How NPDES Permit Rules Can Vary by State
While the Federal government sets overall standards for individual permits (unique to a particular site) and general permits (covering groups of similarly situated dischargers), the majority of stormwater permits are implemented by State environmental agencies.
The Water Quality Act of 1987 required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop NPDES permits for point source discharges of stormwater that violate the States' established water quality standards. When developing the NPDES permitting standards, EPA was charged with deciding which types of discharges would require a permit.
NPDES Permit Requirements
EPA's has created regulations at 40 CFR 122.26 that require permits for the following types of stormwater discharges:
- For which a permit had previously been issued by the state
- From municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s)
- Associated with construction activity disturbing one or more acres
- Associated with industrial activity (manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, etc.)
- From other situations on a case-by-case basis
State-level NPDES Variations
Each state can adjust the language of its permits to reflect the environmental realities in its region. State-level adjustments to the NPDES permit language often include variations to monitoring, control technology, reporting, recordkeeping, pollution prevention measures, and renewal requirements.
The three examples below illustrate how three very different US states manage stormwater permitting.
The state of Arkansas has adopted the Federal NPDES regulations by reference. In other words, an environmental manager looking for Arkansas' State NPDES regulations will be directed to the Federal rules in 40 CFR. For industry in its state, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has developed a Construction General Permit (ARR150000) and an Industrial General Permit (ARR00000).
The Construction permit is available to sites that disturb one or more acres. Sites that disturb five or more acres must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) and pay attendant fees to ADEQ prior to starting construction. Sites disturbing less than five acres do not need to submit an NOI but must create and post a construction site notice. All construction sites subject to the general permit must prepare and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP).
Entities covered under the Industrial Stormwater general permit in Arkansas must submit an NOI and pay attendant fees to ADEQ prior to commencing activities. In addition, they must submit a Notice of Termination (NOT) when activities cease and create and implement an SWPPP.
New Jersey's Stormwater Management Rule sets requirements more stringent than the Federal standards. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issues a Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2) that is more restrictive than the Federal version of the permit.
The state also issues a Construction Activities General Permit (5G3) for any activity (even single-family home construction) that disturbs one or more acres of land. However, the New Jersey 5G3 permit does not cover construction at facilities involved in cement manufacturing, fertilizer manufacturing, steam electric, coal pile runoff, mineral mining and processing, ore mining and dressing and asphalt emulsion. Construction activity involving these sites requires an individual permit.
New Jersey issues stormwater general permits that cover discharges from other specific industries: scrap metal operations, concrete products manufacturing, hot mix asphalt production, concentrated animal feeding operations, and operations at Newark Airport.
The Industrial Stormwater Permit requirements of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are more stringent than the US EPA rules as well. The permit covers discharges into any water of the state or any conveyance that is part of an MS4.
Another unique part of the Texas stormwater rules is that Texas assigns a rank to each facility's compliance history. Facilities with a poor compliance history ranking are not eligible to be covered under the General Permit and instead must apply for an individual permit.
These are just three examples of unique State-issued stormwater rules. When a facility analyzes its need for a stormwater discharge permit, it is critical that environmental managers check State requirements in addition to understanding the Federal US EPA NPDES program.
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