California Stormwater Regulations


What You Need To Know About The New California Stormwater Regulations

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Special Report:

As of July 1, 2015, California has implemented a new Industrial Storm Water permit (2014 Permit) with more stringent requirements that cover a much broader range of manufacturing and industry. As of July 1, 2015, a Discharger shall comply with the new requirements to meet provisions of Division 7 of the California Water Code (commencing with section 13000) and provisions of the federal Clean Water Act.

Last year the State Water Resources Control Board unanimously adopted the new Industrial Storm Water permit ("2014 Permit") to go into effect this year (2015). The federal Clean Water Act prohibits certain discharges of storm water containing pollutants except in compliance with a permit. The new "2014 Permit" requires Covered industrial facilities to meet expanded requirements to comply with the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. EPA established application requirements for storm water permits for specified categories of industrie, including requirements for Dischargers to comply with technology-based effluent limitations, and any more stringent water quality-based limitations necessary to meet water quality standards. To ensure compliance with water quality standards, NPDES permits may also require a Discharger to implement best management practices (BMPs) to control or abate the discharge of pollutants when numeric effluent limitations (NELs) are infeasible.

The General Permit Requires Dischargers to:

  • Eliminate unauthorized non-storm water discharges (NSWDs);
  • Develop and implement storm water pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs) with best management practices (BMPs);
  • Implement BMPs to achieve compliance with the effluent and receiving water limitations of this General Permit;
  • Conduct monitoring, including visual observations and analytical storm water monitoring for indicator parameters;
  • Compare monitoring results for monitored parameters to applicable numeric action levels (NALs) derived from the U.S. EPA 2008 Multi-Sector General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity (2008 MSGP) and other industrial storm water discharge monitoring data collected in California;
  • Perform the appropriate Exceedance Response Actions (ERAs) when there are exceedances of the NALs; and,
  • Certify and submit all permit-related compliance documents via the Storm Water Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS). Dischargers shall certify and submit these documents which include, but are not limited to, Permit Registration Documents (PRDs) including Notices of Intent (NOIs), No Exposure Certifications (NECs), and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs), as well as Annual Reports, Notices of Termination (NOTs), Level 1 ERA Reports, and Level 2 ERA Technical Reports.

This General Permit differs from the previous permit in the following areas:

1. Minimum Best Management Practices (BMPs)
This General Permit requires Dischargers to implement a set of minimum BMPs to reduce/ prevent pollutants in industrial storm water discharges, serve as the basis for compliance with this General Permit’s technology-based effluent limitations and water quality based receiving water limitations. The previous permit did not require a minimum set of BMPs.

2. Conditional Exclusion - No Exposure Certification (NEC)
This General Permit provides a conditional exclusion for facilities that have no exposure to storm water. However, the NEC requires enrollment for coverage prior to conditionally excluding a Discharger from most requirements.

3. Electronic Reporting Requirements
This General Permit requires Dischargers to submit and certify all reports electronically via SMARTS. The previous permit used a paper reporting process with electronic reporting as an option.

4. Training Expectations and Roles
This General Permit requires that Dischargers arrange to have appropriately trained personnel implementing this General Permit’s requirements at each facility. If a Discharger’s facility enters Level 1 status, the report must be prepared by a Qualified Industrial Storm Water Practitioner (QISP). All Action Plans and Technical Reports required in Level 2 status must also be prepared by a QISP.

5. Numeric Action Levels (NALs) and NAL Exceedances
This General Permit contains two types of NAL exceedances. An annual NAL exceedance occurs when the average of all sampling results within a reporting year for a single parameter (except pH) exceeds the applicable annual NAL. The annual NALs are derived from benchmark values. Instantaneous maximum NALs target hot spots or episodic discharges of pollutants.

6. Exceedance Response Actions (ERA)
This General Permit requires Dischargers to develop and implement ERAs, when an annual NAL or instantaneous maximum NAL exceedance occurs during a reporting year.

7. CWA section 303(d) Impairment
This General Permit requires a Discharger to monitor additional parameters if the discharge(s) from its facility contributes pollutants to receiving waters that are listed as impaired for those pollutants. Example: if a Discharger discharges to a water body that is listed as "impaired for copper", and the discharge(s) from its facility include copper, the Discharger must add copper to the list of parameters to monitor.

8. Design Storm Standards for Treatment Control BMPs
New design storm standards include both volume and flow-based criteria. Dischargers are not required to retrofit existing treatment control BMPs unless required to meet the technology-based effluent limitations and receiving water limitations in this General Permit.

9. Qualifying Storm Event (QSE)
This General Permit defines a QSE as a precipitation event that 1) produces a discharge for at least one drainage area; and 2) is preceded by 48 hours with no discharge from any drainage area. The definition above differs from the definition in the previous permit, resulting in more QSEs eligible for sample collection.

10. Sampling Protocols
This General Permit now requires Dischargers to collect samples during scheduled facility operating hours from each drainage location within four hours of: (1) the start of the discharge from a QSE occurring during scheduled facility operating hours, or (2) the start of scheduled facility operating hours if the QSE occurred in the previous twelve (12) hours. The previous permit required that Dischargers collect samples during the first hour of facility operating hours, which was considered to be too rigid.

11. Sampling Frequency
This General Permit increases sampling frequency from 2 to 4 times annually. It requires Dischargers to collect and analyze storm water samples from each discharge location for two (2) QSEs within the first half of each reporting year (July 1 to December 31), and two (2) QSEs within the second half of each reporting year (January 1 to June 30).

12. Compliance Groups
To allow industrial facilities to efficiently share knowledge, this General Permit allows the formation of Compliance Groups and Compliance Group Leaders. Dischargers participating in a Compliance Group (Compliance Group Participants) are collectively required to sample twice a year.

13. Discharges to Ocean Waters
This General Permit requires Dischargers with ocean-discharging outfalls subject to model monitoring provisions of the California Ocean Plan to develop and implement a monitoring plan in compliance with those provisions.

New Stormwater Requirements Summary:

A) Many more facilities are covered by the 2014 permit and must register
A large number of California facilities that did not have to register under the 1997 Permit now must register under the 2014 Permit. See Facilities Subject to New Regulations

B) More Monitoring / Sampling will be required
The 2014 Permit requires more visual monitoring of drainage areas (monthly instead of quarterly) and monitoring during qualifying rain events (four times per year instead of twice). Also requires more sampling for additional pollutants based on a number of factors, including but not limited to your facility’s SIC Code, and whether the facility is near a water body listed under Clean Water Act § 303(d).

C) Key dates
July 1, 2015: The 2014 Permit takes effect. Facilities already operating under the 1997 Permit must submit any updates to their compliance documents by this date.
October 1, 2015: Any covered facility seeking “no exposure certification” must apply by this date.

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