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NPDES Topics Alphabetical Index Glossary About NPDES

NPDES Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of all NPDES Frequently Asked Questions:


What is an NPDES permit?

The Clean Water Act prohibits anybody from discharging "pollutants" through a "point source" into a "water of the United States" unless they have an NPDES permit. The permit will contain limits on what you can discharge, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge does not hurt water quality or people's health. In essence, the permit translates general requirements of the Clean Water Act into specific provisions tailored to the operations of each person discharging pollutants.

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Why are NPDES permits required for pesticide applications?

Section 301(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits any point source discharge of a pollutant to waters of the United States unless the discharge is in compliance with certain sections of the Act. One way a person may discharge pollutants without violating the Section 301 prohibition is by obtaining authorization under a Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

The requirement to obtain NPDES permits for point source discharges from pesticide applications to waters of the United States stems from a 2009 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In its ruling on National Cotton Council, et al. v. EPA, the Court vacated the EPA’s 2006 rule which said NPDES permits were not required for discharges of pesticides to waters of the United States for applications of pesticides to, or over, including near such waters when in compliance with the existing label (per the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or “FIFRA”). In its ruling, the Sixth Circuit determined that (1) biological pesticides and (2) chemical pesticides that leave a residue are pollutants as defined under the CWA and as such are subject to regulations applicable to pollutants. Courts have previously determined that applications of pesticides, such as from nozzles of planes and trucks, irrigation equipment, etc. are point sources. As a result of the Sixth Circuit’s decision, point source discharges to waters of the United States from the application of pesticides require NPDES permits as of October 31, 2011.

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What is a point source?

The term point source is also defined very broadly in the Clean Water Act because it has been through 25 years of litigation. It means any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, such as a pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, discrete fissure, or container. It also includes vessels or other floating craft from which pollutants are or may be discharged. By law, the term "point source" also includes concentrated animal feeding operations, which are places where animals are confined and fed. By law, agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture are not "point sources".

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When are NPDES permits required for pesticide applications?

A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required for discharges of pollutants from pesticide applications as of October 31, 2011.

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What is a water of the United States?

The term water of the United States" is also defined very broadly in the Clean Water Act and after 25 years of litigation. It means navigable waters, tributaries to navigable waters, interstate waters, the oceans out to 200 miles, and intrastate waters which are used: by interstate travelers for recreation or other purposes, as a source of fish or shellfish sold in interstate commerce, or for industrial purposes by industries engaged in interstate commerce.

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Which pesticide application activities require NPDES permits?

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are required for any point source discharge to waters of the United States from the application of (1) biological pesticides and (2) chemical pesticides that leave a residue. The EPA identified four pesticide use patterns that generally include the full range of pesticide application activities that meet this condition, including mosquitoes and other flying insect pests, weeds and algae, animal pests, and forest canopy pests. This includes point source discharges from entities such as irrigation and mosquito control districts, federal, state, and local governments, and for-hire pesticide applicators.

NPDES permits are not required for non-point source discharges. The Clean Water Act (CWA) also exempts discharges of agricultural stormwater or irrigation return flow from the need for NPDES permits. Furthermore, in promulgating the 2006 NPDES Pesticides Rule, the EPA expressly noted that the Rule did not cover applications of pesticides to terrestrial agricultural crops where runoff from the crop, either as irrigation return flow or agricultural stormwater, discharges into waters of the United States. It is important to note that if the pest to be targeted is a distance from waters of the United States, but that application is made such that a portion of the pesticide will be unavoidably deposited to waters of the United States and result in a discharge (for example, an application is made on a creek bank), an NPDES permit is required.

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What is a pollutant?

The term pollutant is defined very broadly in the Clean Water Act because it has been through 25 years of litigation. It includes any type of industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water. Some examples are dredged soil, solid waste, incinerator residue, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste. By law, a pollutant is not sewage or discharges incidental to the normal operation of an Armed Forces vessel, or water, gas, or other material injected into an oil and gas production well.

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What if the label for a pesticide says it is approved for use in aquatic environments (i.e., use in water)? Do discharges to waters of the United States resulting from these pesticide applications still need an NPDES permit?

Yes. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for pesticide discharges to waters of the United States are required under the Clean Water Act (CWA). In addition to NPDES permits, the user of the pesticide must follow the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) label. The CWA and FIFRA requirements operate independently of each other. This permit does not negate the requirements under FIFRA and its implementing regulations to use registered pesticides consistent with the product’s labeling. Applications in violation of certain FIFRA requirements could also be a violation of the permit and therefore a violation of the CWA (e.g., exceeding label application rates).

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Do I need an NPDES permit?

It depends on where you discharge pollutants. If you discharge from a point source into the waters of the United States, you need an NPDES permit. If you discharge pollutants into a municipal sanitary sewer system, you do not need an NPDES permit, but you should ask the municipality about their permit requirements. If you discharge pollutants into a municipal storm sewer system, you may need a permit depending on what you discharge. You should ask the NPDES permitting authority.

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What if the label for a pesticide says it is not approved for use in water? Do discharges from these pesticides need an NPDES permit?

Possibly. Some pesticide labels refer to “water” and not “waters of the United States.” It is possible that some pesticide products that are not approved for use in “water” may result in discharges to waters of the United States. For example, waters of the United States may be dry at the time of pesticide application, such as during applications for weed control in dry washes and ephemeral streams on forest or range lands. As such, there may be situations where pesticide applications to temporarily dry waters of the United States are performed using pesticides labeled for terrestrial or seasonally-dry use. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements apply regardless of whether the waters of the United States are wet or dry at the time of the discharge.

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Where do I apply for a NPDES permit?

NPDES permits are issued by states that have obtained EPA approval to issue permits or by EPA Regions in states without such approval. The following map illustrates the states with full, partial, and no NPDES Authority. This file in PDF format provides the status of state NPDES Programs.

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Is an NPDES permit required for discharges from pesticides applications that only occur for a short time?

Yes. All applications of (1) biological pesticides and (2) chemical pesticides that leave a residue, in which applications are made directly to waters of the United States, or where a portion of the pesticide will unavoidably be deposited to waters of the United States, are required to be covered under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The Clean Water Act does not provide the EPA with the authority to exclude certain types of discharges from the need to obtain permit coverage, such as small “de minimus” or short-term discharges, discharges from emergency situations (except in very limited circumstances as described in 40 CFR 122.3(d) where discharge is in compliance with the instructions of an On-Scene Coordinator), or discharges to “small” waters of the United States.

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How do NPDES permits protect water?

An NPDES permit will generally specify an acceptable level of a pollutant or pollutant parameter in a discharge (for example, a certain level of bacteria). The permittee may choose which technologies to use to achieve that level. Some permits, however, do contain certain generic 'best management practices' (such as installing a screen over the pipe to keep debris out of the waterway). NPDES permits make sure that a state's mandatory standards for clean water and the federal minimums are being met.

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Do any of the following affect whether an NPDES permit is required for my pesticide discharge:

  1. Method of application (e.g., using hand sprayers, vehicle-mounted tanks with sprayer nozzles, or fixed- or rotary-wing aircrafts, etc.)
  2. Type of product (e.g., adulticides, larvacides, herbicides, insecticides, piscicides, algaecides, rodenticides, fungicides, etc.); or
  3. Industry (e.g., utility right-of-way, agricultural, golf course, railroad track maintenance, irrigation control, mosquito control, etc.)?

No. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are required for any pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States (unless exempted irrigated return flow or agricultural stormwater), regardless of the method of application, type of product, or industry.

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Can the general public participate in NPDES permitting decisions?

Yes. The NPDES administrative procedures require that the public be notified and allowed to comment on NPDES permit applications. When EPA authorizes a state to issue NPDES permits, EPA requires that the state provide the public with this same access.

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Are federal agencies required to obtain NPDES permits for their pesticide applications?

Yes. For determining the need for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage, federal agencies are not treated differently than any other discharger and thus, are required to obtain NPDES permits for any pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States.

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How are the conditions in NPDES permits enforced by EPA and the states?

There are various methods used to monitor NPDES permit conditions. The permit will require the facility to sample its discharges and notify EPA and the state regulatory agency of these results. In addition, the permit will require the facility to notify EPA and the state regulatory agency when the facility determines it is not in compliance with the requirements of a permit. EPA and state regulatory agencies also will send inspectors to companies in order to determine if they are in compliance with the conditions imposed under their permits.

Federal laws provide EPA and authorized state regulatory agencies with various methods of taking enforcement actions against violators of permit requirements. For example, EPA and state regulatory agencies may issue administrative orders which require facilities to correct violations and that assess monetary penalties. The laws also allow EPA and state agencies to pursue civil and criminal actions that may include mandatory injunctions or penalties, as well as jail sentences for persons found willfully violating requirements and endangering the health and welfare of the public or environment. Equally important is how the general public can enforce permit conditions. The facility monitoring reports are public documents, and the general public can review them. If any member of the general public finds that a facility is violating its NPDES permit, that member can independently start a legal action, unless EPA or the state regulatory agency has taken an enforcement action.

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Are federal agencies required to obtain an NPDES permit for pesticide applications conducted on federal property but where those applications are operated by a non-federal lessee or similar non-federal party?

It depends. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations, at 40 CFR §122.21(b), require that when a facility or activity is owned by one entity but operated by another, it is the Operator’s duty to obtain a permit. The EPA, in its pesticide general permit (PGP), defines “Operator” as any entity associated with the application of pesticides which results in a discharge to waters of the United States that meets either of the following two criteria: (1) any entity who performs the application of a pesticide or who has day-to-day control of the application (i.e., they are authorized to direct workers to carry out those activities), or (2) any entity with control over the decision to perform pesticide applications including the ability to modify those decisions. Thus, in certain instances, more than one entity may meet the definition of “Operator.” In these instances, each Operator is required to be covered under an NPDES permit.

If a federal agency leases land to, or enters into a purchase agreement with, another entity (such as for grazing, operating a ski resort, exploring for or producing oil and gas, or managing and harvesting timber), the lessee or purchaser generally is required to obtain an NPDES permit as the “Operator” of those pesticide activities. A possible exception to the lessee/purchaser scenario described above would be if the lease agreement contains specific language imposing pesticide application requirements (i.e., detailing how the lessee is to control pests). Such requirements might also specify the timing of applications, chemical/product types, application rates, or specific weeds or other pests to be controlled on the lease. Such language may indicate that the federal agency is controlling the pesticide application decision, and therefore is an Operator as is the entity who is applying the pesticides.

The EPA, in its PGP, used the terms “Decision-maker” and “Applicator” to assign responsibilities for complying with the permit. The different terms acknowledge the different roles that these two types of Operators play in the process of applying pesticides. By definition, both are required to obtain NPDES permit coverage.

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What is the NPDES Permit Backlog?

The Clean Water Act specifies that NPDES permits may not be issued for a term longer than five years. Permittees that wish to continue discharging beyond the five year term must submit a complete application for permit renewal at least 180 days prior to the expiration date of their permit. If the permitting authority receives a complete application, but does not reissue the permit prior to the expiration date, the permit may be "administratively continued. "Permits that have been administratively continued beyond their expiration date are considered to be "backlogged." Where information is available, facilities awaiting their first NPDES permits are also considered part of the NPDES permit backlog.

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How close to waters of the United States do my applications have to be to require an NPDES permit?

If a pesticide discharge occurs directly to waters of the United States, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required. If the pest to be targeted is at a distance from waters of the United States, but that application is made such that a portion of the pesticide will be unavoidably deposited to waters of the United States (for example, an application is made on a creek bank), an NPDES permit is required.

