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Rain, Stormwater and Company Regulatory Compliance

Posted on Thu, Jul 27, 2017

According to the National Climate Assessment’s 2014 report,  “Heavy downpours are increasing nationally.”1 That means, when it rains, it often pours. The study revealed that rain intensity in the Southwest has increased nearly 30 percent in recent decades. However, intense rain is not limited to specific areas of the country. The National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted that between October 2016 and March 2017, California averaged 30.75 inches of precipitation, the second-highest average since such records began being kept in 1895.

Companies need to take notice and ensure they have compliant stormwater pollution prevention plans as required by the Environmental Protection Agency, and response plans that address responses to localized flooding.

The purpose of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is to identify potential stormwater pollution sources and reduce the potential for pollutants to reach nearby waterways. The EPA issues “General Permits” for stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program (as defined in 40 CFR 122.21 and 40 CFR 122.26). Establishing procedures and controls is necessary to accomplish the following SWPPP objectives.

  • Identify pollutants that may come in contact with stormwater.
  • Establish measures to prevent pollutants from coming in contact with stormwater.
  • Establish controls to reduce or eliminate the potential for contaminated storm water being released to the environment.

Runoff that contacts industrial materials can transport pollutants into nearby water sources. When companies are not in compliance with NPDES regulations, they may be assessed fines.

For example, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency ordered a company building a natural gas distribution pipeline to pay $431,000 for water and air pollution violations at various locations across the state. Over the course of three months, Ohio officials revealed that 18 incidents including mud spills from drilling, stormwater pollution and open burning at construction sites have been reported. The company was ordered to submit plans to address potential future releases and restore impacted wetlands which stretch from Washington County in southeastern Ohio to Defiance County in the northwest.

rain runoff.jpeg

An SWPPP and required site evaluations should be incorporated, as necessary, into a company’s enterprise-wide emergency management program. Completed site compliance evaluation checklists must be retained for a period of one year after the expiration of the General Permit.

Ensuring regulatory compliance, preparedness and employee safety requires a fundamental emergency management program. With the intensity of rainfall rising, your emergency management program should be sure to plan for extreme weather scenarios with effective and realistic response plans. Below are preparedness t concepts to guide your flood emergency response planning:

  1. Assess the flood risk potential in your area. Be aware of stream, ditches, drainage areas, and other low-lying areas on the property.
  2. Map facility and identify multiple access and egress routes.
  3. Familiarize staff with the evacuation plan and alternate routes.
  4. Ensure important documents and server(s) are not stored in basement or ground level, and review backup procedures.
  5. Update employee contact lists with alternate contact information in the event an evacuation is necessary.
  6. If evacuation is necessary, assign trained personnel to secure the premises and equipment (such as sandbagging and/or extending regulator vents and relief stacks above the level of anticipated flooding, as appropriate.).
  7. Perform continuous monitoring of the flood through various media outlets and weather tracking.
  8. Unplug all electrical devices.
  9. If flooding is probable, discuss shutting off high voltage power and natural gas lines with energy providers.
  10. Maintain hazards awareness regarding, but not limited to:
    • Structural damage
    • Downed power lines
    • Leaking natural gas, water, and sewer lines
    • Poisonous snakes and other wildlife sheltering in structures, vehicles, and furniture
    • Direct contact with flood water, mud, and animal carcasses
  11. Deploy personnel so that they will be in a position to take emergency actions, such as shutdown, isolation, or containment in the event of an emergency.
  12. Identify, contract, and communicate with water damage specialist(s).
  13. Ensure cleanup equipment is available, adequate, and ample. If clean up will be done by employees, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be required. OSHA requires Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for cleanup operations if the water source is contaminated with sewage, chemicals, or other biological pollutants.
  14. Consider obtaining portable pumps and hoses from local suppliers.
  15. If applicable, determine if flooding can expose or undermine pipelines as a result of erosion or scouring.
  16. If applicable, coordinate with emergency and spill responders on pipeline location(s) and condition, and provide maps and other relevant information to them.
  17. If applicable, advise the State Pipeline Safety Office (for intrastate lines), or RSPA's Regional Pipeline Safety Office (interstate lines) prior to returning pipelines to service, on increasing the operating pressure, or otherwise changing the operating status of the line.
  18. Conduct a post-incident review and identify mitigation opportunities to prevent future flooding impacts.

