Stormwater Runoff Permitting and Employee Training

(Click here for Stormwater Runoff Permitting Video)

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.

Stormwater Discharges from Industrial Activities… EPA's 2021 MSGP


EPA’s 1990 stormwater regulations established NPDES permit requirements for industrial stormwater discharges, and the Agency issued the first Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) for those facilities in 1995. The 2021 MSGP becomes effective on March 1, 2021, 2021, and subsequently EPA finalized a minor modification to the 2021 MSGP that became effective on September 29, 2021.

EPA’s 2021 MSGP applies in areas of the country where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority and has made the permit available for coverage. These areas include:

    1. Four states: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Idaho
      • On July 1, 2021, NPDES permitting authority for industrial stormwater was transferred to Idaho; for more information about Idaho’s NPDES authorization visit
    2. The District of Columbia
    3. Puerto Rico
    4. All U.S. territories except for the Virgin Islands
    5. Federally operated facilities in Colorado, Delaware, Vermont, and Washington
    6. Most Indian country lands, and
    7. Other designated activities in specific states (e.g., oil and gas activities in Texas and Oklahoma)

EPA’s 2021 MSGP 

On January 15, 2021, EPA issued the 2021 MSGP.

EPA hosted two public informational webinars on the new 2021 MSGP on February 19, 2021 and March 4, 2021. The webinars covered industrial stormwater program basics, discussed the structure and requirements of the new permit, including how to renew coverage or get coverage for the first time, and highlighted new provisions and changes from the 2015 MSGP.

The Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) is the overriding EPA methodology to control the discharge of pollutants from stormwater point sources and outfalls. Amendments continue to change the complexion of compliance responsibilities, e.g., the 1998 amendment to consider your facility's eligibility regarding include the Endangered Species Act.

Click link below for the 139-page FACT SHEET covering the EPA’s 2021 MSGP

(U.S. EPA’s 135-page Fact Sheet on the 2021 MSGP.)

Any uncontrolled industrial stormwater discharge that comes in direct contact with EPA's so-called "Water Priority Chemicals" (692 toxic chemicals directly related to SARA, Sec. 313 Toxics) requires a more sophisticated process of semi-annual sampling, monitoring and reporting to the EPA in Washington, D.C. and/or the State of Record. Moreover, there are industry sector and site-specific requirements, whereby most facilities must undergo quarterly sampling / monitoring, stated known simply as "Quarterly Monitoring." In addition to 30 industrial sectors established by the EPA, there are an additional 65 sub-sectors.Integral to the site-specific Pollution Prevention Plan is annual training for a facility’s material handlers and Pollution Prevention team.

Clean Water Testimonial

I’d just like you to know that I sleep better at night knowing Vanguard’s compliance management protects us against inspectors, enforcement agents and the like. - Automotive Brake Mfr./Oklahoma