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What are the Current Backlog Rates?

The chart on the left shows the current NPDES permit issuance and backlog rates. As of July 31, 2000, 68 percent of NPDES permits are current. This represents an improvement of 13 percent from the backlog measured in November 1998 (54 percent).

Over the last 22 months EPA Headquarters has provided assistance to states and EPA Regions to clean up invalid records in PCS. Other states were encouraged to improve PCS on their own initiative. This effort has been very successful.

Since the EPA and states began focusing on cleaning up PCS data, the overall universe of permittees in PCS has declined 18 percent. Records in PCS that were listed as not having a permit expiration date have been reduced by 56 percent. Now, EPA is able to more accurately track the backlog of facilities with individual permits on a national basis. EPA is now working with states and EPA Regions to better characterize facilities that are covered by non-stormwater and stormwater permits.

While EPA is encouraged by the positive trends, permit issuance trends data compiled since November, 1998 continue to show that accelerated permit issuance rates are necessary to meet backlog reduction goals for many states. At the same time that states and EPA Regions are being encouraged to accelerate permit issuance rates, EPA HQ is examining ways to improve the quality of NPDES permits and bring about changes in policy to improve the permit issuance process.

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How does the EPA define “near” waters of the United States?

Although the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not define the term “near” in the context of the 2006 Pesticides Final Rule, the EPA interprets this term to refer to the unavoidable discharge of pesticides to waters of the United States in order to target pests in close proximity to but not necessarily in such waters. For example, this can occur while treating weeds along the bank of a ditch. The EPA does not use or define the term “near” in its pesticide general permit or elsewhere in its regulations.

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What are the Backlog Reduction Goals?

The goals established by EPA acknowledge some minimal backlog levels, but strive to keep permit issuance at an acceptable rate. Because backlog reduction, the NPDES program's long-term viability, and protection of human health and the environment are inherently linked, EPA has established the following quantitative targets for reducing the backlog:

  • The backlog of NPDES permits for major facilities will be reduced to 10 percent in all states by the end of calendar year 2001.
  • The backlog of NPDES permits for major and minor facilities will be reduced to 10 percent by the end of calendar year 2004.

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Is an NPDES permit required for pesticides applied to waters of the United States that are dry at the time of the discharge?

Yes. If a permitting authority determines that the pesticide application will indeed result in a discharge to waters of the United States, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required. A water of the United States does not lose its jurisdictional status if it becomes dry during extraordinary circumstances such as drought or if it flows continuously during parts of the year and has no flow during dry months. A discharger will need a permit regardless of whether the waters of the United States are wet, partially wet, or dry at the time of the discharge.

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Is it legal to have wastewater coming out of a pipe into my local receiving water (e.g., lake, stream, river, wetland)?

As long as the wastewater being discharged is covered by and in compliance with an NPDES permit, there are enough controls in place to make sure the discharge is safe and that humans and aquatic life are being protected. To find out if a discharge is covered by an NPDES permit, call the EPA Regional office or the state office responsible for issuing NPDES permits.

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How does one determine whether a discharge occurs to waters of the United States (for example, if the discharge is to dry ditches along public roads)?

The determination of whether a discharge from the application of pesticides requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requires a site-specific evaluation of whether that discharge will be made to (i.e., within the boundary of) “waters of the United States” or to an area with a direct hydrologic surface connection to waters of the United States at the time of application. This determination is to be made based on the definition of “waters of the United States” in the EPA’s and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ respective regulations at 40 C.F.R. 122.2 and 33 C.F.R. 328.3(a), in accordance with principles enunciated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) and Rapanos v.United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006). The boundary of such waters, i.e., the landward limit of waters of the United States, is defined as the ordinary high water mark in non-tidal waters and the high tide line in tidal waters, and when adjacent wetlands are present, the limit of jurisdiction extends to the limit of the wetland.

The ordinary high water mark is the line on shore established by the fluctuations of water and indicated by physical characteristics such as a clear, natural line impressed on the bank, shelving, changes in the character of soil, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter and debris, or other appropriate means that consider the characteristics of the surrounding area.

The high tide line is the line or mark left upon tide flats, beaches, or along shore objects that indicates the intersection of the land with the water’s surface at the maximum height reached by a rising tide. The high tide line may be determined by tidal gages, physical markings or characteristics, vegetation lines, a more or less continuous deposit of fine shell or debris on the foreshore or berm, or other suitable means such as a line of oil or scum along the shore that delineate the general height reached by a rising tide. The term includes spring high tides and other high tides that occur with periodic frequency, but does not include storm surges in which there is a departure from the normal or predicted reach of the tide due to the piling up of water against a coast by strong winds such as those accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm (See http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portals/74/docs/regulatory/JurisdictionalLimits/Jurisdictional_Limits_Brochure.pdf.)

Additional information on the EPA’s interpretation and implementation of the term “waters of the United States” can be accessed from the EPA’s website. Interested parties may also contact their NPDES permitting authority.

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Is there any information available to me on permits in my area?

Yes, there is a national system that provides certain permitting information called the Permits Compliance System (PCS). You can find out more about your local watershed through EPA's "Surf Your Watershed".

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Is an NPDES permit required for chemical pesticide applications that do not leave a residue?

No. A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would not be necessary if it is determined that a residual did not enter waters of the United States. However, if a chemical pesticide is discharged to waters of the United States, any excess pesticides or pesticides that no longer provide any pesticidal benefit that remain in those waters are considered “residual.” Thus, the EPA expects that some portion of every pesticide applied to waters of the United States will leave a residual in those waters. As such the EPA assumes that every application of chemical pesticides to waters of the United States will trigger the requirement for an NPDES permit.

The EPA recommends that an entity applying chemical pesticides with a discharge to waters of the United States who disagrees with this assumption be able to provide scientific data supporting such a determination. Such data should show what level of the pesticide can be detected in water, and at what level in water the pesticide provides a pesticidal benefit. Such data should address the properties of the chemical pesticide under different water conditions (e.g., different pH, organic content, temperature, depth, etc.) that might affect the pesticide’s properties. A permit would not be necessary if the data indicates that a residual does not enter waters of the United States.

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Typically, how long are NPDES permits effective?

The Clean Water Act limits the length of NPDES permits to five years. NPDES permits can be renewed (reissued) at any time after the permit holder applies. In addition, NPDES permits can be administratively extended if the facility reapplies more than 180 days before the permit expires, and EPA or the state regulatory agency, which ever issued the original permit, agrees to extend the permit.

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Are there thresholds for application areas below which an NPDES permit is not required? For example, are Operators exempt from NPDES permitting for pesticides applied below the “annual treatment area threshold” values listed in the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (e.g., 80 acres, 20 linear miles, 6400 acres)?

No. There are no threshold values in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program to determine whether or not NPDES permit coverage is required for pesticide discharges. NPDES permit coverage, either under an individual permit or a general permit, is required for all applications of biological pesticides, and chemical pesticides that leave a residue, when applications are made directly to waters of the United States or where a portion of the pesticide will unavoidably be deposited to waters of the United States.

The “annual treatment area threshold” values listed in the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) establish whether or not Operators must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to obtain coverage under the EPA’s PGP and comply with more comprehensive permit requirements.

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What is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program?

Polluted stormwater runoff is a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards. Over land or via storm sewer systems, polluted runoff is discharged, often untreated, directly into local water bodies. When left uncontrolled, this water pollution can result in the destruction of fish, wildlife, and aquatic life habitats; a loss in aesthetic value; and threats to public health due to contaminated food, drinking water supplies, and recreational waterways.

Mandated by Congress under the Clean Water Act, the NPDES Stormwater Program is a comprehensive two-phased national program for addressing the non-agricultural sources of stormwater discharges which adversely affect the quality of our nation's waters. The program uses the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting mechanism to require the implementation of controls designed to prevent harmful pollutants from being washed by stormwater runoff into local water bodies.

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Did the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision address pesticide applications made to locations other than to waters of the United States where, for example, other NPDES permits may already exist for discharges from the facility/site?

No. Pesticide discharges from industrial operations where pesticides are applied within a facility/site for control of pests within the process/site and then ultimately discharged via end-of-pipe were not part of the National Cotton Council, et al. v. EPA lawsuit or Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage has been required for those types of pesticide discharges since the inception of the NPDES program. For example, discharges to waters of the United States from the application of pesticides for the control of zebra mussels within a piped cooling system required NPDES permit coverage prior to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. Such is still the case.

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What is required of regulated entities under the NPDES Stormwater Program?

The regulated entities must obtain coverage under an NPDES stormwater permit and implement stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs) or stormwater management programs (both using best management practices (BMPs)) that effectively reduce or prevent the discharge of pollutants into receiving waters.

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Does obtaining an NPDES permit expose pesticide applicators to increased legal liabilities?

No. In fact, the opposite is true. Any Operator who does not have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and whose application of pesticides results in a discharge to waters of the United States, is discharging illegally and may be in violation of the Clean Water Act. An NPDES permit authorizes the discharge of pollutants provided all of the permit conditions are met and thus, obtaining an NPDES permit and complying with the terms of an NPDES permit actually shields the Operator from liability, including certain forms of third party citizen suit liability.

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Whom should entities regulated under the NPDES Stormwater Program contact to obtain permit coverage?

Regulated entities should contact their NPDES permitting authority, which will be either their state or EPA Regional Office, depending on the type of entity and its location. For regulated entities located in areas where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority, all information and forms needed to obtain permit coverage are available through visiting any one of the three regulated stakeholder areas (MS4s, industrial activity, construction activity) or the Resources section of this web site.

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Which government agencies issue NPDES permits?

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes a framework that provides the ability for states and territories to assume responsibility for administering National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Most states and the Virgin Islands have obtained this authority and as such are the ones issuing the NPDES permits. Typically it is the state environmental protection agencies that issue these permits. However, the EPA still issues permits in certain areas and for certain types of discharges where states, territories, and tribes have not obtained NPDES permitting authority. As of October 31, 2011, areas where the EPA is still the authorized NPDES permitting authority for pesticide discharges are as follows:

  • Alaska (note: the state will take over permitting on 10/31/2012)
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas, but only for activities associated with oil and gas, or geothermal resources
  • Washington, DC
  • Puerto Rico plus all other U.S. territories except the Virgin Islands
  • Indian Country lands nationwide except within the State of Maine
  • Federal facilities in four additional states:
    • Colorado
    • Delaware
    • Vermont
    • Washington (federal facilities in other NPDES-authorized states must seek coverage under a state-issued NPDES permit)

A detailed list of the areas where the EPA is the NPDES permitting authority for pesticide discharges is available at: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/pgp_appc.pdf.

The remaining 44 states (and the Virgin Islands) are authorized to administer the NPDES permitting program, and as such, are responsible for developing and issuing their own state NPDES pesticide permits.

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What kinds of stormwater discharges are required to have NPDES stormwater permit coverage?

The NPDES stormwater permit regulations, promulgated by EPA, cover the following classes of stormwater discharges on a nationwide basis:

  • Operators of MS4s located in "urbanized areas" as delineated by the Bureau of the Census,
  • Industrial facilities in any of the 11 categories that discharge to an MS4 or to waters of the United States; all categories of industrial activity (except construction) may certify to a condition of "no exposure" if their industrial materials and operations are not exposed to stormwater, thus eliminating the need to obtain stormwater permit coverage,
  • Operators of construction activity that disturbs 1 or more acres of land; construction sites less than 1 acre are covered if part of a larger plan of development.

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If an Operator has discharges in more than one state, what should the Operator do to obtain permit coverage?

