2020 Multi-Sector General Permit Review Update

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA’s) proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) governing stormwater discharges from industrial activities (“proposed permit”). USEPA is seeking public comment on the proposed 2020 MSGP, which would replace the 2015 MSGP upon finalization. The 2015 MSGP expires June 4, 2020. USEPA will take comments on the proposed permit until May 1, 2020.  The USEPA 2020 MSGP website https://www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater-discharges-industrial-activities links the Federal Register for comment instructions.

The existing NPDES MSGP for Industrial Stormwater went into effect on June 4, 2015. The USEPA  2015 MSGP applies in areas of the country where USEPA is the NPDES permitting authority and has made the permit available for coverage. These areas include:

  • Four states: Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico
  • The District of Columbia
  • All United States territories except for the Virgin Islands
  • Federally operated facilities in Colorado, Delaware, Vermont, and Washington
  • Most Indian country lands,
  • Other designated activities in specific states (e.g., oil and gas activities in Texas and Oklahoma).

While the MSGP will apply in these locations, many other states typically incorporate the components of the MSGP in state stormwater permits.

The MSGP permit eligibility is limited to discharges from facilities in the “sectors” of industrial activity summarized in Table D-1 of the 2015 MSGP. The sector descriptions are based on Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes and Industrial Activity Codes. The Sector U – Food and Kindred Products is covered under the MSGP permit for industrial for a multitude of activities.

Although the format of the proposed permit has changed considerably from the current permit, the conditions of the proposed permit remain largely the same as the current permit. There are several changes in the proposed 2020 permit, but no additional specific changes related to the Sector U – Food and Kindred Products. Below is a summary of the general permit revisions proposed for the proposed 2020 MSGP:

  • Streamlining the permit: USEPA proposes to streamline and simplify language throughout the permit to present the requirements in a generally more clear and readable manner. The proposed permit is formatted in a new order that makes more sequential sense as the latter parts often cross-reference requirements in previous parts of the permit.
  • Eligibility for stormwater discharges to a federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) site: the 2015 MSGP requires facilities in USEPA Region 10 that discharge stormwater to certain CERCLA or Superfund sites to notify the USEPA Regional Office in advance and requires the USEPA Regional Office to determine whether the facility is eligible for permit coverage. In the proposed 2020 MSGP, USEPA requests comment on whether this current eligibility criterion should be applied in all USEPA Regions for facilities that discharge to Federal CERCLA sites that may be concern for recontamination from stormwater discharges.
  • Eligibility related to application of coal-tar sealcoat: USEPA proposes that operators, who will use coal-tar sealcoat to initially seal or to re-seal their paved surfaces where industrial activities are located and thereby discharge polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in stormwater, would be eligible for coverage under the 2020 MSGP only if they eliminate such discharge(s). Alternatively, operators who wish to pave their surfaces where industrial activities are located with coal-tar sealcoat may apply for an individual permit.
  • Discharge authorization related to enforcement action: USEPA proposes to establish a discharge authorization waiting period of 60 calendar days after Notice of Intent (NOI) submission for any operations whose discharges were not previously covered under the 2015 MSGP and who have a pending stormwater-related enforcement action by USEPA, a state, or a citizen.
  • Public sign of permit coverage: USEPA proposes that the 2020 MSGP include a requirement that MSGP operators must post a sign of permit coverage at a safe, publicly accessible location in close proximity to the facility.
  • Consideration of major storm control measure enhancements: USEPA proposes that operators would be required to consider implementing enhanced measures for facilities located in areas that could be impacted by stormwater discharges from major storm events that cause extreme flooding conditions.
  • Universal benchmark monitoring for all sectors: USEPA proposes to require all facilities to conduct benchmark monitoring for three indicator parameters of pH (6.0 – 9.0 s.u.), Total Suspended Solids (TSS) (100 mg/L), and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) (120 mg/L), called universal benchmark monitoring.
  • Impaired waters monitoring: Under the 2015 MSGP, operators discharging to impaired waters must monitor once per year for pollutants for which the waterbody is impaired and can discontinue monitoring if these pollutants are not detected or not expected in the discharge. USEPA proposes to require operators discharging to impaired waters to monitor only for those pollutants that are both causing impairments and associated with the industrial activity and/or benchmarks. The proposal specifies that, if the monitored pollutant is not detected in the discharge for three consecutive years, or it is detected but the operator has determined that its presence is caused solely by natural background sources, operators may discontinue monitoring for that pollutant.
  • Updating benchmark values: USEPA proposes to modify and/or requests comment on benchmark thresholds for selenium, arsenic, cadmium, magnesium, iron, and copper based on the latest toxicity information.
  • Sectors with new benchmarks: The 2015 MSGP does not require sector-specific benchmark monitoring for Sector I (Oil and Gas Extraction), Sector P (Land Transportation and Warehousing), or Sector R (Ship and Boat Building and Repair Yards). Based on the National Research Council (NRC) study recommendation which identified potential sources of stormwater pollution from these sectors, USEPA proposes to add benchmark monitoring requirements for these three sectors. No new benchmarks are proposed for the Sector U – Food and Kindred Products.
  • Additional Implementation Measures: USEPA proposes revisions to the 2015 MSGP’s provisions regarding benchmark monitoring exceedances. USEPA proposes new tiered Additional Implementation Measures (AIM), that are triggered by benchmark monitoring exceedances. Operators would be required to respond to different AIM levels with increasingly robust control measures depending on the nature and magnitude of the benchmark threshold exceedance.
  • Revisions to sector-specific fact sheets: USEPA proposes updates to the existing sector-specific fact sheets that include information about control measures and stormwater pollution prevention for each sector to incorporate emerging stormwater control measures.
  • Composite Sampling Methods: USEPA clarified in Section 4.1.4 of the proposed 2020 MSGP that a composite sampling method may be used for benchmark monitoring instead of taking grab samples. This composite method may be either flow-weighted or time-weighted. Composite samples must be initiated during the first 30 minutes of the same storm event. If it is not possible to initiate composite sampling within the first 30 minutes of a measurable storm event, the facility must initiate composite sampling as soon as possible after the first 30 minutes and keep documentation with the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) explaining why it was not possible to initiate composite sampling within the first 30 minutes. Composite sampling may not be used to measure parameters that have a short holding time for processing or that degrade or transform quickly such as pH, temperature, oil and grease, and chromium.

USEPA proposes new tiered AIM that are triggered by benchmark monitoring exceedances. If any of the AIM Tier triggering events occur, a facility must follow the response procedures described in the proposed 2020 MSGP. There are three AIM levels: AIM Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. A facility is required to respond to different AIM levels which prescribe increasingly robust responses depending on the nature and magnitude of the benchmark exceedance.

In summary, USEPA has developed a proposed new General Permit for Industrial Stormwater to replace the current permit. While the proposed permit includes significant reorganization and streamlining, the conditions of the draft permit remain largely the same as the previous permit with the exception of proposed tiered AIMs in response to benchmark exceedances by a facility. With regard to the Sector U – Food and Kindred Products, there are no substantive changes to the requirements for these types of facilities.

While there are no significant changes to the sector-specific requirements for the Food and Kindred Products Sector, these facilities should be aware of the general changes to the proposed permit described in this summary and ensure that their stormwater management programs incorporate these changes when the draft new permit becomes effective. USEPA will take comments on the proposed permit until May 1, 2020.

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