On September 27, 2013, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested public comments regarding proposed changes in the 2013 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit for storm water discharges from industrial activity. Once finalized, the new permit will replace the 2008 document, which was issued for a five-year term on September 29, 2008.
According to the EPA, the NPDES general permit, also referred to as the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), covers multiple facilities with common discharges within a specific geographic area. A general permit applies the same or similar conditions to all dischargers covered under the general permit. The EPA issues these permits for storm water discharges associated with industrial activity, under the NPDES program (as defined in 40 CFR 122.21 and 40 CFR 122.26).
Four states (Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Mexico), Indian lands, and several territories do not have their own federally approved storm water permitting programs. Within these areas, entities that are subject to industrial storm water discharge regulations are required to apply to the EPA to obtain coverage under the MSGP. Due to the delay to allow for comments, the 2008 MSGP has been administratively continued in accordance with 40 CFR 122.6, and will remain in effect until the new draft permit is finalized. EPA estimates that the new MSGP will be reissued in the spring of 2014.
The MSGP covers 29 different industrial sectors with specific and varying compliance requirements. As written, the draft MSGP includes several new or modified requirements from the 2008 MSGP. The EPA proposes the following:
- The EPA will perform Environmental Assessments (EA) for dischargers subject to any New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). The EA will consider the potential environmental impacts from the discharge of pollutants in storm water discharges from new sources associated with industrial facilities, where EPA is the permitting authority, to determine whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
- The EPA will require electronic submission of numerous reporting documents including each notice of intent, notice of termination, discharge monitoring reports, annual reports, and all monitoring data, unless a waiver is granted. Waivers would be granted for a one-time use for single information submittal.
- The EPA will prohibit the discharge of pavement wash waters directly to any surface water or storm drain inlet, unless the facility has implemented control measures or subjected the wastewater runoff to dry clean-up techniques prior to discharge.
- The EPA will require that each permit holder make a copy of its Storm water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) publicly available, either by identifying a URL link on the notice of intent (“NOI”) that is filed with EPA to apply for the permit, and then posting the SWPPP on the internet, or by providing storm water management information in the NOI itself. The information required includes a detailed description of:
- The onsite industrial activities exposed to storm water, including potential spill and leak areas
- The pollutants associated with each industrial activity exposed to storm water and/or authorized non-storm water
- The control measures employed to comply with the non-numeric technology-based effluent limits
- Additional measures taken to comply with requirements in Part 2.2
- The good housekeeping, maintenance, and inspections schedules
- The proposed permit clarifies effluent limits to include a greater level of specificity in order to make the requirements more clearly articulated, transparent, and enforceable. These clarifications include requirements for minimizing exposure, good housekeeping, maintenance, spill prevention and response procedures, and employee training.
- The proposed permit modifies specificity of corrective actions, including the necessary actions to be implemented prior to deadlines. The draft permit would require that corrective action steps be taken immediately (i.e., on the same day the condition was found) in order to ensure that pollutant discharges are minimized and that a permanent solution is implemented expeditiously. The draft MSGP also requires that subsequent action must be taken to install a new or modified control and make operational, or complete the repair, before the next storm event if possible, and within 14 calendar days from the discovery of the condition.
- The EPA will require that all annual reports submitted under the new MSGP include a summary of the routine inspections and assessments conducted at the facility throughout the previous year.
- The proposed permit clarifies that one is considered a discharger to impaired water if the discharge flows directly to the water, including if the discharge enters a storm water collection system that discharges to impaired water.
- The EPA proposal clarifies language associated with the conduct of corrective actions. These actions are currently required under a limited set of circumstances. The proposed permit expands the conditions under which corrective actions will be required and imposes specific deadlines for completing these actions, including immediate actions on the day of discovery to address conditions that require corrective action.
Those subject to the 2008 MSGP should carefully review the proposed requirements, as well as the sector-specific requirements that apply to their industry to ensure comprehension of the changes. Formal comments on the proposed draft will be accepted through November 26, 2013.
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