Operators must obtain permit coverage separately for each state where their discharges will occur. For example, if the discharges will occur in Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Operator must obtain a permit from the EPA for the discharges in Oklahoma (since it is an EPA-administered area), and a permit from Arkansas for the discharges in Arkansas.

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Construction: Who must seek permit Coverage Under an EPA construction General Permit?

See Stormwater Phase II Final Rule-Small Construction Program Overview (Fact Sheet 3.0) for more information on both the small and large construction programs.

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Where can an Operator find more information on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) pesticide permitting in their state?

Information on applicable pesticide permitting in each state can be accessed from the pesticides home page. Contact information and permitting details for NPDES-authorized states can be accessed at the pesticides contacts page.

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Construction: What types of construction activities are regulated under the construction stormwater permit program?

All construction activities 1 acre or larger must obtain permit coverage. Construction activities less than 1 acre must also obtain coverage if they are part of a larger common plan of development or sale that totals at least 1 acre. Small construction activities, i.e., less than 5 acres, may qualify for a waiver. For more information on the waiver see http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/waiver.cfm.

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If an NPDES-authorized state does not have a general permit for pesticide discharges, what should Operators do to obtain permit coverage?

In this instance, the only permitting option available is for the Operator to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) individual permit by submitting a permit application to the state.

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Construction: Is the oil and gas industry required to apply for construction stormwater permit coverage?

Oil and gas industry construction activities that disturb more than five acres of land are required to apply for permit coverage. EPA has postponed until March 10, 2005, the permit application date for oil and gas construction activity that disturbs one of five acres, i.e., those covered under the Phase II rule. State permitting authorities may require small oil and gas construction activities to obtain permit coverage immediately.

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Is there a fee for coverage under an NPDES permit?

The EPA does not charge a fee for applying for or obtaining coverage under any National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit; however, many of the NPDES-authorized states do charge fees for permit applications, Notices of Intent, and/or permit coverage.

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Construction: Who is responsible for applying for a construction stormwater permit?

The operator is responsible for applying for the permit as required by 40 CFR 122.21(b). The operator is the person who has operational control over construction plans and specifications, and/or the person who has day-to-day supervision and control of activities occurring at a construction site. In some cases, the operator may be the owner or the developer, in other cases the operator may be the general contractor, in some cases both entities will be considered operators. Some States require a single entity, usually the land owner or easement holder, to be the permittee for a given construction project. Other States and EPA require all relevant entities to obtain permit coverage, as co-permittees, for a given construction project. Contact your permitting authority for clarification on who must apply.

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What types of NPDES permits are available for pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States?

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program provides for two types of permits: individual and general. Permitting authorities may develop general permits in part to reduce administrative burdens associated with individual permits for Operators. Without coverage under a general permit, any pesticide discharge to waters of the United States that requires coverage under an NPDES permit must be controlled under an individual permit.

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Construction: What is meant by a "larger common plan of development or sale?"

A "larger common plan of development or sale" is a contiguous area where multiple separate and distinct construction activities may be taking place at different times on different schedules under one plan. For example, if a developer buys a 20-acre lot and builds roads, installs pipes, and runs electricity with the intention of constructing homes or other structures sometime in the future, this would be considered a larger common plan of development or sale. If the land is parceled off or sold, and construction occurs on plots that are less than one acre by separate, independent builders, this activity still would be subject to stormwater permitting requirements if the smaller plots were included on the original site plan. The larger common plan of development or sale also applies to other types of land development such as industrial parks or well fields. A permit is required if 1 or more acres of land will be disturbed, regardless of the size of any of the individually-owned or developed sites.

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What are the primary differences between an NPDES individual permit and an NPDES general permit?

A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) individual permit is written to reflect site-specific conditions of a single discharger (or in rare instances to multiple co-permittees) based on information submitted by that discharger in a permit application and is unique to that discharger whereas an NPDES general permit is written to cover multiple dischargers with similar operations and types of discharges based on the permit writer’s professional knowledge of those types of activities and discharges. Individual permits are issued directly to an individual discharger whereas a general permit is issued to no one in particular with multiple dischargers obtaining coverage under that general permit after it is issued, consistent with the permit eligibility and authorization provisions. As such, dischargers covered under general permits know their applicable requirements before obtaining coverage under that permit. Furthermore, obtaining coverage under a general permit is typically quicker than an individual permit with coverage under a general permit often occurring immediately (depending on how the permit is written) or after a short waiting period. Coverage under an individual permit may take six months or longer.

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What is the process for applying for coverage under an NPDES general permit?

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permits do not require that Operators “apply” for coverage; rather, general permits typically rely on the submission of a document called a Notice of Intent (NOI). An NOI differs from an individual permit application in that it is submitted by Operators after the general permit is issued by the permitting authority. An NOI for a general permit is a notice to the NPDES permitting authority of an Operator’s intent to be covered under a general permit, and typically contains basic information about the Operator and the planned discharge for which coverage is being requested. Some general permits, such as the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit, automatically cover some Operator discharges without submission of an NOI. In these instances, Operators must comply with applicable permit requirements for their pesticide applications without submission of any paperwork to the permitting authority (or in some instances, submission of some other type of notification document).

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Construction: What waivers are available for Stormwater Phase II construction activity?

Under the Stormwater Phase II Rule, NPDES permitting authorities have the option of providing a waiver from the requirements to operators of "small" construction activity who could certify to one of two conditions:

  1. Low predicted rainfall potential (i.e., activity occurs during a negligible rainfall period), where the rainfall erosivity factor ("R" in the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE)) is less than 5 during the period of construction activity.
  2. A determination that stormwater controls are not necessary based on either: (A) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) approved or established by EPA that addresses the pollutant(s) of concern for construction activities; or (B) For non-impaired waters that do not require TMDLs, an equivalent analysis that determines allocations for small construction sites for the pollutant(s) of concern or that determines that such allocations are not needed to protect water quality based on consideration of existing in-stream concentrations, expected growth in pollutant contributions from all sources, and a margin of safety.

Note: Waivers are not available for any construction activity disturbing 5 acres or greater, or less than 5 acres if part of a common plan of development or sale (or if designated for permit coverage by the NPDES permitting authority).

See the Stormwater Construction General Permit page for more information on waivers.

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How do Operators apply for coverage under an NPDES individual permit?

An Operator must submit a permit application to apply for coverage under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) individual permit. The application form must be submitted to the permitting authority at least180 days before the expected commencement of the discharge. NPDES permit application requirements are in Part 122, Subpart B and identified on forms developed by the EPA. NPDES-authorized states are not required to use the EPA application forms; however, any alternative form used by an NPDES-authorized state must include the federal requirements at a minimum. The EPA’s application forms are available at the permit applications and forms page.

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How are the requirements developed in NPDES permits for pesticide discharges?

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits must contain permit conditions determined necessary to meet the Clean Water Act (CWA) and NPDES regulatory requirements for controlling discharges of pesticides to waters of the United States. For example, the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) includes both technology-based effluent limitations and water quality-based effluent limitations as necessary, which is consistent with CWA requirements. Since there are no national effluent limitation guidelines for such discharges, the EPA developed the PGP’s effluent limitations based on permit writer’s Best Professional Judgment (BPJ) necessary to meet the requirements of the CWA. NPDES permits also contain many other conditions (e.g., monitoring, reporting, recordkeeping) required under the NPDES regulations but based on permit writer’s BPJ specific to these pesticide discharges. In addition, all NPDES permits are required to include “standard conditions” consistent with the regulation requirements in 40 CFR 122.41. NPDES permits issued by NPDES-authorized states are required to follow similar procedures although states may include more stringent requirements consistent with any applicable state laws.

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MS4: What is a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4)?

The regulatory definition of an MS4 (40 CFR 122.26(b)(8)) is "a conveyance or system of conveyances (including roads with drainage systems, municipal streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, man-made channels, or storm drains): (i) Owned or operated by a state, city, town, borough, county, parish, district, association, or other public body (created to or pursuant to state law) including special districts under state law such as a sewer district, flood control district or drainage district, or similar entity, or an Indian tribe or an authorized Indian tribal organization, or a designated and approved management agency under section 208 of the Clean Water Act that discharges into waters of the United States. (ii) Designed or used for collecting or conveying stormwater; (iii) Which is not a combined sewer; and (iv) Which is not part of a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) as defined at 40 CFR 122.2."

In practical terms, operators of MS4s can include municipalities and local sewer districts, state and federal departments of transportation, public universities, public hospitals, military bases, and correctional facilities. The Stormwater Phase II Rule added federal systems, such as military bases and correctional facilities by including them in the definition of small MS4s.

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Do the NPDES-authorized states need to include requirements to protect endangered species and critical habitat, as the EPA’s PGP does?

This varies by state. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 requires all federal agencies to ensure, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together, the “Services”), that any federal action carried out by any agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species (together, “listed” species), or result in the adverse modification or destruction of habitat of such species that is designated by the Services as critical (“critical habitat”). See 16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2), 50 CFR 402. The EPA’s issuance of the Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is a federal action requiring such consultation. Section 7 of the ESA does not apply to NPDES-authorized states for issuance of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits; although a number of states have adopted procedures to evaluate listed species and their critical habitat consistent with federal procedures.

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MS4: Which MS4s are regulated by the NPDES Stormwater Program?

For regulatory purposes, EPA's NPDES Stormwater Program regulates "medium," "large," and "regulated small MS4s."

A medium MS4 is a system that is located in an incorporated place or county with a population between 100,000 - 249,999.

A large MS4 is a system that is located in an incorporated place or county with a population of 250,000 or more.

In addition, some MS4s that serve a population below 100,000 have been brought into the Phase I program by an NPDES permitting authority and are treated as medium or large MS4s, independent of the size of the population served.

A regulated small MS4 is any small MS4 located in an "urbanized area" (UA), as defined by the Bureau of the Census, or located outside of a UA and brought into the program by the NPDES permitting authority.

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What is the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit?

The Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is an EPA-issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit that became effective beginning October 31, 2011. The EPA’s PGP provides a means by which Operators can seek NPDES permit coverage for discharge to waters of the United States that result from the application of pesticides. Specifically the permit is available in areas where the EPA is the permitting authority. Without the availability of an NPDES permit, such Operators would be required to obtain coverage under a more administratively burdensome NPDES individual permit.

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MS4: What is an Urbanized Area (UA)?

UAs constitute the largest and most dense areas of settlement. UA calculations delineate boundaries around these dense areas of settlement and, in doing so, identify the areas of concentrated development. UA designations are used for several purposes in both the public and private sectors. For example, the federal government has used UAs to calculate allocations for transportation funding, and planning agencies and developers use UA boundaries to help ascertain current, and predict future, growth areas.

The Bureau of the Census determines UAs by applying a detailed set of published UA criteria (see 55 FR 42592, October 22, 1990) to the latest decennial Census data. Although the full UA definition is complex, the Bureau of the Census' general definition of a UA, based on population and population density, is provided below.

An urbanized area is a land area comprising one or more places -- central place(s) -- and the adjacent densely settled surrounding area -- urban fringe -- that together have a residential population of at least 50,000 and an overall population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile.

Note: The Bureau of the Census proposed a change in the definition of an urbanized area (see 66 FR 17018, March 28, 2001). A summary of the differences between the Census 1990 UA criteria and the 2000 UA criteria can be viewed at the Census Bureau website Exit EPA Site.

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What types of discharges are eligible for the EPA’s PGP?

