U.S. EPA Benchmarks

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, more commonly called the Clean Water Act, prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source to waters of the United States without a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In 1990 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically applied the NPDES permit requirement to stormwater discharges from 11 industrial sectors.

The EPA has delegated permitting authority to most states, thus EPA only issues NPDES permits in states that do not have authority to administer the NPDES program (Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Mexico). EPA regulates industrial stormwater discharges under its Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP).

Categories of Industrial Activity that Require Permit Coverage

The federal regulations, in 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14)(i)-(xi), identify 11 categories of stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity required to be covered under an NPDES permit (unless otherwise excluded). One category, Category 10, is construction sites that disturb five acres or more; however, because of the significant difference in the nature of those activities, construction sites are permitted separately.

EPA has issued a Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) that addresses stormwater discharges from 29 sectors of industrial activity. The 29 sectors are defined by either the facility’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code or a general description of the facility‚Äôs industrial activities. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) will eventually replace the SIC system. The U.S. Census Bureau has a conversion table to bridge the two systems. For more information on each of the 29 sectors, view the Industrial Fact Sheet Series for Activities Covered by EPA’s MSGP.

More information about permitting stormwater discharges from construction activities is available. In general, the 10 categories of industrial activities are as follows:

(i): Facilities subject to federal stormwater effluent discharge standards in 40 CFR Parts 405-471

(ii): Heavy manufacturing (for example, paper mills, chemical plants, petroleum refineries, and steel mills and foundries)

(iii): Coal and mineral mining and oil and gas exploration and processing

(iv): Hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal facilities

(v): Landfills, land application sites, and open dumps with industrial wastes

(vi): Metal scrapyards, salvage yards, automobile junkyards, and battery reclaimers

(vii): Steam electric power generating plants

(viii): Transportation facilities that have vehicle maintenance, equipment cleaning, or airport deicing operations

(ix): Treatment works treating domestic sewage with a design flow of 1 million gallons a day or more

(xi): Light manufacturing (For example, food processing, printing and publishing, electronic and other electrical equipment manufacturing, and public warehousing and storage).

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This information is not intended to substitute for professional legal advice.