John Epperson, Cooper, White & Cooper environmental attorney, will be leading a California State Bar Environmental Law Section MCLE webinar on May 28, 2014 from noon to 1 pm discussing the newly-adopted General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities. Other webinar panelists are Philip Wyels, Assistant Chief Counsel of the State Water Resources Control Board, and storm water consultant Matthew Lentz of GSI Environmental. Webinar registration information is available here.
The new permit does not take effect until July 1, 2015, giving dischargers time to get up to speed with the many new or amended requirements before it takes effect. Over 10,000 sites in California are regulated by the current permit for discharges of storm water as rain falls on their facilities, parking lots, roofs and open areas, picking up sediments and other pollutants as it runs off and into storm drains. Some of the revised requirements include: increased inspection and monitoring requirements; mandatory minimum Best Management Practices; additional detail required in Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs); modifications to terms such as “Qualifying Storm Event”; and the need to upload key documents, such as the SWPPP, to a publicly-available on-line system.
The new permit did not establish numeric effluent limits, a contentious issue in the drafting process, but includes Numeric Action Levels (NALs) for a limited number of parameters. Exceeding an NAL does not constitute a permit violation, but it does trigger an obligation to take Exceedance Response Actions (ERAs), including evaluating additional BMPs and other measures to bring discharges below NALs.
Facilities that have no exposure of their industrial activities and materials to storm water discharges, known as light industry sites under the current permit, are no longer excluded from coverage under the permit. However, they can submit a No Exposure Certification (NEC) and if they meet the requirements of the NEC, will be exempt from the SWPPP, sampling and monitoring requirements of the permit. This is a significant change and some facilities that are currently considered exempt will not be able to meet the NEC requirements and will find themselves subject to the full permit requirements.
A key point to emphasize is that dischargers should not look at that 2015 effective date and decide to put off starting the process of assessing what will be required and compliance options. There are many changes from the current permit – which was originally issued over 15 years ago – which will result in revisions to many, if not all, elements of storm water programs.