Think you know everything there is to know about the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program? What about developing Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) correctly? Think again. As it turns out, when I attended a session at the International Erosion Control Association’s annual conference, EC08, in February, Nikos Singelis, senior program analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), shared with the audience information about many new resources, tools, initiatives, and plans intended to protect our nation’s water bodies. These are discussed in his article, "Stormwater update: What’s happening at the EPA," as part of our Special Report this month on NPDES.
Additionally, he shared an interesting anecdote. Singelis’ staff looked through boxes of SWPPPs that the EPA received—even though there is no requirement to send them to the EPA office—and found an extraordinary number of plans out of compliance. Common mistakes included submitting only an erosion and sediment control plan, submitting a plan that was not specific to the site or did not consider the different phases of construction, and submitting a plan that did not address all of the general permit requirements such as maintenance and recordkeeping.
And SWPPPs aren’t the only problem topic. John Kosco, co-author of this month’s article, "How to choose better stormwater BMPs," and a principal engineer with Tetra Tech, Inc., which is under contract with EPA to support NPDES-related activities, said that municipal separate storm sewer system audits conducted in California found many municipalities still struggling with compliance. Some of the common mistakes made by municipal stormwater programs include water quality problems at maintenance yards, inadequate legal authority, poor stormwater management plans, and infrequent inspections at construction sites.
Of course, these examples join noteworthy enforcement actions taken against four of the nation’s largest home builders last month and a similar one against Home Depot in February. These actions come on the heels of a new compliance monitoring strategy covering all aspects of the NPDES stormwater program. Implemented by the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), the October 2007 memorandum describing the strategy, "Clean Water Act NPDES Compliance Monitoring Strategy for the Core Program and Wet Weather Sources," states that the primary goal of the effort is "to ensure and document whether entities possessing NPDES permits are complying with their Clean Water Act obligations," a goal that will be achieved through "on-site inspections plus evaluation of permittee self-reported Discharge Monitoring Report data."
Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for OECA, said, "Over the next three years, one of EPA’s main priorities will be to improve stormwater compliance at construction sites for new homes and big box stores." Needless to say, given the significant enforcement activity by the agency in just the past nine months since this strategy was announced, the EPA and state compliance monitoring programs are following through with their plans.
CE News presents its "NPDES Update" this month to assist professionals involved in erosion, sediment, and stormwater management. You must dedicate time to continue learning about this dynamic industry, only then can you ensure your employer or clients are protected, if (or should I say when?) their time comes for inspection, and that you have done your best to protect the environment.