On Monday, July 6, 2009, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) published a draft of the new NPDES/SDS Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Stormwater Activity. Through August 5, 2009, the MPCA will be accepting comments from businesses and individuals who have concerns about how the new permit will affect them if the permit is finalized in its current form. Most facilities that were or should have been covered under the MPCA's most recent and now expired General Storm Water Permit For Industrial Activity will need to apply for coverage under the new permit. Therefore, owners and operators of covered facilities should understand the proposed requirements and consider whether they should submit comments to the MPCA before the comment period expires.

Why the New Permit?

In an effort to reduce pollution from the discharge of stormwater that has been contaminated through contact with industrial materials and activities, the MPCA has for years required many industrial facilities to obtain coverage under a General Storm Water Permit For Industrial Activity and to comply with the provisions of that permit. The most recent permit, Permit No. MN G611000, expired in 2002 and the MPCA is required by law to issue a new permit to take its place.

Who Will Be Affected?

The new permit will cover the same facilities as the expired permit. Thus, if your facility obtained coverage under the expired permit, you will need to apply for coverage under the new permit unless you certify that industrial materials and activities are not exposed to stormwater. If your facility did not obtain coverage under the expired permit, you should not assume that the new permit will not apply to you. The MPCA estimates that there are 4,000 facilities in Minnesota that were required to obtain coverage under the expired permit, but failed to do so.

Industrial facilities that fall within one of 11 categories of industrial activities are required to apply for coverage under the General Industrial Stormwater Permit Program. These 11 categories include, among others: manufacturing, petroleum refining, transportation, scrap and waste materials, and mining. These categories are further divided into 29 sectors that include specific Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes. Specific sectors include metal mining, paper and allied products, hazardous waste treatment storage or disposal, printing and publishing, and fabricated metal products. A complete list of the industrial activity categories and SIC Codes that trigger the need for coverage can be viewed here.

What New Requirements Will This Permit Impose?

The most far-reaching change, and perhaps the most fertile ground for public comment, is the requirement that permitted facilities engage in "benchmark monitoring" of stormwater discharges. Under the draft permit, each of the 29 industrial sectors that are covered by the permit will need to monitor for specific pollutants and conform to benchmark concentrations for these pollutants. For example, a facility that manufactures food products will be required to monitor for total suspended solids (TSS), among other things. If the concentration of TSS exceeds the stated benchmark, the facility will be required to revise its management practices and engage in further monitoring until the concentration is below the benchmark.

Obviously, a correct understanding of the pollutants that are associated with a particular industrial sector is critical to the MPCA's selection of appropriate pollutants for monitoring and its determination of appropriate benchmark concentrations. Industry members should therefore communicate to the MPCA any information that suggests the need for changes to the agency's initial selection of pollutants and benchmark concentrations, which are set forth in Part VII of the draft permit. Additionally, because the benchmark monitoring program may require operational changes and new expenditures, industry members should advise the MPCA of any concerns they have regarding the cost and other practical implications of implementing this new requirement.

The draft permit also contains provisions that are designed to protect clean waters and prevent further degradation of the state's Impaired Waters. Consequently, facilities located within one mile of, and discharging to, Impaired Waters or Outstanding Resource Value Waters, may be required to satisfy additional stormwater management and/or monitoring requirements. A list of Minnesota's Impaired Waters can be viewed here. Many of Minnesota's Outstanding Resource Value Waters are listed in Minnesota Rules 7050.0180, which can be viewed here.

Timeline and Next Steps

Any business or individual who wishes to inform the MPCA of concerns about the draft permit must submit comments on or before August 5, 2009. The MPCA anticipates that it will review all comments and finalize the new permit by December 2009. The MPCA expects to begin receiving applications for the new permit in January 2010.