Through the Water Quality Act of 1987, Congress established a schedule under which EPA instituted regulations and issued permits for storm water discharges associated with industrial activity. Under EPA’s program, all discharges associated with industrial activity require a permit. To remain in compliance with the terms of the permit, permittees are required to have a Storm water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3), Pollution prevention Training, and other industry-specific requirements. In 1992, EPA issued a baseline storm water permit, followed by the first Multi-Sector General Permit in 1995. EPA’s current permits for storm water discharges from industrial activities (MSGP-2000) expires on October 30, 2005. After EPA reissues the new MSGP, existing permittees will have 90 days to update their Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans and submit a new Notice of Intent (NOI) to continue their permit coverage for the next five year period. Many states have EPA-delegated permits. These permits are issued by the state. Such permits vary in their requirements and expiration dates.

Who should apply for a permit?

Permit coverage (MSGP or delegated) is required for facilities under two conditions: 1) the runoff enters water of the United States (WOTUS) or enters a municipal separate storm sewer system before draining to water of the U.S., and 2) the facility conducts an industrial activity defined in 40 CFR 122.

Penalties for non-compliance

Non-compliance with the Clean Water Act is a serious issue. For example, “negligent” violations can result in a fine of up to $25,000 per day of violations and/or up to one year in prison. “Knowing” violations can result in a fine of up to $50,000 per day per violation and/or 3 years in prison. Violations of “knowing endangerment” can result in fines of up to $250,000 and 15 years in prison for individuals, or up to $1,000,000 for corporations.

Permit application process

Permits are required in thirty industrial sectors that fall into one or more of the eleven categories of storm water discharges associated with industrial activity described in 40 CFR 122. These include the following categories:

  1. facilities with effluent limitations;
  2. manufacturing;
  3. mineral, metal, oil, and gas;
  4. hazardous waste, treatment, or disposal facilities;
  5. landfills;
  6. recycling facilities;
  7. steam electric plants;
  8. transportation facilities;
  9. treatment works;
  10. construction activity;
  11. light industrial activity.

The permit requires the storm water dischargers to develop site-specific pollution prevention plans, based on industry-specific best management practices specified in the permit. A small percentage of facilities will be required to submit detailed quantitative data on their discharge. These are general permits, acquired by submission of the NOI. If the facility cannot qualify for or does not file an NOI for coverage under a general permit, it must submit an individual permit application. The preparation for the individual application is a burdensome process, requiring not only detailed information about the facility but also quantitative data based on samplings of storm water discharges collected during storm events.