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General Description

Unlike pollution from industry or sewage treatment facilities, which is caused by a discrete number of sources, stormwater pollution is caused by the daily activities of people everywhere. It includes stormwater runoff, snow melt runoff, and surface runoff and drainage over the surface of the facility whether the surface be dirt, asphalt, concrete, wood, etc. For a more comprehensive description, see EPA's Stormwater Program.

If you think you may have a permit, but are unsure; or you have a permit and are unsure of the requirements, see EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO). This site includes state and Federal compliance and enforcement data pertaining to the Clean Water Act.

(NOTE: Other websites/data systems which contain information about issues such as: your compliance record, the permits you have, the wastes generated by your facility and your neighbors, the status of your watersheds, air monitoring data, and population statistics can be found under My Community/My Facility.)

Summary of Federal Requirements

Stormwater discharges associated with industrial and construction activities that discharge to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s), or directly into waters of the United States are required to obtain either:

  • individual NPDES stormwater permit coverage, or
  • coverage under the state or EPA's general permit
Consult the Authorization Status for EPA's Stormwater Construction and Industrial Programs and the NPDES State Program Status for information on whether your state or the Federal EPA is the permitting authority.

Specifically, a facility must obtain permit coverage for industrial activities if the activity falls under:

  • one of the 11 categories of Industrial Stormwater Activities, including construction, that result in stormwater discharge to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s), or directly to waters of the United States, or
  • one of the 30 Industrial Sectors listed for the Multi-Sector General Permit.
These activities are defined by either the facilities certain Standard Industrialization Classification, or a general description of the facilities industrial activities.

Federal Facilities that often require stormwater permit coverage include:

  • General Services Administration (Federal Government construction)
  • Naval Facilities Command (transportation vehicles)
  • Army Corps of Engineers (DoD construction)
  • Bureau of Reclamation (transportation vehicles), and
  • other facilities that perform industrial activities, have vehicle fleets and frequently undergo building construction
To facilitate the stormwater permitting process, EPA's Electronic Notice of Intent (eNOI) system allows construction sites and industrial facilities seeking coverage under EPA's stormwater permits to file their forms electronically. Permittees can obtain and terminate permit coverage under EPA's Construction General Permit (CGP), modify and amend previously filed forms, calculate and file a low-erosivity waiver, and much more.

A critical component of every stormwater permit are the assigned Best Management Practices (BMPs). Which BMPs to include and which to exclude can be a part of the permit negotiation process. The International Stormwater BMP Database can be a resource for identifying effective BMP alternatives. States also often publish their own lists of acceptable BMPs.

When identifying BMPs it is also helpful to be aware of surrounding environmental issues such as air and water quality, watershed health, Superfund sites, fish advisories, impaired waters, as well as local services working to protect the environment in your area. A variety of websites/data systems which contain this type of information can be found in My Community/My Facility.

In December 2009, the EPA's Office of Water issued, in coordination with other Federal agencies, EPA document number 841-B-09-001. This document, titled "Technical Guidance on Implementing the Stormwater Runoff Requirements for Federal Projects under Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)" focuses on a step-by-step framework that will help federal agencies maintain pre-development site hydrology by retaining rainfall on-site through infiltration, evaporation/transpiration, and re-use to the same extent as occurred prior to development. This document was developed and issued in response to requirements in EISA.

Construction-related Stormwater Issues

Construction activities (including other land-disturbing activities) that disturb one to five acres are regulated under the NPDES stormwater program Phase II requirements. Activities that disturb more than 5 acres are regulated by Phase I requirements. The Phase II requirements also include smaller sites that are part of a larger common plan of development or sale. Sites less than 1 acre, if determined by local authorities to pose a significant risk to local watersheds, can also be required to get an NPDES permit.

Operators of regulated construction sites are required to obtain permit coverage from an authorized state or from EPA under the Construction General Permit if the state is not authorized by EPA to issue NPDES permits. The Construction General Permit or state permit outlines a set of provisions construction operators must follow to comply with the requirements of the NPDES storm water regulations. Operators of regulated construction sites are required to develop and implement Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) under the Construction General Permit.

On January 11, 2017 EPA's 2017 Construction General Permit (CGP) was issued. The CGP took effect on February 11, 2017. EPA 2017 CGP coverage is available for operators of eligible construction activities in the following areas:

  • Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia;
  • American Samoa, Guam, Johnston Atoll, Midway and Wake Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico;
  • Indian Country lands within Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming;
  • Areas within Colorado, Delaware, Vermont, and Washington subject to construction by a federal operator; and
  • Limited areas of Oklahoma and Texas.

For detailed guidance on issues related to stormwater compliance at construction activities, example Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans, and other resources see the EPA's website on Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities.

Non-Construction Related Stormwater

The NPDES Stormwater Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Activities (MSGP) provides facility-specific requirements for many types of industrial facilities within one overall permit for states where EPA is the permitting authority. The permit outlines steps that facility operators must take prior to being eligible for permit coverage, including development and implementation of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP). See the EPA's MSGP website for additional information.

The NPDES municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) General Permit was created to deal with polluted stormwater runoff which is commonly transported through MS4s) and then often discharged, untreated, into local water bodies. An MS4 is defined as a conveyance or system of conveyances that is:

  • owned by a state, city, town, village, or other public entity that discharges to waters of the U.S.,
  • designed or used to collect or convey stormwater (e.g., storm drains, pipes, ditches),
  • not a combined sewer, and
  • not part of a sewage treatment plant, or publicly owned treatment works (POTW).
Not all MS4s are subject to the MS4 General Permit. For additional information on applicability parameters and the conditions of the permit, see EPA's Stormwater Discharges from Municipal Sources website.

Summary of State Requirements

Most states are authorized to implement the NPDES Stormwater permit program. In a few states, territories, and on most land in Indian Country where the state is not authorized to implement the program, EPA remains the permitting authority.

A state may have requirements that are more stringent than the federal requirements. To obtain permit overage, a facility will need to consider:

  • Submitting a Notice of Intent or permit application,
  • Developing and implementing a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, and
  • Submitting a Notice of Termination.

State-by-state guidance concerning stormwater can be found at ENVCAP's Stormwater Resource Locator.

State-by-state guidance concerning industrial stormwater can be found at ENVCAP's Industrial Stormwater Resource Locator.

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Regulatory Sources
40 CFR 122.26
EPA Administered Permit Programs, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Stormwater Discharges.

40 CFR 122.41
EPA Administered Permit Programs, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Conditions Applicable to All Permits.

State Stormwater Guidance
State-by-State information on stormwater.

State Industrial Stormwater Guidance
State-by-State information on industrial stormwater.

Oil Spill Prevention Self-Audit Checklist for the Construction Industry

Related Topics
EPA Region 1 Seminar on Stormwater & Low Impact Development
Seminar was held on June 10, 2008 in Boston, MA. The related documents provide the seminar agenda and various presentations.

Clean Water Act Trends Map: State Water Dashboard
The Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) authorizes EPA to regulate discharges to waters of the United States. EPA delegates much of the CWA authority to state, territory, and tribal agencies. The State Dashboard provides an overview of Clean Water Act regulatory oversight activities of authorized agencies and EPA. The dashboards provide an easy-to-use summary of key activities to answer questions like: which facilities are regulated, how many have been inspected, how many have alleged violations, and how many enforcement actions have been taken.

Last Updated: March 13, 2018