When the majority, if not all, of the industrial activities for a business are performed inside or in states without much precipitation, it isn’t always obvious that a stormwater permit would be necessary. Yet, if a business operates under a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code that requires stormwater permitting, they have a duty to comply. Not doing so can have both criminal and civil implications, not to mention financial penalties. A common industry that misses this compliance requirement is manufacturing. If you own a manufacturing facility, this blog will help you understand if stormwater permit coverage is required for your facility and how to get support.

Why Stormwater Permits Matter

Industrial activities, such as material handling and storage, fueling, and equipment maintenance and cleaning, are often exposed to the weather. When runoff from rainfall and snowmelt comes into contact with these activities/materials, it can pick up pollutants which are then transported into nearby water ways or storm sewers, thus degrading water quality. In compliance with the Clean Water Act, and to control discharges associated with industrial activities, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) developed permitting requirements under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). As a result, 11 distinct categories of industrial activities were defined and are required to obtain coverage under a stormwater permit issued either by the EPA or a state environmental agency. Of these 11 defined industrial activities, two pertain to manufacturing.

What Facilities are Required to Obtain a Stormwater Permit?

The U.S. classifies businesses according to industrial activities using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Based on the 11 defined industrial categories, the EPA has identified 29 industrial sectors that require stormwater permitting coverage. Of those 29 sectors, about half are associated with manufacturing. SIC and NAICS codes can therefore be used to determine if coverage is required for any business.

This is especially important for businesses that would not otherwise know they need stormwater permit coverage. For example, many manufacturing businesses operate indoors, away from direct exposure to stormwater and snowmelt. However, they often forget about activities such as:

  • Material loading/unloading that happens at a loading dock which is not fully enclosed and briefly exposes raw materials to precipitation;
  • Equipment/vehicle maintenance and repair which occurs in the parking lot and is exposed to precipitation;
  • Stockpiling in the yard which can include empty totes, wood pallets, metal scraps, waste oil drums, miscellaneous construction materials for facility improvement, or relics of past industrial activities that are exposed to precipitation;
  • Air emissions of solvents, chemicals, or particulate matter through roof stacks or baghouses that encounter stormwater.

Think Your Facility Doesn't Need a Stormwater Permit? Think Again.

As mentioned above, when most or all of a company's industrial activities take place indoors or in areas with little precipitation, it may not seem apparent that a stormwater permit is needed. However, if a company falls under a SIC or NAICS code that mandates stormwater permitting, they must comply, whether or not the need is immediately clear. Failing to do so could lead to criminal and civil consequences, as well as financial penalties.

Federal Requirements for Permits

The EPA has authorized many states to administer the NPDES stormwater permitting program. Most industrial facilities will need to obtain permit coverage though their state, but the EPA remains the permitting authority for a few states, most territories, and most Native American country. Compliance starts with identifying if the EPA or the state is the permitting authority for industrial activities in your case. It is up to you to check your state’s requirements and understand who the permitting authority is in your area.

State Requirements

The next step is to check if your SIC or NAICS code is included as a permit-required sector in your state. The EPA defines the 29 sectors that are federally required to have stormwater permit coverage, but some states require more businesses to obtain coverage than the EPA. If required to obtain coverage, you will then need to apply.

Application processes and permitting requirements may vary by state, but all must maintain the minimum criteria as required by the EPA. In any case, a Notice of Intent (NOI) will need to be submitted to the permitting authority. This NOI will include information about the facility and the potential stormwater exposure pathways. Based on the information provided and any state-specific requirements, the permitting authority will issue an Industrial Stormwater Permit. Compliance with these permits usually includes, but is not limited to, the development and maintenance of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), employee training, stormwater sampling, routine site inspections, and compliance reporting.

If a facility’s SIC or NAICS code dictates that they need to obtain coverage, but a facility is certain that the industrial activities associated with their business do not and will not be exposed to stormwater, they can apply for a no exposure exemption with their NOI application (the specific process for pursuing a no exposure exemption varies by state). No exposure exemption requirements vary by permitting authority but generally require proof that a condition of no exposure exists at an industrial facility. For example, when all industrial materials and activities are protected by a storm-resistant shelter to prevent exposure to rain, snow, snowmelt, and/or runoff.

In Summary - Check Your Compliance

It does not matter if it doesn’t rain in your area or if your industrial activities are not exposed to stormwater. Any industrial facility operating under a SIC or NAICS code included within one of the 29 industrial sectors defined by the EPA must obtain NPDES permit coverage from an authorized entity. In some states, the list of businesses included in each sector is more extensive than the EPA. With manufacturing operations making up about half of the 29 sectors, the odds are high that if you own a manufacturing facility, you are required to obtain stormwater permit coverage – albeit in the form of the Industrial Stormwater Permit or a no exposure exemption. It is up to you to understand if you are in compliance with stormwater permitting regulations. Ignorance of the regulation is not an exemption for non-compliance.

Do you need help with your stormwater compliance? Reach out to our Stormwater Permitting and Management Team today!

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