While the rules regarding how builders and developers need to manage stormwater runoff from their jobsites have been around for more than 20 years, the industry is still getting dinged. That could be because the rules themselves are as clear to some as, well, mud.
Nevertheless, it’s important – both economically and ecologically – to understand state and local requirements and develop a plan to manage stormwater and assemble and maintain proper control measures.
Do You Need a Permit?Stormwater management regulations apply to developers and builders who disturb one or more acre of land. If your jobsite consists of less than an acre but is part of a larger “common plan of development,” then you also must get a state permit, and in some cases a local permit too. Local permits could have erosion and sediment requirements for new construction that apply to sites less than an acre.
Staying in Compliance
If your project requires a permit and you don’t have one, you are taking an expensive chance: Federal penalties of up to $32,500 per violation per day under the Clean Water Act.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect for builders and developers leading to non-compliance is not realizing they need to obtain a permit – and that, in fact, is a common violation. Some builders also assume that their project is covered under a developer’s permit, but that’s not always the case.
Other typical stormwater management violations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), include:
- Failure to develop an adequate Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)for minimizing the amount of sediment and other pollutants in runoff.
- Failure to install or implement appropriate stormwater controls or best management practices (BMPs) required by the SWPPP. Often, it is because silt fences were not installed in all required areas; BMPs to prevent sediment from entering storm drains were not installed; BMPs to keep dirt from getting tracked off site were not installed at construction entrances; concrete washout basins to prevent concrete from flowing into storm drains were not established; or in some instances portable toilets are placed atop storm drain inlets without BMPs to prevent spills from entering the storm drain.
- Incorrect BMPs installation (for example, silt fences were not properly trenched in or sediment ponds were not completed before grading the site).
- Failure to keep BMPs in effective operating condition (for example, silt fences and storm drain inlet protections were full of sediment and no longer effective, silt fences had fallen down or had holes, construction entrances needed additional rock).
- Failure to adequately or routinely inspect BMPs to ensure proper operation and maintenance.
Doing Our Part
Stormwater management is important because sediment-laden lakes, streams and estuaries can’t support a healthy aquatic habitat. Additionally, nutrients, including phosphorus, attach to sediment and travel downstream, causing algal blooms and decreased oxygen levels. Stormwater controls on construction sites help reduce the impact of sediment and nutrients on our valuable water resources.
Learn more about stormwater management from this helpful EPA publication. You can also look to EPA for information regarding post-construction stormwater management common practices. And for the long-term control of stormwater discharge, low impact developmentprovides an opportunity for builders and developers to do a good turn.