilities at which “stormwater associated with industrial activity” is discharged are generally required by the U.S. EPA to obtain an NPDES permit, follow strict regulations, and keep exacting records.
To avoid the permit requirement, EHS professionals can take advantage of an available relief known as the “No Exposure” certification. This conditional exemption can exclude any industrial facility otherwise subject to the NPDES permitting rules—with the exception of construction operations disturbing more than five acres—from the permit requirement.
To qualify for this exclusion, facilities must first provide storm-resistant shelter for industrial materials and activities. This component can often be more confusing than it sounds. However, the definition of “no exposure” established by EPA is “all industrial materials or activities are protected by a storm resistant shelter to prevent exposure to rain, snow, snowmelt and/or runoff.” [64 FR 68785, December 8, 1999] At a bare minimum, your sheltering needs to be sufficient to prevent any precipitation from contacting your industrial materials/activities.
Within that same rulemaking a storm-resistant shelter is defined as “completely roofed and walled buildings or structures, as well as structures with only a top cover but no side coverings, provided material under the structure is not otherwise subject to any run-on and subsequent run-off of stormwater.” This definition is still somewhat open-ended but gives us a better idea of what EPA has in mind when talking about a storm-resistant shelter.
There are two ways to provide storm-resistant sheltering:
Move materials and activities indoors into existing buildings; or
Construct new structures to protect materials.
Some things are considered by EPA to be “inherently storm-resistant” and therefore are not in need of additional storm-resistant sheltering:
Drums, barrels, tanks, and similar containers that are tightly sealed and not leaking or deteriorated. “Sealed” is generally acknowledged to mean banded or otherwise secured and without operational taps or valves;
Adequately maintained vehicles used for handling materials, as long as they are not leaking contaminants and are not otherwise a source of industrial pollutants; and
Final products, such as a new car or steel i-beams ?Although some final products that would be mobilized in stormwater do require addtional storm-resistant sheltering, for instance, rock salt.
Remember, the No Exposure certification is conditional: if you fail to meet the conditions at any point, you are then subject to NPDES stormwater permitting requirements. The No Exposure certification is a lightening of your compliance requirements, not a complete exemption from them.
Providing storm-resistant sheltering for industrial materials and activities is only the first component to qualifying for the exclusion. For more details about the No Exposure certification and a complete list of components for qualification, see this Fact Sheet issued by EPA.
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