Is a Stormwater Permit Required for Your Construction Project?

The term “stormwater” refers to any runoff after rain or snow from a barren piece of land, an area with vegetation, or constructed areas like paved streets and rooftops. Stormwater discharges can contain pollutants in large enough quantities to contaminate a water supply. If your construction project will disturb one or more acres of land, you may need a stormwater permit. If your project will disturb less than one acre, but its part of a larger development plan that will disturb one or more acres, you may also need a stormwater permit.

However, the determination of what the appropriate compliance is for your particular construction project is far more intricate than just a “yes” or “no” answer to the above scenarios. There are four criteria, which must be met to determine a permit is needed:

  • Will your construction project disturb one or more acres of land?
  • Will your construction project disturb less than one acre of land but is part of a larger development plan that will disturb one or more acres?
  • Has your construction project been designated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting authority either on the state or federal level as one that must be regulated even though it will disturb less than one acre of land?
  • Will stormwater from your construction site flow into a separate municipal storm sewer system or a body of water within the United States?

If you answered “yes” to any of the first three questions and “yes” to the last question, then you definitely need a stormwater permit. Keep in mind that in addition to state and federal regulatory agencies, some municipalities are also required to implement stormwater control programs. You need to check with your municipality for its requirements before beginning work on the project.

Your next step is determining whether to apply on the federal or state level. If your project is located in an area requiring a federal permit, you must apply for the EPA Construction General Permit (CGP). If your location necessitates getting a state permit, then you must meet the state’s general permit requirements. You can apply for an individual state or federal permit instead of the general one; however, the individual permit process can be much longer. One of the requirements of the EPA CGP is to assess the potential affects your project will have on federally protected endangered species and on any designated critical habitat on or near your site.

While state permit requirements may vary, the EPA has established some very specific criteria:

1.      Develop and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. It has to include:

  • A description of the site that lists sources of pollution
  • A description of methods that will be used to prevent pollutants from contaminating stormwater
  • A description of controls for stormwater flow
  • Documentation that supports that you are not in violation of the Endangered Species Act
  • Documentation that supports that you are not in violation of local Total Maximum Daily Load requirements
  • Clearly outlined roles of different operators
  • The methodology you will use to inspect your site

2.      Submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) – This notice begins coverage under the general permit and includes a certification that the activity will not impact upon endangered species or historic places.

3.      Submit a Notice of Termination(NOT) – You need to submit this to EPA within 30 days after one or more of the following:

  • Final stabilization has been accomplished on all portions of the site, for which the recipient of the permit is responsible
  • Another operator assumes control over the parts of the site that have not achieved final stabilization      
  • The operator has obtained an individual or alternative NPDES permit

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