Generally the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is available for Operators who apply (1) biological pesticides or (2) chemical pesticides that leave a residue, which result in point source discharges to waters of the United States from the following pesticide use patterns:

  • Mosquito and other flying insect pest control;
  • Weed and algae control;
  • Animal pest control; and
  • Forest canopy pest control.

The PGP includes additional eligibility criteria although these criteria are mostly for infrequent situations. The EPA has developed a step-by-step, interactive, online tool to help pesticide Operators determine whether they are eligible for the EPA’s PGP, which is available at the pesticides permit decision tool page.

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MS4: Is a permit required for regulated MS4s?

Yes. A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit must be obtained by the operator of an MS4 covered by the NPDES Stormwater Program.

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Is the EPA’s PGP available for pesticide applications that result in discharges to impaired waters?

In certain instances, coverage under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is not available for discharges to impaired waters. Specifically, the following discharges of pesticides are not authorized for coverage under the PGP:

  • To waters which are impaired for the active ingredient of the pesticide
  • To waters which are impaired for degradates of that active ingredient
  • To waters which are impaired for the class of pesticides (e.g., pyrethroids) to which the pesticide to be applied belongs.

Discharges to waters impaired for temperature or some other indicator parameter, or for physical impairments such as “habitat alteration,” are eligible for PGP coverage unless the Operator is otherwise notified by the EPA.

If a discharge is not eligible for coverage under the PGP, Operators have to choose between obtaining coverage under an individual permit for such a discharge or selecting some other means of pest management, e.g., using mechanical means or a different pesticide active ingredient. For further discussion, see the PGP Comment Response Impaired Waters Essay in the Response to Public Comments document for the EPA’s PGP, which can be viewed or downloaded at: www.regulations.gov, under docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0257.

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MS4: Does a particular MS4 lie within an urbanized area?

For more information about UAs and how to determine if your MS4 is in a UA, see Stormwater Urbanized Area Maps.

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What are “Tier 3 waters” referenced in the EPA’s PGP?

States, territories, and certain tribes (i.e., those tribes with “treatment as state status” for purposes of water quality standards) are required to adopt appropriate designated uses (i.e., goals) for their waters. Based on those goals, these states, territories, and tribes are required to adopt necessary water quality criteria to protect those designated uses for each of their waters. In addition to establishing designated uses and water quality criteria, these states, territories, and tribes must adopt an anti-degradation policy to help protect existing water quality and high quality waters. That anti-degradation policy is to address three categories:

  • Tier 1 – for the protection of water quality for existing uses
  • Tier 2 – for the protection of high quality waters
  • Tier 3 – for the protection of Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRWs).

Tier 3 waters are identified by the state, territory, or tribe as waters having unique characteristics to be preserved (e.g., waters of exceptional recreational, environmental, or ecological significance). No degradation is allowed in Tier 3 waters except on a short-term or temporary basis, meaning weeks or months, rather than years. Of note, many states/tribes have levels of protection that are similarly protective as Tier 3 waters but may allow more flexibility when making water quality determinations. These waters are often called Tier 2½ waters. Examples of such Tier 2½ designations include "Outstanding State Resource Waters," "Outstanding Natural Resource Waters," and "Exceptional Waters."

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Industrial: To which industrial facilities does the Stormwater Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) apply?

Operators of industrial facilities requiring an NPDES Stormwater Permit are eligible to obtain coverage under the MSGP if their activities are included within one of 29 industrial sectors AND the facility is located in an area where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority. Where an authorized state is the permitting authority, operators of regulated industrial operations should apply to the state for industrial stormwater permit coverage.

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Is the EPA’s PGP available for pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters designated as Outstanding National Resource Waters (Tier 3)?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) provides coverage for discharges from pesticide applications made to Tier 3 waters but only for applications made to those waters to restore or maintain water quality or to protect public health or the environment that either do not degrade water quality or only degrade water quality on a short-term or temporary basis. A list of Tier 3 waters in geographic areas covered under the EPA’s PGP is available on the EPA’s pesticides home page.

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Industrial: How does an industrial facility operator determine whether they need to obtain an NPDES Stormwater Permit?

Step 1. Determine whether the facility or site discharges to a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) or to waters of the United States. If it discharges to one or both, proceed to Step 2, otherwise no permit is needed.

Step 2. Determine if the facility's industrial activities are listed among the eleven Categories of Industrial Activities, provided in the federal regulations at 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14) or it the facility's SIC code falls within one of the sector/subsectors identified. If its activities are listed, proceed to Step 3, otherwise no permit is needed.

Step 3. Determine if the listed facility or site may qualify for the "no exposure" exclusion under the federal regulations at 40 CFR 122.26(g).

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Is the EPA’s PGP available for pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States that are dry (e.g., a dry streambed) at the time when the pesticide applications are actually performed?

Yes. Discharges to waters of the United States, whether wet or dry at the time of application, are required to be covered under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and can be covered by the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) where the PGP is available. This includes discharges to features such as certain dry washes and ephemeral streams on forest or range lands to control pests that may be found in these occasionally wet areas. As such, these pesticide applications may be performed using pesticides labeled for terrestrial, seasonally-dry, or aquatic uses.

The lateral extent of a stream identified as a water of the United States is generally the width of the stream channel delineated by the ordinary high water mark as defined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) in 33 CFR 329.11. Where no ordinary high-water mark is identified, the width of the stream channel is defined by its bankfull elevation, that being the level where water leaves the channel and flows into the floodplain (Rosgen, 1996) - which occurs approximately every 1 to 2 years (Dunne and Leopold 1978). Bankfull elevation can be readily identified in many streams using recognizable water lines or vegetation boundaries (Rosgen, 1996).

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Is coverage under the EPA’s PGP available for pesticide applications made to control pests in areas that are not waters of the United States (e.g., certain ditches or other conveyances) but that result in pesticide discharges to waters of the United States?

Yes. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is available for pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States from the application of pesticides: (1) directly to waters of the United States to control pests, and (2) over waters of the United States, including near such waters, where a portion of the pesticides will be unavoidably deposited to those waters in order to target the pest effectively. For two of the use patterns, Weed and Algae Pest Control and Animal Pest Control, the permit specifies that covered activities include applications to control pests “in water and at water’s edge.” The EPA intends for the phrase “at water’s edge” to allow for coverage of activities targeting pests that are not necessarily in the water but are near enough to the water such that a discharge of pesticides to a water of the United States is unavoidable when trying to control the pests. Pesticide activities for the other two use patterns, Mosquito and Other Flying Insect Control and Forest Canopy Pest Control, may also have similar activities “at water’s edge” for which the EPA’s PGP is available. Additionally, it is important to note that a pesticide application to an area that has a direct hydrologic surface connection to a water of the United States at the time of application (e.g., a pesticide is applied to a ditch that is not itself a water of the United States, but contains water at the time of application and that water is flowing into a water of the United States) is also eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP.

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Industrial: How does a permitted stormwater facility operator terminate coverage?

A Notice of Termination (NOT) form for Industrial Activity must be submitted to EPA's NOI Processing Center (address identified on the NOT form) in order to terminate coverage. Permittees may submit an NOT when their facility no longer has any stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity as defined at 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14), or when they are no longer the operator of the facility.

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Is the EPA’s PGP available for pesticide applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States containing endangered species?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is available for Operators that can ensure that pesticide discharges are not likely to adversely affect species that are federally-listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or habitat that is federally-designated as critical under the ESA, with certain exceptions outlined in the permit. This includes listed species and critical habitat managed by both the US fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Operators with discharges to waters of the United States containing NMFS Listed Resources of Concern must determine their eligibility for coverage through additional ESA-related criteria outlined in the permit and submit Notice of Intents (NOIs) and annual reports and implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM)-like practices. See Part 1.1.2.4 of the EPA’s PGP for more information. Operators with discharges to waters of the United States containing FWS listed species and critical habitats have no additional permit requirements. The EPA may, through consultation with FWS, determine that additional permit conditions are necessary and will follow the appropriate measures necessary to achieve this.

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Does the method of pesticide application affect the determination of whether or not discharges from those applications are eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP?

No. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) covers discharges that result from pesticide applications to waters of the United States irrespective of whether the pesticide applications are made by hand sprayers, vehicle-mounted tanks with sprayer nozzles, fixed- or rotary-wing aircrafts, or other types of application methods.

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Are pesticide activities to control pests along rights-of-ways or similar linear features (e.g., railroad, roadway, utility line) that result in discharges to waters of the United States eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is available for discharges from pesticide applications to waters of the United States for purposes of pest control along rights-of-ways or similar linear features for any of the four pesticide use patterns. For example, weed control using herbicides would be covered under the Weed and Algae Pest Control use pattern for those portions of the pest control that result in discharges to waters of the United States. Also, the EPA’s PGP is available whether the pesticides are applied aerially or on the ground. To be clear, pesticide activities performed along rights-of-ways or similar linear features that do not result in discharges to waters of the United States do not require coverage under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

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Is pesticide spray drift covered under the EPA’s PGP?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) does not cover spray drift. In promulgating the 2006 NPDES Pesticides Rule, the EPA expressly noted that the Rule did not cover either spray drift (i.e., the airborne movement of pesticide sprays away from the target application site into waters of the United States) or applications of pesticides to terrestrial agricultural crops where runoff from the crop, either as irrigation return flow or agricultural stormwater, discharges into waters of the United States. The EPA’s PGP is consistent with the 2006 Rule in that it does not cover spray drift. Instead, to address spray drift, the EPA established a multi-stakeholder workgroup under the Pesticides Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC), an advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to explore policy issues relating to spray drift.

It should also be pointed out that some pesticide applications, such as ultra low volume (ULV) spraying of mosquito adulticides, are applied as a fog with the intent of the pesticide remaining airborne. The EPA does not consider ULV applications to targeted sites to be “spray drift” and, therefore, ULV applications are eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP.

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Are pesticide discharges that are covered under another NPDES permit eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP?

No, discharges already covered under another National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit are not eligible for coverage under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). For example, a city may have discharges from pesticide applications already covered under an existing municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit. In that instance, those covered discharges would not be eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP. This includes discharges currently covered under a different NPDES permit as well as discharges from activities where the associated NPDES permit has been or is in the process of being denied, terminated, or revoked by the EPA (although this latter provision does not apply to the routine reissuance of permits every five years).

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If a pesticide application activity is not eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP, does this mean an NPDES permit is not required for discharges from those activities?

Not necessarily. While the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) covers many pesticide application discharges required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in the areas where the EPA is the NPDES permitting authority, there may still be some pesticide application discharges requiring NPDES permit coverage that are not eligible under the EPA’s PGP. For example, pesticide application discharges may already be covered under another NPDES permit, in which case, those discharges would not be eligible for coverage under the PGP yet still require coverage under some other NPDES permit. Similarly, certain discharges of pesticides to Tier 3 waters (i.e., Outstanding National Resource Waters) are not eligible for coverage under the PGP but do still require coverage under an NPDES permit (e.g., an NPDES individual permit).

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Is the EPA’s PGP available only for Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) registered products?

No. “Pesticide” is defined in Appendix A of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) to include a wide range of materials, and includes both FIFRA registered and unregistered products. If a pesticide is being applied for any of the four pesticide use patterns included in the permit, that activity is subject to the requirement for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage and eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP. If a pesticide is being applied for some other reason, for example, clove oil use to stun fish for collection purpose, or alum use to control phosphorus levels in the water as a way to inhibit algae growth (as an algaestat, not as an algaecide), that activity is not eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP. Pesticide activities not eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP may need an NPDES individual permit.

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Is the EPA's PGP available for the use of copper sulfate to control algae in a drinking water source that itself is a water of the United States?

