Stormwater Runoff Permitting and Employee Training
On November 16, 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a regulation as an outgrowth of the Clean Water Acts of 1972 (the original NPDES) and 1987 requiring National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for discharges of Stormwater from the industrial community in the United States. The Clean Water Acts have always provided the EPA with the authority to control Stormwater discharges that convey pollutants to the waters of the United States through point sources. Historically, though, the EPA declined to issue permits for many regulable Stormwater discharges, preferring instead to concentrate its attention on CONTROLLED discharges of process waters from industrial facilities and discharges from publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). Under this newest amendment, UNCONTROLLED Stormwater discharge (which does not enter a municipal sewer system for treatment) conveyed from a facility has become the focus for permitting. This requirement should not be confused with regulations associated with municipal Stormwater management.
Simply stated, an industrial facility is required to secure a Stormwater Runoff Permit if Stormwater (rain and snow melt) escapes the facility and finds its way into streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, aquifers, and eventually to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Such polluted Stormwater is proven to convey chemical pollutants in the form of dusts, vapors, fumes, paint emissions, evaporation, spills, and fugitive emissions utilized in the industrial process and released from the facility through wall/ceiling fans, air recycling and recovery systems, open garage doors, shipping docks, motorized vehicles and equipment, outdoor storage, maintenance procedures, dumpsters, etc.
As these typical daily releases occur, pollutants collect on roofs and facility grounds, being further spread by winds. Storm events, assisted by the law of gravity, consequently, carry pollutants through down-spouts and over facility grounds offsite to ditches, gullies, eventually resulting in the pollution of water resources. While some controversy has existed about so-called "light industry," exemptions are only valid if proven that facility pollutant elimination is controlled at the source in which all Stormwater discharges are directly channeled for treatment in a municipal sewer system only.
"Stormwater Discharge Associated with Industrial Activity" means the discharge from any conveyance which is used for collecting and conveying Stormwater and which is directly related to manufacturing, processing, or raw material storage areas at an industrial plant. The terminology includes Stormwater discharges from industrial plant yards; immediate access roads and rail lines used or traveled by carriers of raw material, manufactured products, waste material, or by-products used or created by the facility; material handling sites; refuse sites; sites used for the application or disposal of process of waste waters; sites used for the storage and maintenance of material handling equipment; sites used for residual treatment, storage, or disposal; shipping and receiving areas; manufacturing buildings; storage areas (including tank farms) for raw material, and intermediate and finished products; and areas where industrial activity has taken place in the past and significant material remain and are exposed to Stormwater. Material handling activities include storage, loading and unloading, transportation, or conveyance of any raw material, intermediate product, finished product, by-product, or waste product.
Note on Employee Training: The most important component of the U.S. EPA’s compliance requirement under 40 CFR 122 is the actual implementation of the Stormwater Runoff Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) document in terms of the annual training given the facility’s material handlers. To have an SWPPP document on one’s bookshelf, without the requisite stipulation for annual training of the facility’s material handlers is tantamount to having no SWRPPP at all. Hence, it is the annual training element engaging participants in 124 instructional data points that ensures a facility’s compliance to be intact. Anything short of this two-pronged environmental compliance directive places any facility at risk to severe enforcement penalties.
“Qualified” Activities that Trigger Automatic Compliance Requirements
While some industries are exempt from he requirements for stormwater runoff permitting, there is an echelon of activities that would automatically negate such an exemption as outlined in EPA's regulations. Those activities include:
- Materials stored outside;
- Vehicle repair & maintenance and forms of pollution from trucking occur onsite;
- Active railroad spurs come on to the site, creating sources of pollution;
- Loading/unloading is taking place without the protection of awnings;
- Dumpsters are left uncovered and/or fail to prevent leakage of pollutants;
- Work activities involving machinery (i.e. forklifts) are taking place on grounds;
- Facilities reporting under Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) are deemed to be releasing toxic chemicals to the environment – air, soil, and water – which pollutes runoff rain and snow- melt runoff;
- Gasoline and Oil refilling stations are being accessed resulting in spillage of pollutants;
- Above-Ground & Underground Storage Tanks have the potential for spillage via valves and connector hoses; &/or have inadequate secondary containment; etc.
- Any company reporting under Toxic Release Inventory.