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Fourth Draft of Statewide Industrial Storm Water Permit Available for Public Comment

On Friday, July 19, the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) issued the latest draft of the Statewide General National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) Permit for the Discharge of Storm Water Associated With Industrial Activities (the “IGP”).  The IGP is issued under the federal Clean Water Act and state law to regulate operators of industrial facilities that discharge storm water into “waters of the United States.”  The IGP contains many significant changes from the previous general industrial storm water NPDES permit issued in 1997, which remains in effect until the new IGP is adopted (the State Water Board anticipates adoption in January 2014).  A number of the IGP’s changes are summarized below.

The State Water Board is accepting public comments on the IGP through noon on August 29, 2013, and will also hold a public hearing to accept verbal comments at 9:00 am on August 21, 2013.  The notice of opportunity to comment and all relevant permit documents related to the fourth draft IGP are available here.

This fourth draft of the IGP is the State Water Board’s latest attempt to update the 1997 general industrial storm water NPDES permit, which demonstrates the long history and contentious issues that have prolonged the reissuance process.

The IGP significantly revises the 1997 permit.  A few of the many major differences are listed here:

·        Dischargers are required to implement a set of minimum best management practices (“BMPs”) and any necessary advanced BMPs, which together comprise the permit’s technology-based effluent limitations.  The minimum BMPs are mostly non-structural (e.g. good housekeeping and spill and leak prevention and response), whereas the advanced BMPs consist of mostly structural controls, such as exposure reduction, treatment controls, and storm water containment.  The 1997 permit did not specify particular minimum BMPs.

·        The IGP contains numeric action levels (“NAL”) and exceedance response actions, which initiate a series of corrective actions in the event an NAL is exceeded. For example, the first time an annual NAL or instantaneous maximum NAL exceedance occurs for any one parameter, a discharger will enter Level 1 status and be required to review its BMPs and revise them if necessary, and submit a report prepared by a QISP (see below).  A discharger will enter Level 2 status if an NAL for the same parameter is exceeded in a subsequent reporting year.  Level 2 dischargers may request an extension of up to 6 months to complete the necessary exceedance response actions.  Although it is not a violation of the IGP to exceed NAL values, it is considered a permit violation if the discharger fails to comply with the Level 1 or Level 2 exceedance response requirements.

·        The IGP relaxes the sampling protocols, yet increases the sampling frequency.

·        The IGP requires trained personnel, called Qualified Industrial Storm Water Practitioners (“QISPs”) to implement the permit’s requirements for any facility that enters Level 1 status.

·        Each facility must create a Pollution Prevention Team who, together with the QISP, will assist with implementing the storm water pollution prevention plan (“SWPPP”) and conducting all monitoring requirements.

·        Any type of industrial facility that is not exposed to storm water may claim a “no exposure certification,” which is a conditional exclusion from the majority of the IGP’s requirements.  The facility must still enroll under the IGP to obtain the exclusion, however.  The 1997 permit required light industries to obtain coverage only if their activities were exposed to storm water.

The IGP does not include numeric effluent limitations at this time because the State Water Board does not have the monitoring data, industry-specific information, BMP performance analyses, engineering aspects of various control technologies, costs, and other water quality information that it needs in order to develop and justify the numeric effluent limitations.   As such, many of the IGP’s new requirements are designed to provide the State Water Board with the site-specific information it seeks, which will also help it evaluate the relationship between BMPs and the ability of industrial facilities to meet the NALs.  Based on this information, the State Water Board may develop numeric effluent limitations in a future general industrial storm water NPDES permit.