Unless that waterbody is impaired for copper or sulfate, the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is available for those applications. In this situation, the EPA’s PGP is available for application of copper sulfate to control algae for taste and odor control under the weed and algae control pesticide use pattern. Operators wanting to apply copper sulfate to waters of the United States impaired for copper or sulfate must obtain coverage under an NPDES individual permit rather than the EPA’s PGP.

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Is the EPA’s PGP available for activities in areas for which an existing Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation has been completed?

Yes. Provided all conditions and/or requirements of that consultation that address pesticide application activities covered under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) are met, those activities are eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP. See Part 1.6 of the EPA’s PGP.

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Does the EPA’s PGP cover pesticide application activities in areas with threatened and endangered species managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) even though the EPA has not completed its consultation with the USFWS?

Yes. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) does cover pesticide application activities in areas with threatened and endangered species listed by the USFWS. The EPA was able to issue the permit consistent with section 7(d) of the Endangered Species Act because its issuance does not foreclose either the formulation by the Services, or the implementation by EPA, of any alternatives that might be determined in the consultation to be necessary to comply with section 7(a)(2). The EPA’s PGP also covers pesticide applications in areas containing threatened and endangered species listed by the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) although the permit includes additional terms for discharges to certain areas with NMFS-listed species and critical habitat.

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What does it mean to be “covered” under the EPA’s PGP?

The EPA uses the term “covered” or “coverage” in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program to identify Operators’ discharges to waters of the United States that meet all the necessary eligibility and application provisions of an existing NPDES permit and as such are authorized to discharge under the terms and conditions of that permit. For example, a pesticide applicator that is “covered under the Pesticide General Permit (PGP)” has met all eligibility requirements of the permit and is authorized to discharge to waters of the United States consistent with the terms and conditions of the permit.

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Who is responsible for seeking coverage under the PGP?

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations require that any “person” that discharges pollutants to waters of the United States can do so only under the terms and conditions provided in an NPDES permit. The NPDES regulations define “person” as an “individual, association, partnership, corporation, municipality, state or federal agency, or an agent or employee thereof.” This may include entities such as municipalities responsible for pest control, pest control districts, farmers, for-hire pesticide applicators, etc. Further, the regulations clarify that when an activity is owned by one person but operated by another person, it is the Operator’s duty to obtain a permit. Thus, the EPA uses the term “Operator” when describing who is required to obtain NPDES permit coverage. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) defines “Operator” to mean any entity associated with the application of pesticides which results in a discharge to waters of the United States that meets either of the following two criteria:

  1. any entity who performs the application of a pesticide or who has day-to-day control of the application (i.e., they are authorized to direct workers to carry out those activities); or
  2. any entity with control over the decision to perform pesticide applications including the ability to modify those decisions.

For the PGP, the EPA calls any Operator identified by (i) above an “Applicator” and any Operator identified by (ii) above a “Decision-maker.” Thus, in some instances, there may be more than one Operator responsible for a discharge and as such, more than one Operator required to have coverage under the EPA’s PGP. As described elsewhere, even when more than one Operator is responsible for a given discharge, the EPA’s PGP never requires more than one Operator to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to be covered under the permit. Any other Operators meeting the eligibility requirements of the permit are covered automatically without the need to submit an NOI (or, for that matter, any other application or similar paperwork).

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How do Operators obtain coverage under the EPA’s PGP?

Operators that meet the eligibility provisions specified in the permit can be covered under the permit in one of two ways. As detailed in the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP), certain Operators are automatically covered under the permit and are authorized to discharge pesticides immediately. Some Operators, namely certain Decision-makers as identified in the EPA’s PGP, must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to obtain coverage under the permit and are authorized to discharge pesticides at some point in time (generally, 10 to 30 days) after the EPA receives such NOI and posts that complete and accurate NOI on the Agency website.

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Do all Operators have the same requirements under the EPA’s PGP?

No. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) delineates different responsibilities for different types of Operators as well as different types of pesticide application activities and locations of those activities. Decision-makers and Applicators are both Operators and thus in some instances, more than one Operator may be responsible for compliance with the permit for any given pesticide application activity. The permit assigns different responsibilities to Decision-makers and Applicators; although any Operator covered under the permit is still responsible, jointly and severally, for any violation associated with its discharge.

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What is the difference between an Applicator and a Decision-maker?

For purposes of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP), an Applicator is an entity who performs the application of a pesticide, or who has day-to-day control of the application (i.e., they are authorized to direct workers to carry out those activities). A Decision-maker is an entity with control over the decision to perform pesticide applications, including the ability to modify those decisions. A Decision-maker, for example, is the entity that hires a pesticide application company to apply pesticides or instructs its own staff to apply pesticides. Decision-makers and Applicators are both Operators and thus in some instances, more than one Operator may be responsible for compliance with the permit for any given pesticide application activity.

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If an agency leases land to another entity, and applicators are hired to perform pest control activities on that land, who is the Decision-maker?

An entity is unlikely to be a Decision-maker if it owns the land but the pesticide application activities are being performed without its input or control (e.g., a private party is spraying for weeds on public lands that the private party leases from the federal government). In this scenario, the lessee is the Decision-maker.

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If an agency provides funds for pest control activities on private lands, is the agency a Decision-maker?

An agency is not considered a Decision-maker if it does not have control over the decision to perform pest control activities. Merely providing funds for such an activity is not considered to be a Decision-making activity. The entity who authorizes the pest control activities is the Decision-maker.

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What is the procedure for obtaining coverage under the EPA’s PGP?

Certain dischargers of pesticides must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to be authorized to discharge under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). The NOI form is a short document requesting basic information about the nature of the activities under consideration. Many other dischargers are covered under the EPA’s PGP without submission of an NOI, or for that matter, any type of documentation (e.g., a permit application).

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What does submittal of an NOI mean?

A Notice of Intent (NOI) for a general permit is similar to a permit application, in that it is notification to the regulatory authority of a planned discharge for which coverage under a specific National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit is needed and contains information about the discharge and the Operator of that discharge. The NOI serves as the Operator’s notice to the permitting authority that the Operator intends for the discharge to be authorized under the terms and conditions of that general permit. By signing and submitting the NOI, the Operator is certifying that the discharge meets all of the eligibility conditions specified in the general permit (e.g., that a pesticide discharge management plan has been developed if necessary) and that the Operator intends to follow the terms and conditions of the permit. A fraudulent or erroneous NOI invalidates permit coverage. An incomplete NOI delays permit coverage until such time as the NOI has been completed.

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Who must submit an NOI to obtain permit coverage under the EPA’s PGP?

Certain Decision-makers, as defined in Appendix A of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP), must submit Notice of Intents (NOIs). See Table 1-1 of the PGP for identification of Decision-makers required to submit NOIs.

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Decision-makers with discharges to waters of the United States that contain National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern are required to submit NOIs. How do Decision-makers determine whether or not waters of the United States contain NMFS Listed Resources of Concern?

The EPA’s pesticides home page provides links to a number of websites with detailed information to help Operators comply with the requirements of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). One of the links is to “NMFS Listed Resources of Concern Applicable to the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit.” That webpage contains maps, tables, descriptions, etc. of the species and locations of concern to NMFS for the EPA’s PGP.

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Are for-hire pesticide applicators required to submit NOIs?

Where an applicator is hired or authorized by an entity to perform pest control activities, the applicator is not considered a “Decision-maker” and therefore is not required to submit an Notice of Intent (NOI).

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What are the requirements under the EPA’s PGP for an Operator who is eligible for the EPA’s PGP, but is not required to submit an NOI?

Under the PGP, an Operator who is not required to submit an NOI is subject to fewer requirements than an Operator who is required to submit an NOI. Each part or subpart of the permit clarifies whether requirements in that part or subpart apply only to Operators required to submit an NOI or some other subset of Operators (for example, “all Operators,” “all Applicators,” “all For-Hire Applicators,” etc). Operators covered under the EPA’s PGP that are not required to submit an NOI must still comply with the provisions of the permit applicable to them where those requirements are not identified as only applicable to Operators required to submit an NOI.

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Are separate NOIs required from Decision-makers for each pesticide application and/or for each separate treatment area?

No. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) provides flexibility for Decision-makers on how information can be provided in the Notice of Intent (NOI); although, the EPA expects that in most instances the Decision-maker will submit one NOI to cover all its pesticide applications in all treatment areas. The NOI is structured to allow for this flexibility. The only exception is that an NOI cannot include information for more than one state. So, if a Decision-maker is required to submit an NOI for permit coverage and that Decision-maker’s activities are performed in more than one state, an NOI must be submitted for each state where those activities are to be performed. “Pest management areas” are those areas where the Decision-maker may be managing pests, and such management results in a discharge to waters of the United States. For example, an NOI may identify multiple pest management areas at the different state parks throughout an entire state, a mosquito district, or a single lake. Decision-makers do have flexibility to decide which pest management areas are included on a single NOI. For example, a Decision-maker may, if it so chooses, submit separate NOIs for each of its treatment areas. However, the EPA expects most Decision-makers will prefer having all their activities identified on one NOI, an option that is also available.

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If a Decision-maker requires permit coverage in multiple states covered by the EPA’s PGP, can that Decision-maker file one NOI for all the states?

No. The EPA established the Notice of Intent (NOI) requirements to address states on an individual basis, corresponding with the applicable National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit number identified in Appendix C of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). As such, an NOI cannot include information for more than one state. Decision-makers requiring permit coverage in more than one state covered by the EPA’s PGP (e.g., Massachusetts and New Hampshire) must submit an NOI for each state for which permit coverage is required with that NOI containing information specific to pesticide application activities in that state.

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Is an NOI required if an Operator applies only larvicides (not adulticides) for mosquito control?

It depends. Any mosquito control district (or similar pest control district) or agency (federal or state) for which pest management for land resource stewardship is an integral part of the organization’s operations is required to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) for all of its pesticide applications (larvicides and adulticides) that result in discharges to waters of the United States. See Table 1-1 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). Conversely, except for discharges to Tier 3 waters (i.e., Outstanding National Resource Water) or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern, which always require an NOI, any local government or other type of Operator is not required to submit an NOI if it:

  • uses only larvicides, or
  • uses both larvicides and adulticides but applies adulticides to less than 6,400 acres a year.

Regardless of whether an NOI is required, discharges from both adulticides and larvicides require coverage under the EPA’s PGP and discharges from these activities must comply with the appropriate provisions of the EPA’s PGP.

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Are all federal facilities (in areas where the EPA’s PGP applies) required to submit an NOI for their pesticide application activities?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) specifies that “any agency for which pest management for land resource stewardship is an integral part of the organization’s operations” is required to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) for any discharges eligible for coverage under the EPA’s PGP. The EPA uses the term “agency” in the PGP to refer to federal and state agencies. The EPA believes that most pest control activities performed by federal and state agencies that result in discharges to waters of the United States will meet the requirement to submit an NOI. The EPA recognizes, however, that many such public entities may perform ad-hoc pest control on a small-scale that is not related to land resource stewardship, but rather incidental, for example, to its occupancy of a building. As an example, the U.S. Social Security Administration may maintain a building or group of buildings where weeds have overtaken a parking lot that is adjacent to a lake, and the local office determines that it should control those weeds with an herbicide. The EPA would not consider this type of weed control related to land resource stewardship but rather as incidental to operation of the facility. By contrast, a federal or state transportation department controlling weeds in flowing waters adjacent to roads would be considered to be performing a function associated with its land resource management purposes and as such would be required to submit an NOI. Similarly, the application of adulticides on a military base by the Department of Defense would also be considered to be an activity associated with a land resource management responsibility to protect public health although incidental weed management around buildings on the base generally would not be considered a stewardship responsibility. To be clear, in all instances described above, discharges would require permit coverage; however, the requirement to submit an NOI are based only on those land stewardship responsibilities.