Source

1 Renault, Marion. The Columbus Dispatch. 9 May 2017. http://www.cantonrep.com/news/20170509/ohio-epa-fines-rover-pipeline-contractor-430000. 14 July 2017.
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Tags: SWPPP

Deficient Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan Results in Fines

Posted on Thu, Sep 24, 2015

Whether organizational changes are the result of the construction of a new industrial facility or the acquisition of additional sites, ensuring preparedness, regulatory compliance, and employee safety requires a fundamental emergency management program with streamlined, compliant, coordinated, and exercised response plans.

An Iowa fertilizer company recently settled an $80,689 civil penalty for violation of the Clean Water Act during the construction of a new fertilizer plant. The Clean Water Act requires construction sites, such as the fertilizer plant, to establish controls to limit pollution from being discharged via stormwater into nearby waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 inspector who evaluated to plant identified violations that resulted in sediment-laden stormwater leaving the site and entering a tributary of the Mississippi River. Specific violations included:

  • Failure to update or amend the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)
  • Failure to perform adequate stormwater self-inspections

The EPA issues “General Permits” for stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity, under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program (as defined in 40 CFR 122.21 and 40 CFR 122.26). Runoff that contacts industrial materials can transport pollutants into nearby water sources. As a result, the development and implementation of a SWPPP is required in order to obtain a general permit.

The purpose of a SWPPP is to identify potential stormwater pollution sources and reduce the potential for pollutants reaching nearby waterways. Establishing procedures and controls is necessary to accomplish the following SWPPP objectives:

  • Identify pollutants that may come in contact with stormwater.
  • Establish measures to prevent pollutants from coming in contact with stormwater.
  • Establish controls to reduce or eliminate the potential for release of contaminated storm water to the environment.

Annual site evaluations are also required by the general permit and must be conducted by a qualified or SWPPP trained personnel. Completed site compliance evaluation checklists must be retained for one year after expiration of the General Permit. Evaluations must include the following:

  1. Inspect storm water drainage areas for evidence of pollutants entering the drainage system.
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (i.e. good housekeeping measures, preventive maintenance, spill prevention and response, etc.).
  3. Observe structural measures, sediment controls, and other stormwater best management practices to ensure proper operation.
  4. Revise the plan as necessary within two weeks of the inspection, and implement any necessary changes within 12 weeks of the inspection.
  5. Prepare a report summarizing inspection results and actions items, identifying the date of inspection and personnel who conducted the inspection.
  6. Sign the report and keep it with the plan.
  7. If the annual review does not identify any action items, it will certify that the facility is in compliance with the Permit.

Costly non-compliance fines, such as the $80,689 fine experienced by the fertilizer company, continually result from the lack of implemented, thorough, or effective regulatory compliance programs. An SWPPP and required site evaluations should be incorporated, as necessary, into a company’s enterprise-wide emergency management program. Companies must prioritize emergency management programs and regulatory components to ensure company preservation, operational sustainability, and financial optimization.

By systematically aligning emergency management programs and associated plans with corresponding regulations, companies can identify and amend deficiencies that may result in fines and potential government mandated operation shutdowns. An effective compliance management process that includes regularly scheduled plan audits can result in an efficient, integrated and optimized program. Companies that operate many facilities should consider utilizing web-based technology and a regulatory compliance tracking module to ensure enterprise-wide compliance on multiple government agency fronts.

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Tags: SWPPP

Proposed Changes to the NPDES General Permitting Requirements

Posted on Mon, Nov 04, 2013

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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Tags: NPDES, SWPPP, EPA, Regulatory Compliance, Facility Management, Flood Preparedness