October 01, 2002

Industry Faces Enforcement for Stormwater Discharges

2 min

The U.S. EPA has developed an enforcement strategy that will focus on industrial dischargers of stormwater. Under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, stormwater discharges "associated with industrial activity" into navigable waters or into a municipal storm sewer are required to obtain permits for such discharges. According to EPA regulations, this includes discharges not only from active industrial areas, but also from areas where industrial activity has taken place in the past and significant materials remain and are exposed to stormwater.

Heretofore, EPA has emphasized compliance with stormwater discharge requirements by municipalities with populations in excess of 100,000. EPA, apparently believing that it has obtained a fair degree of compliance by municipalities, now intends to target industrial facilities that may have blatantly violated the stormwater regulations, especially those that have failed to apply for and obtain stormwater discharge permits.

There are essentially two types of industrial stormwater permits now available. One is an "individual" permit, issued on a facility-by-facility basis. These are probably the most common, but also the most resource-intensive, industrial permit. Sampling and analysis programs will usually be required to characterize the types and amounts of contaminants that are likely to be present on industrial facilities that might be discharged with stormwater.

A second type is "general" permits, which are intended for categories of stormwater discharges associated with industrial activities, and from construction sites greater than five acres. If a facility is within one of the categories of industrial activities, it must submit a short "notice of intent" to comply with the terms of the general permit, thereby avoiding the burdens of developing the information required for an application for an individual permit. While EPA's "general" permits are available only in states to which EPA has not delegated authority to administer the NPDES program, most NPDES-delegated states have adopted similar general permits for sources in their jurisdiction.

EPA states that it will specifically investigate shipbuilding, auto parts and scrap recycling industries, because they historically have high levels of contamination on their properties, and are exposed to high levels of rainfall. However, other large industries with significant ground area, and large construction sites, will also undoubtedly be targeted.