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How do Operators calculate the area treated?

The “Treatment Area” as defined in Appendix A of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) is the entire area, whether over land or water, where a pesticide application is intended to provide pesticidal benefits within the pest management area. In some instances, the treatment area will be larger than the area where pesticides are actually applied. For example, the treatment area for a stationary drip treatment into a canal includes the entire width and length of the canal over which the pesticide is intended to control weeds. Similarly, the treatment area for a lake or marine area is the water surface area where the application is intended to provide pesticidal benefits.

The procedures for calculating the treatment area are identified in Appendix A of the EPA’s PGP in the definition of the term “annual treatment area threshold.”

For calculating annual treatment areas for Weed and Algae Control and Animal Pest Control, calculations should include either the linear extent of or the surface area of waters for applications made to waters of the United States or at water’s edge adjacent to waters of the United States. For calculating the annual treatment area, count each treatment area only once, regardless of the number of pesticide application activities performed on that area in a given year. Also, for any linear feature (e.g., a canal or ditch), use the length of the linear feature whether treating in or adjacent to the feature, regardless of the number of applications made to that feature during the calendar year. For example, whether treating the bank on one side of a ten-mile long ditch, banks on both sides of the ditch, and/or water in that ditch, the total treatment area is ten miles. Additionally, if the same 10 mile area is treated more than once in a calendar year, the total area treated is still 10 miles. Also, the treatment area for these two pesticide use patterns is not additive over the calendar year. Each pesticide use pattern is to be evaluated separately and compared to the applicable threshold.

For calculating annual treatment areas for Mosquitoes and Other Flying Insect Pest Control and Forest Canopy Pest Control, calculations should include all applications made by the Decision-maker regardless of whether those individual applications may result in a discharge to waters of the United States. As long as some portion of the treatment results in a discharge requiring permit coverage, the calculation of treatment area for these two use patterns are to include all activities made by the Decision-maker during the calendar year. Also, unlike the previous two use patterns, the treatment area is additive over the calendar year (i.e., multiple treatments to the same area are to be combined to calculate a cumulative treatment area). Also, it is important to note that for purposes of calculating annual treatment areas for mosquito control, only adulticide applications are to be counted. While larvaciding that results in discharges to waters of the United States do require permit coverage, those activities are not to be included in the calculation of area treatment (for purpose of determining if an Notice of Intent is required). Similar to the previous two pesticide use patterns, do not add treatment areas for the two different pesticide use patterns to each other.

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If a Decision-maker is required to submit an NOI solely due to the fact that their pesticide applications will exceed an annual treatment area threshold, when should the NOI be filed?

The Decision-maker must file the Notice of Intent (NOI) at least ten days before exceeding an annual treatment area threshold consistent with the deadlines in Table 1-2 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit.

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If only a portion of a Decision-maker’s pesticide applications result in discharges to waters of the United States, can the rest of the treatment area be excluded from the annual treatment area calculation?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) establishes annual treatment area thresholds for each of the four pesticide use patterns (i.e., mosquito and other flying insect pests, weeds and algae, animal pests, and forest canopy pests). For two of the four pesticide use patterns, weeds and algae and animal pests, the annual treatment area is to be calculated based only on those applications that result in discharges to waters of the United States covered under the EPA’s PGP (i.e., treatment areas can be excluded that do not result in discharges to waters of the United States). However, for the other two pesticide use patterns, mosquito and other flying insect pests and forest canopy pests, the area treated is the entire area to be treated rather than only those areas that result in discharges to waters of the United States.

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Is permit coverage under the EPA’s PGP automatic upon submission of a Notice of Intent?

No. See Table 1-2 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PG), NOI Submittal Deadlines and Discharge Authorization Dated for Discharges from the Application of Pesticides. Activities may be covered as soon as ten days after the EPA receives a complete and accurate Notice of Intent (NOI) but may take 30 days or longer such as in areas with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern where someone, such as NMFS, identifies concerns with information submitted on the NOI form.

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Can a senior executive officer at a federal facility be the signatory for an NOI required by the EPA’s PGP?

It depends. Appendix B.11.A.3 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) states that the Notice of Intent (NOI) for a municipality, state, federal, or other public agency is to be signed by either a principal executive officer or ranking elected official. A principal executive officer of a federal agency includes (i) the chief executive officer of the agency, or (ii) a senior executive officer having responsibility for the overall operations of a principal geographic unit or the agency (e.g., Regional Administrator of EPA).

A federal facility can be considered a principal geographic unit if the senior executive officer has responsibility for the overall operation of the federal facility. Otherwise a senior executive officer of the regional office or the agency that has responsibility for the overall operation of the federal facility is the signatory for the NOI.

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Can a principal executive officer of a federal agency delegate NOI approval and signature responsibility?

No. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations do not allow for delegation of responsibility for signing and certifying a Notice of Intent (NOI). Other types of NPDES documents, such as annual reports and Pesticide Discharge Management Plans, may be delegated and signed by a duly authorized representative of the principal executive officer consistent with delegation procedures described in Section B.11.B of Appendix B of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit.

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Do Decision-makers need to submit an updated NOI when the signatory for their NOI (i.e., principal executive officer, ranking elected official, responsible corporate officer) moves to another position?

No. There is no need to submit a new Notice of Intent (NOI) or update an existing NOI because the signatory of the NOI has changed. Any subsequent documents that need to be signed can be signed by the new signatory. If an updated NOI is required, the new signatory can contact the EPA NOI processing center to gain access to the NOI submitted by a previous signatory.

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Do Decision-makers need to submit an updated Notice of Intent (NOI) if a different chemical is selected for the treatment area within the pest management area defined in the original NOI?

No, unless the discharge is to waters of the United States containing National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern. See Part 1.2.3, Table 1-3 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit.

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Do Decision-makers need to submit an updated Notice of Intent when they change their Applicator?

No. Any updated Applicator information is to be provided to the EPA in the annual report not in an updated Notice of Intent.

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What are the requirements under the EPA’s PGP?

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) delineates different responsibilities for different types of Operators as well as different types of pesticide application activities and locations of those activities. For example, the permit assigns different responsibilities to Decision-makers and Applicators; although any Operator covered under the permit is still responsible, jointly and severally, for any violation associated with its discharge. Similarly, the permit includes different requirements for discharges from the control of mosquitoes or from the control of pests in the forest canopy. EPA has developed a step-by-step, interactive, online tool to help Operators summarized their requirements under the EPA’s PGP, which is available at: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pesticides/pgptool.

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How do Decision-makers determine if they are a large entity or small entity for the purpose of the EPA’s PGP?

Under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP), “small entity” is defined as any (1) private enterprise that does not exceed the Small Business Administration size standard as identified at (13 CFR 121.201), or (2) local government that serves a population of 10,000 or less. All other Operators are considered large entities for purposes of the EPA’s PGP.

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Are all federal agencies considered large entities for the purpose of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit?

Yes.

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How do quasi-governmental entities, such as irrigation districts, determine if they are large or small entities for purposes of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit?

Small Business Administration statutory language implies that special districts fall into the government category. See SEC. 601. DEFINITIONS [CITE: 5 USC 601]. Thus, quasi-governmental entities should use the population of the area served, not the number of customer accounts, to determine if they are large or small entity.

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Does compliance with Whole Effluent Toxicity testing to demonstrate consistency with the "free from toxics" narrative standard apply under the EPA’s PGP?"

The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) does not require Operators to perform water quality testing (including no requirement to monitor whole effluent toxicity). As written, the EPA assumes that pesticide applications performed consistent with the PGP will generally be adequate to protect water quality.

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How do aerial applicators comply with the "visual monitoring" requirement?

The monitoring requirements in the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) provide flexibility for Applicators to respond to the wide range of environments, situations, and targets to which pesticides may be applied. Visual monitoring is required only when safety and feasibility allow visual assessment of the treatment area. See Part 4.1 of the EPA’s PGP. Visual monitoring during post-application surveillance is required of all Operators, but only if the Operator (i.e. Applicator, the Decision-maker or both) performs post-application surveillance in the normal course of business. The PGP does not require aerial applicators to perform post-application surveillance unless such surveillance is part of the Operator’s normal course of business.

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Are Decision-makers, who are required to submit an NOI solely because their application will result in discharges to waters of the United States containing NMFS Listed Resources of Concern, required to develop a PDMP?

No. Any Decision-maker who is or will be required to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) must prepare a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) with two exceptions:

  • The application made in response to a Declared Pest Emergency Situation, or
  • The Decision-maker is required to submit an NOI solely because their application results in a point source discharge to waters of the United States containing U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern.

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When are Decision-makers who are required to develop a PDMP required to develop that plan?

Decision-makers required to develop a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) must do so by the time the Notice of Intent (NOI) is filed.

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When do Decision-makers need to update their PDMP?

Decision-makers must modify the Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) whenever necessary to address any of the triggering conditions for corrective action in Part 6.1 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit, or when a change in pest control activities significantly changes the type or quantity of pollutants discharged. Changes to the PDMP must be made before the next pesticide application that results in a discharge, if practicable, or if not practicable, no later than 90 days after any change in pesticide application activities. The revised PDMP must be signed and dated in accordance with Appendix B, Subsection B.11 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit.

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Does the EPA’s PGP require submission of records indicating that visual monitoring for adverse effects has taken place?

EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) does not require submission of visual monitoring records. However, all Decision-makers who are required to submit an NOI and all Operators who are For-Hire Applicators are required to retain records on whether or not visual monitoring was conducted during pesticide application and/or post-application. If visual monitoring was not conducted they must note why not. In addition, they must also note whether monitoring identified any possible or observable adverse incidents caused by application of pesticides.

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For the annual report, are Decision-makers required to identify which Applicator applied which products?

Not necessarily. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) requires Decision-makers who submitted Notices of Intent to submit annual reports that identify the total amount of each pesticide product applied to each treatment area and a list of Applicators who performed the activities in each treatment area. The PGP does not require the Decision-maker to link each specific application with the specific Applicator who performed that activity.

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If there is a pest-related public health emergency (e.g., West Nile Virus from mosquitoes), are Operators waived from obtaining an NPDES permit for pesticide application activities that result in discharges to waters of the United States?

No. The Clean Water Act and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations do not provide a waiver from NPDES permits for emergency situations, even those related to public health. Although permit coverage is required, the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit allows Operators to be covered for declared pest emergency without delay by:

  • delaying the submission of the Notice of Intent (NOI) for those Decision-makers otherwise required to submit an NOI (see Table 1-2 and Table 1-3 of the Pesticide General Permit), and
  • not requiring development of a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) for such a pesticide application.

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Are pesticide activities that are conducted as part of a public declaration of a pest emergency but begin ten days or more after the identification of the need for pest control considered “Declared Pest Emergency Situation” under the EPA’s PGP?

No. The EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP) defines “Declared Pest Emergency Situation” as an event defined by a public declaration by a federal agency, state, or local government of a pest problem determined to require control through application of a pesticide beginning less than ten days after identification of the need for pest control. See Appendix A of the EPA’s PGP. The goal of the “Declared Pest Emergency Situation” provision is to allow Decision-makers to respond to pest emergencies without delay.

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Is a Declared Pest Emergency Situation, as defined in the EPA’s PGP, limited to only pesticide activities conducted within ten days of that declaration?

