On November 23, 2009, U.S. EPA issued effluent guidelines for sediment discharges from construction sites. The final rules appeared in the Federal Register on December 1, 2009.

Effluent guidelines are national standards that, in this case, apply to storm water and wastewater discharges to surface waters and publicly owned treatment works (municipal sewage treatment plants). U.S. EPA issues effluent guidelines for categories of existing sources to control pollution from these sources. The final rule is intended to work in concert with existing state and local programs, adding a technology-based "floor" that establishes minimum pollution reduction requirements that apply nationally to construction site runoff. Environmental and Energy

Who is Covered?

Construction site owners and operators must use a range of erosion and sediment control best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pollutants in storm water dewatering and concrete washout discharges. Construction sites that disturb 20 or more acres at one time will be required to conduct monitoring of discharges and comply with the numeric limitation beginning 18 months after the effective date of the final rule, that is August of 2011. Beginning four years after the effective date of the final rule, that is February of 2014, the monitoring requirements and numeric limitation will apply to all sites that disturb 10 or more acres at one time. If the project is phased to limit disturbed areas to less than 10 acres at any one time, the limits do not apply.

How will they be Covered?

The requirements will appear in general and individual Clean Water Act (CWA) permits. Erosion control measures, sediment control measures and other management practices will become permit conditions. These non-numeric effluent limitations will be in addition to the numeric standards discussed below.

Why is this News?

Although storm water permits with BMPs in them have existed for several years, the real news is that U.S. EPA is adding a numeric discharge standard with this rule. U.S. EPA is phasing in the numeric limitation for turbidity over four years to allow permitting authorities adequate time to develop monitoring requirements and to allow the regulated community time to prepare for compliance with the numeric limitation. The turbidity limit applies on days with greater than a local 2-year, 24-hour storm event. Hand-held turbidity meters or in-line turbidity meters can be used to determine compliance.

What will it Cost?

By 2014 the annual cost of the program is expected to be $953 million.

What is the Implementation Timetable?

States who issue their own general CWA construction permits must incorporate the new requirements within 60 days after the effective date of the regulation, that is February 1, 2010. The requirements also apply to individual permits issued by states or U.S. EPA. Therefore, the implementation date of the new requirements will vary depending on when states reissue their permits and whether projects are covered by individual or general permits.