Storm Water Permitting History and Reality (as we see it)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was passed by Congress in 1972. The purpose of the CWA was to improve the quality of the nation’s waterways and to ensure that rivers and streams were restored to and maintained as fishable, swimmable, and drinkable resources. The CWA was amended (1987) to address contaminated storm water. The first general permits for storm water discharge were issued in 1994.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) identified storm water runoff from urbanized areas as a leading cause of surface water contamination. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) was developed by USEPA to address storm water runoff. USEPA delegated implementation of the NPDES to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for the State of Indiana to regulate point source discharges of pollutants to waters of the state.

If an industrial facility such as an auto salvage yard or a recycling facility has processing activities, raw materials or intermediate product storage areas that are exposed to storm water discharge, that facility is required to apply for a NPDES permit. IDEM developed a “permit-by-rule” program (2003) that allows operators to self-implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The applicable section for auto salvage yards and recycling operations is referred to as Rule 6.

There is a “no-exposure” exclusion to Rule 6 which would preclude the operator from the requirement to develop a SWPPP. Unfortunately, since the vast majority of salvaging and recycling operations take place outdoors this exclusion does not apply. Simply storing vehicles outdoors prevents salvagers from claiming “no-exposure”.

Numerous contaminants can originate in auto salvage yards and recycling facilities and be exposed to rain events. These include but are not limited to oil, antifreeze, gasoline, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, asbestos, mercury, refrigerants, solvents, chromium from chrome bumpers, lead from wheel weights, lead from lead based paint, and debris and trash from poor housekeeping. Runoff from processing or storage areas can carry contamination to nearby streams or rivers.

For recyclers there are a series of requirements that must be met under Rule 6. The first is a Notice of Intent Letter (NOI). The NOI includes a proof of publication and a $50.00 filing fee made out to IDEM. The NOI serves as written notice to IDEM that the facility intends to meet the requirements of Rule 6 and work towards implementing a SWPPP. The facility has 365 days after submission of the NOI to implement the SWPPP and collect samples from the outfall or outfalls identified in the SWPPP. The SWPPP is maintained at the facility. The SWPPP Checklist is provided to IDEM and serves as a certification that the facility has completed and implemented the plan. IDEM may choose to inspect the facility and ensure that the plan is being implemented properly.

Storm water permitting is a reality of the auto salvage and recycling industry. The self-implementation process favors those who are proactive. From our experience, businesses that voluntarily implement a SWPPP and stay ahead with environmental compliance issues fare better. We have worked with several clients to develop and implement SWPPPs. The majority of the clients we represent were informed by IDEM that they require a SWPPP and they immediately set out to implement one. Others heard through the grapevine that they are required to be permitted and implemented a SWPPP before they were told to do so. Others were told to implement an SWPPP and for whatever reason did not. It is our experience that the latter is the most time consuming and most costly. If a business sends a message to IDEM that they need encouragement to meet requirements, IDEM is able and required to provide encouragement. That is their job.

Just as each of our clients starts the storm water permitting process in a different way for different reasons. Each client has a different budget, a different business and different goals. Some of our clients want us to write the plan, train their personnel, collect the samples and submit the reports to IDEM. Others want to be more involved, and spend less money, so they collect the samples, train their personnel and take a more active hands on role. Either way it is the ultimate responsibility of the owner/operator to implement and enforce the SWPPP. We enjoy this work and we, as a small business, understand the importance of working with our clients to best support their business plan and provide them the most affordable service we can. So far we have had success with storm water permitting and look forward to speaking with and representing more recyclers. The way we see it, storm water permitting is a reality of this industry so why not make it as painless as possible? We do our best to work with our clients and help them to develop a system that works for their business and their budget.

Sara HamidovicComment