No, although for an event to be considered a Declared Pest Emergency Situation under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP), the first pesticide application must be conducted less than ten days after the public declaration. Any subsequent pesticide activities that are necessary and described in the declaration are also considered to be part of the emergency.

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When are Decision-makers required to submit an NOI for pesticide applications made in response to a Declared Pest Emergency Situation?

Decision-makers are required to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) within 30 days of commencing a pesticide application that results in a discharge to waters of the United States unless those waters contain U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resource of Concerns, in which case the NOI must be submit within 15 days of commencing discharge.

EPA expects that in many instances, the Decision-maker responding to a Declared Pest Emergency Situation will already have an active NOI for the routine pest control activities in the same pest management area. In those instances, the Decision-maker is not required to submit a new NOI for the emergency provided the contents of the active NOI includes activities included in the emergency declaration.

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After a declared pest emergency, is the Decision-maker required to submit another NOI for routine pesticide applications in the same area?

No. Another Notice of Intent (NOI) is not required but the Decision-maker is required to update the NOI if the criteria in Part 1.2.3, Table 1-3 of the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit are met.

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Are Decision-makers required to develop a PDMP for pesticide activities associated with a Declared Pest Emergency Situation?

No. However, if there will be pesticide activities in the same area after the emergency event, a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) must be developed for those pesticide activities.

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Are Decision-makers required to submit an annual report for activities associated with a Declared Pest Emergency Situation?

Yes. For activities covered under the EPA’s Pesticide General Permit, an annual report is due by February 15th of the following calendar year.

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What are CSOs, and why are they important?

Combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, are remnants of the country's early infrastructure. In the past, communities built sewer systems to collect both stormwater runoff and sanitary sewage in the same pipe. During dry weather, these "combined sewer systems" transport wastewater directly to the sewage treatment plant. In periods of rainfall or snowmelt, however, the wastewater volume in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant. For this reason, combined sewer systems are designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater directly to nearby streams, rivers, lakes, or estuaries. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) contain not only stormwater but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris. This is a major water pollution concern for cities with combined sewer systems. CSOs are among the major sources responsible for beach closings, shellfishing restrictions, and other water body impairments.

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Where are the cities with CSO problems?

Combined sewer systems serve roughly 772 communities with about 40 million people. Most communities with CSOs are located in the Northeast and Great Lakes Regions, particularly in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, New York, West Virginia, and Maine. Although large cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta have combined sewer systems, most communities with CSO problems have fewer than 10,000 people.

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How does the CSO Control Policy address combined sewer overflows?

EPA's CSO Control Policy, published April 19, 1994, at 59 FR 18688, is the national framework for control of CSOs. The Policy provides guidance on how communities with combined sewer systems can meet Clean Water Act goals in as flexible and cost-effective a manner as possible. The Policy contains four fundamental principles to ensure that CSO controls are cost-effective and meet local environmental objectives:

  1. Clear levels of control to meet health and environmental objectives.
  2. Flexibility to consider the site-specific nature of CSOs and find the most cost-effective way to control them.
  3. Phased implementation of CSO controls to accommodate a community's financial capability.
  4. Review and revision of water quality standards during the development of CSO control plans to reflect the site-specific wet weather impacts of CSOs.

The first milestone under the CSO Policy was the January 1,1997, deadline for implementing minimum technology-based controls (the "nine minimum controls"). The nine minimum controls are measures that can reduce the prevalence and impacts of CSOs and that are not expected to require significant engineering studies or major construction. Communities with combined sewer systems are also expected to develop long-term CSO control plans that will ultimately provide for full compliance within the Clean Water Act, including attainment of water quality standards.

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What is the National Pretreatment Program?

The National Pretreatment Program is a cooperative effort of federal, state, and local regulatory environmental agencies established to protect water quality. The program is designed to reduce the level of pollutants discharged by industry and other non-domestic wastewater sources into municipal sewer systems, and thereby, reduce the amount of pollutants released into the environment through wastewater. The objectives of the program are to protect the Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) from pollutants that may interfere with plant operation, to prevent pollutants that may pass through untreated from being introduced into the POTW, and to improve opportunities for the POTW to reuse wastewater and sludges that are generated.

The term ""pretreatment"" refers to the requirement that nondomestic sources discharging wastewater to POTWs control their discharges, and meet limits established by EPA, the state or local authority on the amount of pollutants allowed to be discharged. The control of the pollutants may necessitate treatment prior to discharge to the POTW (therefore the term ""pretreatment""). Limits may be met by the nondomestic source through pollution prevention techniques (product substitution recycle and reuse of materials) or treatment of the wastewater.

Program objectives are:

  • To prevent industrial facilities' pollutant discharges from passing through municipal wastewater treatment plants untreated;
  • To protect treatment plants from the threat posed by untreated industrial wastewater, including explosion, fire, and interference with the treatment process
  • To improve the quality of effluents and sludges so that they can be used for beneficial purposes.

There are more than 1500 publicly owned treatment works that are required to implement local Pretreatment programs. By reducing the level of pollutants discharged by industry into municipal sewage systems, the program ensures the protection of America's multi-billion dollar public investment in treatment infrastructure.

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Under what Statutory Authority is the Pretreatment Program Administered?

The National Pretreatment Program's authority comes from section 307 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (more commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act). The federal government's role in pretreatment began with the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. The Act called for EPA to develop national pretreatment standards to control industrial discharges into sewerage systems.

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Are there any prescribed National Standards for Pretreatment?

There are two sets of standards: "categorical Pretreatment Standards" and "Prohibited Discharge Standards." These are uniform national requirements which restrict the level of pollutants that may be discharged by nondomestic sources to sanitary sewer systems. All POTWs that are required to implement a Pretreatment Program must enforce the federal standards.

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What are Categorical Pretreatment Standards?

These are technology-based limitations on pollutant discharges to POTWs promulgated by EPA in accordance with Section 307 of the Clean Water Act that apply to specified process wastewaters of particular industrial categories [see 40 CFR 403.6 and 40 CFR Parts 405- 471]. Go to http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/ and NPDES Regulations for more information.

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What are Prohibited Discharge Standards?

The Prohibited Discharge Standards are found in the regulations at 40 CFR 403.5. These are standards that prohibit the discharge of wastes that pass through or interfere with POTW operations (including sludge management). These are the general prohibitions. There are also specific prohibitions that prohibit the discharge from all nondomestic sources certain types of wastes that 1) create a fire or explosion hazard in the collection system or treatment plant, 2) are corrosive , including any discharge with a pH less than 5.0, unless the POTW is specifically designed to handle such wastes, 3) are solid or viscous pollutants in amounts that will obstruct the flow in the collection system and treatment plant, resulting in interference with operations, 4) any pollutant discharged in quantities sufficient to interfere with POTW operations, and 5) discharges with temperatures above 104 F (40 C) when they reach the treatment plant, or hot enough to interfere with biological processes.

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When were the federal regulations governing pretreatment program requirements first promulgated and where can I find them?

The General Pretreatment Regulations were originally published in 1978, and have been updated several times (the latest changes were made on October 14, 2005) and can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations in 40 CFR Part 403.

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What are Sanitary Sewer Overflows?

Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) are discharges of raw sewage from municipal sanitary sewer systems. SSOs can release untreated sewage into basements or out of manholes and onto city streets, playgrounds and into streams before it can reach a treatment facility. SSOs are often caused by blockages in sewer lines and breaks in the sewer lines.

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Why are SSOs a problem?

EPA has found that SSOs caused by poor sewer collection system management pose a substantial health and environmental challenge. The response to this challenge varies considerably from state to state. Many municipalities have asked for national consistency in the way permits are considered for wastewater discharges, including SSOs, and in enforcement of the law prohibiting unpermitted discharges.

In response, EPA has convened representatives of states, municipalities, health agencies, and environmental advocacy groups to advise the Agency on how to best meet this challenge. This SSO Federal Advisory Subcommittee examines the need for national consistency in permitting and enforcement, effective sewer operation and maintenance principles, public notification for SSOs with potential health or environmental dangers, and other public policy issues. EPA carefully considers the Subcommittee's recommendations for regulatory and nonregulatory actions to reduce SSOs nationally.

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Why do sewers overflow?

SSOs occasionally occur in almost every sewer system, even though systems are intended to collect and contain all the sewage that flows into them. When SSOs happen frequently, it means something is wrong with the system.

Problems that can cause chronic SSOs include:

  • Infiltration and Inflow (I&I): too much rainfall or snowmelt infiltrating through the ground into leaky sanitary sewers not designed to hold rainfall or to drain property, and excess water inflowing through roof drains connected to sewers, broken pipes, badly connected sewer service lines
  • Undersized Systems: Sewers and pumps are too small to carry sewage from newly-developed subdivisions or commercial areas
  • Pipe Failures: blocked, broken or cracked pipes; tree roots grow into the sewer; sections of pipe settle or shift so that pipe joints no longer match; and sediment and other material builds up causing pipes to break or collapse
  • Equipment Failures: pump failures, power failures
  • Sewer Service Connections: discharges occur at sewer service connections to houses and other buildings; some cities estimate that as much as 60% of overflows comes from the service lines
  • Deteriorating Sewer System: improper installation, improper maintenance; widespread problems can be expensive to fix develop over time, some municipalities have found severe problems necessitating billion-dollar correction programs, often communities have to curtail new development until problems are corrected or system capacity is increased.

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What health risks do SSOs present?

Because SSOs contain raw sewage they can carry bacteria, viruses, protozoa (parasitic organisms), helminths (intestinal worms), and borroughs (inhaled molds and fungi). The diseases they may cause range in severity from mild gastroenteritis (causing stomach cramps and diarrhea) to life-threatening ailments such as cholera, dysentery, infections hepatitis, and severe gastroenteritis.

People can be exposed through:

  • Sewage in drinking water sources.
  • Direct contact in areas of high public access such as basements, lawns or streets, or waters used for recreation. At least one study has estimated a direct relationship between gastrointestinal illness contracted while swimming and bacteria levels in the water.
  • Shellfish harvested from areas contaminated by raw sewage. One study indicates that an average of nearly 700 cases of illness per year were reported in the 1980s from eating shellfish contaminated by sewage and other sources. The number of unreported cases is estimated to be 20 times that.
  • Some cases of disease contracted through inhalation and skin absorption have also been documented.

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What other damage can SSOs do?

SSOs also damage property and the environment. When basements flood, the damaged area must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to reduce the risk of disease. Cleanup can be expensive for homeowners and municipalities. Rugs, curtains, flooring, wallboard panels, and upholstered furniture usually must be replaced.

A key concern with SSOs that enter oceans, bays, estuaries, rivers, lakes, streams, or brackish waters is their effect on water quality. When bodies of water cannot be used for drinking water, fishing, or recreation, society experiences an economic loss. Tourism and waterfront home values may fall. Fishing and shellfish harvesting may be restricted or halted. SSOs can also close beaches. One 1994 study claims that SSOs closed beaches across the nation that year for a total of more than 300 days.

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How big is the SSO problem?

The total number of SSOs that occur nationwide each year is not known. In some areas, they might not be reported or are underreported to EPA and state environmental agencies. Two surveys, however, help to define the size of the problem:

  • In a 1994 survey of 79 members of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, 65 percent of the respondents reported wet weather SSOs(5). They reported that between 15 and 35 percent of their sewers were filled above capacity and/or overflowed during wet weather. However, municipal respondents with SSOs had only limited information about them. Only 60 percent had estimated the annual number. Half of those had estimated the amount of sewerage discharged, and 17 percent had determined what pollutants were in their overflows.
  • A 1981 survey conducted by the National Urban Institute indicated an average of 827 backups and 143 breaks per 1,000 miles of sewer pipe (about 1,000 miles of sewer pipe are needed to serve 250,000 people.) per year. Breaks occurred most often in the young, growing cities of the South and West.

