Storm Water Permitting Program Update
to the Regional Tribal Operating Committee
The following information was provided to the RTOC meeting on March 11, 2003, at the Crowne Plaza in Seattle, Washington.
Update on the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits
for Storm Water Discharges in Indian Country:
Permit Requirements for Discharges from Construction Activity
Storm runoff is a main source of pollution to surface water. Controlling pollutants carried by storm run off is necessary to reduce adverse water quality and aquatic habitat impacts. The federal Clean Water Act requires certain storm water discharges to surface water to be permitted by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit program.
Phase I of the storm water program, finalized in 1990 (55 FR 47990, November 16, 1990), requires permits for discharges from large community storm sewer systems, and large industries (including construction disturbing five or more acres of land).
NPDES permits are currently issued by EPA-Region 10 for sources located within the states of Idaho, and Alaska, and on tribal lands (or discharging to tribal waters) within the states of Oregon and Washington.
Using the Region 10 Office of Water NPDES Permits Unit Consultation Policy, the Region 10 Office of Water invited interested Northwest tribes in October 2002 to consult on upcoming storm water permit issues and to provide information regarding the activities covered by the storm water permit program. To date, representatives of fourteen tribes and villages have expressed interest in the development of storm water permits, and received preliminary draft permits for review and comment. Staff-to-staff meetings, telephone calls and email have been used by EPA to notify tribes of updated information, request comments, answer questions and address concerns.
EPA has also requested those tribes with approved Tribal Water Quality Standards (i.e, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Puyallup and Chehalis) to provide Section 401 certification on the draft Construction General Permit.
General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Large and Small Construction Activity
EPA proposed a draft Construction General Permit (CGP) in December 2002, and asked for public comment through February 13, 2003. EPA is in the process of revising the permit based on public comment, and will reissue the CGP in Spring 2003.
The permit requires construction operators to utilize appropriate erosion, sediment and chemical controls during construction to prevent the discharge of pollutants to surface water.
Interim Construction Permitting Requirements
Phase II storm water regulations were finalized in 1999 (64 FR 68722, December 8, 1999), and now also require permits for discharges from smaller municipalities and smaller construction sites (disturbing one to five acres). The effective date for these new categories of storm water sources to obtain permits is March 10, 2003.
EPA's previous Construction General Permit for storm water discharges from large (disturbing five or more acres) construction activity expired on February 17, 2003.
EPA's Phase II regulation requires that all small construction activities (disturbing at least one acre, but less than five acres) must apply for NPDES permit coverage starting March 10, 2003
Between March 10, 2003 and the time that the new CGP is finalized, operators of large and small construction activities are encouraged to comply with the permit conditions of the expired Construction General Permit and submit to EPA the existing Notice of Intent (NOI) application form. This includes developing site-specific Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans to implement erosion and sedimentation controls (and other best management practices) at their construction sites.
The expired Construction General Permit, the Notice of Intent application form, etc, can be found on the EPA Region 10 Storm Water Webpage, http://www.epa.gov/r10earth/stormwater.htm (once there, click on "Permitting Requirements for Large and Small Construction Activities")
EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance issued a memorandum to EPA regional offices on March 7, 2003, making enforcement for lack of permit coverage a low priority until the new CGP is finalized. The Agency expects, however, that dischargers will continue to implement best management practices in accordance with individual storm water pollution prevention plans as provided for in the expired CGP. A internet link to this memo is available through the website listed above.
Other Upcoming Storm Water Permitting Topics
* Revisions to the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) for Storm Water Associated with Industrial Activity
* Issuing a new General Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems
For More Information
Please contact Misha Vakoc,(800) 424-4372, ext.6650 or Jeanne O’Dell, (800) 424-4372, ext. 6919
EPA Region 10 Storm Water Program, 1200 6th Avenue (OW-130), Seattle, WA 98101
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the Benefits of these Storm Water Permits?
Storm runoff is a main source of pollution to surface water. The NPDES storm water discharge permits are intended to reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to water quality and aquatic habitat by instituting the use of controls on the specific sources of storm water discharges that have the greatest likelihood of causing continued environmental degradation.
Is Runoff from Agricultural or Timber Harvest Activities Regulated through These Actions?
No. The Clean Water Act does not regulate runoff from agricultural or silviculture/timber activities. However, if a particular property is being converted from forestry or farming to any other use (such as to build a residence or permanent access road) the storm water discharge permitting requirements apply.
Why are Storm Water Discharges from Construction Activity a Problem?
Uncontrolled runoff from construction sites is a water quality concern because of the devastating effects that sedimentation can have on local water bodies, particularly small streams. Numerous studies have shown that the amount of sediment transported by storm water runoff from construction sites with no controls is significantly greater than from sites with controls. In addition to sediment, construction activities yield pollutants such as pesticides, petroleum products, construction chemicals, solvents, asphalts, and acids that can contaminate storm water runoff. During storms, construction sites may be the source of sediment-laden runoff, which can overwhelm a small stream channel's capacity, resulting in streambed scour, streambank erosion, and destruction of near-stream vegetative cover. Where left uncontrolled, sediment-laden runoff has been shown to result in the loss of in-stream habitats for fish and other aquatic species, an increased difficulty in filtering drinking water, the loss of drinking water reservoir storage capacity, and negative impacts on the navigational capacity of waterways.
Why are Storm Water Discharges from Urban Areas a Problem?
Storm water discharges from highly urbanized areas are a concern because of the high concentration of pollutants found in these discharges. Concentrated development in urbanized areas substantially increases impervious surfaces, such as city streets, parking lots, and sidewalks, on which pollutants from concentrated human activities settle and remain until a storm event washes them into nearby storm drains. Common pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, salt, litter and other debris, and sediment. Another concern is the possible illicit connections of sanitary sewers, which can result in fecal coliform bacteria entering the storm sewer system. Storm water runoff picks up and transports these and other harmful pollutants then discharges them – untreated – to waterways via storm sewer systems. When left uncontrolled, these discharges can result in fish kills, the destruction of spawning and wildlife habitats, a loss in aesthetic value, and contamination of drinking water supplies and recreational waterways that can threaten public health.
When the new CGP is finalized, all construction activities (large and small, disturbing one acre or more) will be required to comply with the terms and conditions of the new permit. At that time, construction operators covered by the expired CGP will be required to reapply for permit coverage as necessary. Those seeking coverage under the new CGP will be required to submit a new Notice of Intent form (which will be available at the time the new CGP is finalized).