Concrete inFocus - Summer 2013 - (Page 7)

enviroscene Six Things Every Concrete Producer Must Know about NPDES Permits Douglas Ruhlin H opefully you already have a good understanding of the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permitting program as mandated by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act). This is the program that requires permits for pollutant discharges. For most, this means having a “stormwater permit” and a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). But there’s a lot more to the NPDES than stormwater permits, and a lot of it affects the ready mixed concrete industry. What you may not know can hurt you: failure to comply with NPDES permit requirements can result in significant compliance penalties and enforcement issues, including financial penalties and stricter permit requirements. Here are six very important aspects to the NPDES permitting program that concrete producers should know: 1. All stormwater permits are NPDES permits—but not all NPDES permits are stormwater permits. NPDES requires a permit for any pollutant discharge to U.S. surface waters, including from process wastewater discharges at concrete plants, the discharge of fill material into surface waters, the injection/discharge of polluted waters into the ground and (of course) stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity. Many producers have been given the false sense that having an NPDES permit provides coverage for discharges that may specifically NOT be covered under a stormwater permit. An NPDES stormwater (only) permit may not provide enough coverage, which can lead to violations and enforcement. 2. Virtually everyone needs an NPDES permit—or something else. Federal and nearly all state regulations require an NPDES permit if you discharge stormwater associated with industrial activity to surface waters of the U.S. or a state. So if it rains on your concrete plant and the runoff discharges either directly or indirectly into surface waters, at the very minimum you likely need an NPDES permit covering your stormwater discharge. Some states also have alternative mechanisms related to the perceived lack of need of an NPDES permit, such as a “non-exposure certification.” But the bottom line is that you usually need something—a permit or some form of confirmation that a permit is not required 3. There is more than one type of NPDES permit available for concrete producers. In most states, NPDES permits are issued by the delegated state environmental agency which usually offers more than one type of NPDES permit. This typically includes one or more general permits, which often include one specifically for concrete producers, as well as individual NPDES permits. Stormwater permits are typically general permits, while those for process wastewater or combined sources may often require coverage under an individual permit. Choose the correct (and best) permit available, the one that truly covers the range of activities present on your particular site. Don’t assume the general stormwater permit is the only NPDES permit available. 4. Your NPDES permit is changing—or is about to. All NPDES permits are getting more involved with water quality, and that may affect the permit you have, what you have to do under the permit, and whether you qualify for the permit at all. These changes are appearing as requirements to investigate whether the receiving waters have a total maximum daily load of pollutants, or whether the water body is classified as exceptional or impacted in quality. In many cases, it is the permittee (concrete producer) that is required to make that determination. If you don’t see these considerations in your NPDES permit, just wait—you will! 5. Having a permit is not good enough. It might come as news to some, but a permit carries a responsibility to demonstrate compliance. This may include often overlooked activities such as regular discharge monitoring, monitoring results reporting to the regulatory agency, mandatory inspections, an annual report detailing the past year’s activities, etc. These are things that are easily overlooked and that can result in significant enforcement action if not done. Understand your NPDES permit and all of its requirements and do what’s necessary. If you aren’t in compliance, just having a permit won’t help you. 6. Non-compliance is costly. While you might think it takes a lot of time and money to get the right permit and be in compliance, consider the costs of non-compliance. Violations of the NPDES permit requirements are often the source of significant monetary fines, which often are much greater than the costs of compliance would have been in the first place. When you consider potential legal and consulting costs, increased requirements (and their costs), and the potential for additional non-penaltyrelated costs (such as requirements to contribute to local environmental groups), you can see that the costs of non-compliance add up quickly. Simply put, NPDES compliance is some of the cheapest protection you can have for your concrete plant. One thing is certain. The NPDES permitting program isn’t going to go away,and it’s likely not going to get any easier. So what you’ve been doing in the past may not be good enough now or into the future. It pays to keep abreast of changes that affect you and to annually review your NPDES permitting program status to ensure you are in compliance, and remain there. ■ Douglas Ruhlin is principal environmental consultant at Resource Management Associates and can be reached at 609-693-8301 or concrete INFOCUS ı 7

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Concrete inFocus - Summer 2013

Corporate Suite
From Hand Shovels to Keystrokes
Walking on Art
NRMCA’s Design Assistance Program Works for Producers
Maryland Ready Mix Producer Gives Back to Community
Structures That Last
Responsible Sourcing Through CSR Reporting
Index of Advertisers
Responsible Sourcing Through CSR Reporting
White Cement Delivers Beautiful, Profi table Mixes
Impact of Concrete Quality on Sustainability
Tulsa Driver Named NRMCA Driver of the Year

Concrete inFocus - Summer 2013