Is a Stormwater Permit Required for Your Construction Project?

The term "stormwater" refers to any runoff after rain or snow from a barren piece of land, an area with vegetation, or constructed areas such as paved streets and rooftops. Stormwater discharges can contain pollutants in large enough quantities to contaminate a water supply. If a construction project will disturb one or more acres, you may be required to obtain a stormwater permit under the federal Clean Water Act. Even if a project will disturb less than one acre, you may need a stormwater permit if it is part of a larger development plan.

There may be additional, stricter requirements in your state.

However, the determination of what the appropriate compliance is for your particular construction project is far more intricate than just a yes or no answer to the above scenarios. There are four criteria to consider before you can determine whether or not a permit is needed:

  1. Will a construction project disturb one or more acres of land?
  2. Is a construction project, which will disturb less than one acre of land, part of a larger development plan that will disturb one or more acres?
  3. Has a construction project been designated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting authority, either on the state or federal level, as one that must be regulated even though it will disturb less than one acre of land?
  4. Will stormwater from a construction site flow into a separate municipal storm sewer system or a body of water within the United States?

If you answered yes to any of the first three questions and yes to the last question, then your business must obtain a stormwater permit. Keep in mind that in addition to state and federal regulatory agencies, some municipalities are also required to implement stormwater control programs. Check with your municipality for its requirements before beginning work on the project.

The next step is determining whether to apply on the federal or state level. If your project is located in an area requiring a federal permit, you must apply for the Environmental Protection Agency Construction General Permit. If your location necessitates getting a state permit, then you must meet the state's general permit requirements. You can apply for an individual state or federal permit instead of the general one. However, the individual permit process can take much longer. One of the requirements for an EPA Construction General Permit is to assess the potential effects your project will have on federally protected endangered species and on any designated critical habitat on or near the site.

While state permit requirements may vary, the EPA has established some very specific criteria:

Develop and Implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. It must include:

Submit a Notice of Intent. This notice begins coverage under the general permit and includes a certification that the activity will not impact upon endangered species or historic places.

Submit a Notice of Termination. Submit this notice to EPA within 30 days after one or more of the following:

Online Application for Permits

An online system is available to guide construction site operators through the permit process. This system, known as the Stormwater Notice of Intent or eNOI (electronic Notice of Intent), was developed both to meet the objectives of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and to save construction companies time and money with a simple, fast and accurate application process.

Construction companies of all sizes can benefit from this eNOI process. It is applicable anywhere the EPA is the permitting authority.

"Polluted stormwater runoff is a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards.

Over land or via storm sewer systems, polluted runoff is discharged, often untreated, directly into local water bodies. When left uncontrolled, this water pollution can result in the destruction of fish, wildlife, and aquatic life habitats; a loss in aesthetic value; and threats to public health due to contaminated food, drinking water supplies, and recreational waterways."

-- Source: EPA website

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