Available Now: 2023 Schedule of Hazmat & RCRA Training

Do I Need a NPDES Permit for Groundwater Discharge?

Posted on 5/6/2019 by Roger Marks and Anthony Cardno, CHMM

Recently, US EPA clarified its stance on whether the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program covers point-source discharges to groundwater. Examples of a point-source discharging to groundwater include leaks from an underground pipeline or a remediation well.
In an interpretive statement posted to the Federal Register on April 23, EPA states its conclusion:

“The (Clean Water Act) is best read as excluding all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES coverage, regardless of a hydrologic connection between the groundwater and jurisdictional surface water.” (Emphasis ours)

Read EPA’s full interpretation in the Federal Register.

Identify your responsibilities under the many US EPA water programs that impact industrial facilities—from oil spill reporting to NPDES permits, stormwater regulations, and more. The Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act Regulations Online Course is open for enrollment now! 

Is This a New Interpretation from EPA?

Yes and no. While this is EPA’s first official interpretation on this issue, generally, a NPDES permit is not required for common activities that result in discharge to groundwater. These activities include aquifer recharge, leaks form sewage collection systems, septic system discharges, spills and accidental releases, or coal ash impoundment seepage. In fact, the word “groundwater” is completely absent from the legal text that authorizes the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements.

That said, two ongoing court cases are challenging EPA’s view of point-source discharges to groundwater. Because of conflicting or confusing interpretations offered in the past, EPA felt a need to clarify its position in writing in advance of the Supreme Court taking up the appeals.

The two cases are:
County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. v. Upstate Forever

In both cases, the courts determined that NPDES requirements may apply when a pollutant released from a point source to groundwater migrates to navigable waters. While these decisions are being elevated for Supreme Court consideration, EPA will apply the court’s decisions to the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. For all other areas, EPA’s new interpretation applies.  

EPA Protections for Groundwater

This does not mean that groundwaters are not protected under the Clean Water Act or other EPA regulations. Under the CWA, all states may regulate nonpoint source pollution—meaning, broadly speaking, any water pollution not covered by Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (i.e., the NPDES permitting requirements).

Other EPA programs also provide protection for groundwater. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) boasts an underground injection control (UIC) program and a sole source aquifer (SSA) program to protect groundwater. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) requires reporting of hazardous substance releases, including those that can reach groundwater. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requires facilities that generate hazardous waste to take steps to prevent releases to the environment, including secondary containment requirements and release reporting.

California EHS Manager Training in Anaheim & Houston

facility_545016799.jpgAre you the go-to person for all things EHS at your facility? Join us in Anaheim on July 10—11 or Houston on August 8—9 for the Complete Environmental Regulations Workshop.

Understanding the air, water, and chemical regulations that apply to your facility will help you communicate clearly and confidently with your organization and better defend your business against costly fines, penalties, and future liability. This workshop covers the critical elements of major EPA programs that impact industrial facilities every day.

In California, we’re bringing you back-to-back workshops that cover Title 22 hazardous waste training and California environmental regulations. Don’t miss this opportunity to expand your expertise!
Can’t attend live? Check out the Complete Environmental Regulations Online Course . The online course is packed with training content, tutorials, resources, and FAQs that clarify and simplify the complex, overlapping EPA rules you must know. 

Tags: Clean Water Act, EPA, groundwater, NPDES, WOTUS

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

We have a very busy work schedule and using Lion enables us to take the course at our own time. It makes it easy for me to schedule my employees' training.

Timothy Mertes

Hazmat Shipping Professional

The training was impressive. I am not a fan of online training but this was put together very well. I would recommend Lion to others.

Donnie James

Quality Manager

Best instructor ever! I was going to take my DOT training w/a different provider, but based on this presentation, I will also be doing my DOT training w/Lion!

Donna Moot

Hazardous Waste Professional

I was able to present my scenario to the instructor and worked thru the regulations together. In the past, I attended another training firm's classes. Now, I have no intention of leaving Lion!

Diana Joyner

Senior Environmental Engineer

The instructor took a rather drab set of topics and brought them to life with realistic real-life examples.

Tom Berndt

HSE Coordinator

I love that the instructor emphasized the thought process behind the regs.

Rebecca Saxena

Corporate Product Stewardship Specialist

These are the best classes I attend each year. I always take something away and implement improvements at my sites.

Kim Racine

EH&S Manager

The instructor was very patient and engaging - willing to answer and help explain subject matter.

Misty Filipp

Material Control Superintendent

I can't say enough how pleased I was with this course! Everything finally makes sense.

Kim Graham

Lab Manager

The instructor's energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the subject make the class a great learning experience!

Brian Martinez

Warehouse Operator

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Hazardous materials shipment rejections bear a big cost. Use this guide to end operational and logistical disruptions that severely impact your bottom line.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.