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How can SSOs be reduced or eliminated?

Many avoidable SSOs are caused by inadequate or negligent operation or maintenance, inadequate system capacity, and improper system design and construction. These SSOs can be reduced or eliminated by:

  • Sewer system cleaning and maintenance
  • Reducing infiltration and inflow through system rehabilitation and repairing broken or leaking service lines.
  • Enlarging or upgrading sewer, pump station, or sewage treatment plant capacity and/or reliability.
  • Construction wet weather storage and treatment facilities to treat excess flows.
  • Communities also should address SSOs during sewer system master planning and facilities planning, or while extending the sewer system into previously unsewered areas.

    A few SSOs may be unavoidable. Unavoidable SSOs include those occurring from unpreventable vandalism, some types of blockages, extreme rainstorms, and acts of nature such as earthquakes or floods.


    What costs are involved with reducing or eliminating SSOs?

    Sanitary sewer collection systems are a valuable part of the nation's infrastructure. EPA estimates that our nation's sewers are worth a total of more than $1 trillion. The collection system of a single large municipality is an asset worth billions of dollars and that of a smaller city could cost many millions to replace. Sewer rehabilitation to reduce or eliminate SSOs can be expensive, but the cost must be weighed against the value of the collection system asset and the added costs of this asset is allowed to further deteriorate. Ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation adds value to the original investment by maintaining the system's capacity and extending its life.

    The costs of rehabilitation and other measures to correct SSOs can vary widely by community size and sewer system type. Those being equal, however, costs will be highest and ratepayers will pay more in communities that have not put together regular preventive maintenance or asset protection programs in place.

    Assistance is available through the Clean Water Act State Revolving Fund for capital projects to control SSOs. State Revolving Funds in each state and Puerto can help arrange low-interest loans. For the name of your State Revolving Fund contact, please call the EPA Office of Water Resource Center, (202) 566-1729.


    What are Biosolids?

    They are nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility. When treated and processed, these residuals can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.


    What is the difference between biosolids and sludge?

    Biosolids are treated sewage sludge. Biosolids are carefully treated and monitored and must be used in accordance with regulatory requirements.


    Why do we have biosolids?

    We have biosolids as a result of the wastewater treatment process. Water treatment technology has made our water safer for recreation and seafood harvesting. Thirty years ago, thousands of American cities dumped their raw sewage directly into the nation's rivers, lakes, and bays. Through regulation of this dumping, local governments now required to treat wastewater and to make the decision whether to recycle biosolids as fertilizer, incinerate it, or bury it in a landfill.


    How are biosolids generated and processed?

    Biosolids are created through the treatment of domestic wastewater generated from sewage treatment facilities. The treatment of biosolids can actually begin before the wastewater reaches the sewage treatment plant. In many larger wastewater treatment systems, pre-treatment regulations require that industrial facilities pre-treat their wastewater to remove many hazardous contaminants before it is sent to a wastewater treatment plant. Wastewater treatment facilities monitor incoming wastewater streams to ensure their recyclability and compatibility with the treatment plant process. Once the wastewater reaches the plant, the sewage goes through physical, chemical and biological processes which clean the wastewater and remove the solids. If necessary, the solids are then treated with lime to raise the pH level to eliminate objectionable odors. The wastewater treatment processes sanitize wastewater solids to control pathogens (disease-causing organisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses and parasites) and other organisms capable of transporting disease.


    How are biosolids used?

    After treatment and processing, biosolids can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth. The controlled land application of biosolids completes a natural cycle in the environment. By treating sewage sludge, it becomes biosolids which can be used as valuable fertilizer, instead of taking up space in a landfill or other disposal facility.


    Where are biosolids used?

    Farmers and gardeners have been recycling biosolids for ages. Biosolids recycling is the process of beneficially using treated the treated residuals from wastewater treatment to promote the growth of agricultural crops, fertilize gardens and parks and reclaim mining sites. Land application of biosolids takes place in all 50 states.


    Why are biosolids used on farms?

    The application of biosolids reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. As more wastewater plants become capable of producing high quality biosolids, there is an even greater opportunity to make use of this valuable resource.


    What percentage of biosolids are recycled and how many farms use biosolids?

    About 50% of all biosolids are not being recycled to land. These biosolids are used on less than one percent of the nation's agricultural land.


    Are biosolids safe?

    The National Academy of Sciences has reviewed current practices, public health concerns and regulator standards, and has concluded that "the use of these materials in the production of crops for human consumption when practiced in accordance with existing federal guidelines and regulations, presents negligible risk to the consumer, to crop production and to the environment."


    Do biosolids smell?

    Biosolids may have their own distinctive odor depending on the type of treatment it has been through. Some biosolids may have only a slight musty, ammonia odor. Others have a stronger odor that may be offensive to some people. Much of the odor is caused by compounds containing sulfur and ammonia, both of which are plant nutrients.


    Are there regulations for the land application of biosolids?

    The federal biosolids rule is contained in 40 CFR Part 503. Biosolids that are to be land applied must meet these strict regulations and quality standards. The Part 503 rule governing the use and disposal of biosolids contain numerical limits, for metals in biosolids, pathogen reduction standards, site restriction, crop harvesting restrictions and monitoring, record keeping and reporting requirements for land applied biosolids as well as similar requirements for biosolids that are surface disposed or incinerated. Most recently, standards have been proposed to include requirements in the Part 503 Rule that limit the concentration of dioxin and dioxin like compounds in biosolids to ensure safe land application.


    Where can I find out more about the regulations?

    The biosolids rule is described in the EPA publication, A Plan English Guide to the EPA Part 503 Biosolids Rule. This guide states and interprets the Part 503 rule for the general reader. This guide is also available in hard copy. In addition to the Plain English Guide, EPA has prepare A Guide to the Biosolids Risk Assessments for the EPA Part 503 Rule which shows the many steps followed to develop the scientifically defensible, safe set of rules (also available from EPA in hard copy.)


    How are biosolids used for agriculture?

    Biosolids are used to fertilize fields for raising crops. Agricultural use of biosolids, that meet strict quality criteria and application rates, have been shown to produce significant improvements in crop growth and yield. Nutrients found in biosolids, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and trace elements such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, sulfur and zinc, are necessary for crop production and growth. The use of biosolids reduces the farmer's production costs and replenishes the organic matter that has been depleted over time. The organic matter improves soil structure by increasing the soil's ability to absorb and store moisture. The organic nitrogen and phosphorous found in biosolids are used very efficiently by crops because these plant nutrients are released slowly throughout the growing season. This enables the crop to absorb these nutrients as the crop grows. This efficiency lessens the likelihood of groundwater pollution of nitrogen and phosphorous.


    Can biosolids be used for mine reclamation?

    Biosolids have been used successfully at mine sites to establish sustainable vegetation. Not only does the organic matter, inorganic matrix and nutrients present in the biosolids reduce the bioavailability of toxic substances often found in highly disturbed mine soils, but also regenerate the soil layer. This regeneration is very important for reclaiming abandoned mine sites with little or no topsoil. The biosolids application rate for mine reclamation is generally higher than the agronomic rate which cannot be exceeded for use of agricultural soils.


    How are biosolids used for forestry?

    Biosolids have been found to promote rapid timber growth, allowing quicker and more efficient harvest of an important natural resource.


    Can biosolids be used for composting?

    Yes, biosolids may be composted and sold or distributed for use on lawns and home gardens. Most biosolids composts, are highly desirable products that are easy to store, transport and use.


    Are there rules about where biosolids can be applied?

    To determine whether biosolids can be applied to a particular farm site, an evaluation of the site's suitability is generally performed by the land applier. The evaluation examines water supplies, soil characteristics, slopes, vegetation, crop needs and the distances to surface and groundwater. There are different rules for different classes of biosolids. Class A biosolids contain no detectable levels of pathogens. Class A biosolids that meet strict vector attraction reduction requirements and low levels metals contents, only have to apply for permits to ensure that these very tough standards have been met. Class B biosolids are treated but still contain detectable levels of pathogens. There are buffer requirements, public access, and crop harvesting restrictions for virtually all forms of Class B biosolids. Nutrient management planning ensures that the appropriate quantity and quality of biosolids are land applied to the farmland. The biosolids application is specifically calculated to match the nutrient uptake requirements of the particular crop. Nutrient management technicians work with the farm community to assure proper land application and nutrient control.


    Are there buffer requirements or restrictions on public access to sites with biosolids?

    In general, exceptional quality (Class A) biosolids used in small quantities by general public have no buffer requirements, crop type, crop harvesting or site access restrictions. Exceptional Quality biosolids is the name given to treated residuals that contain low levels of metals and do not attract vectors. When used in bulk, Class A biosolids are subject to buffer requirements, but not to crop harvesting restrictions. In general, there are buffer requirements, public access, and crop harvesting restrictions for virtually all forms of Class B biosolids (treated but still containing detectable levels of pathogens).


    Can anyone apply biosolids to land?

    Anyone who wants to use biosolids for land application must comply with all relevant federal and state regulations. In some cases a permit may be required.


    What will it mean for a wastewater treatment plant, biosolids manager or land applier to agree to follow an Environmental Management System (EMS) for Biosolids?

    A voluntary EMS is now being developed for biosolids by the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP). The NBP consists of members from the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agency, the Water Environment Federation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other stakeholders including the general public. Those facilities who pledge to follow the EMS are agreeing to follow community-friendly practices in addition to being in compliance with applicable state and federal regulations. Community friendly practices refer to the control of odor, traffic, noise, and dust as well as the management of nutrients. Those who pledge to follow the EMS will be subjected to audit by impartial independent third parties.


    How can I find out about a proposed permit for a facility near me so that I can participate in the permitting process?

    If a facility near you has applied for an NPDES permit, the permitting authority or company will have provided notice in a major local newspaper, usually in the legal section of the classified ads, or in an official publication such as the Federal Register. You also may call the appropriate state regulatory agency for information on applications for permits. For more information, refer to the Permitting Contacts section of this web site.


    What are animal feeding operations?

    Animal feeding operations (AFOs) are agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland. There are approximately 450,000 AFOs in the United States. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are a relatively small number of AFOs that are regulated by the EPA.


    What are the water quality concerns related to AFOs?

    Manure and wastewater from AFOs have the potential to contribute pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and ammonia to the environment. Excess nutrients in water (i.e., nitrogen and phosphorus) can result in or contribute to low levels of dissolved oxygen (anoxia), eutrophication, and toxic algal blooms. These conditions may be harmful to human health and, in combination with other circumstances, have been associated with outbreaks of microbes such as Pfiesteria piscicida. Decomposing organic matter (i.e., animal waste) can reduce oxygen levels and cause fish kills. Pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium, have been linked to impairments in drinking water supplies and threats to human health. Pathogens in manure can also create a food safety concern if manure is applied directly to crops at inappropriate times. In addition, pathogens are responsible for some shellfish bed closures. Nitrogen in the form of nitrate, can contaminate drinking water supplies drawn from ground water.


    What design flow is appropriate for calculating limits for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus)?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. Design flows for effluent limit calculations are based on treatment design flows at individual facilities. Please refer to 40 CFR 122.45(b) Exit EPA Site and Chapter 6 of the NPDES Permit Writers' Manual [PDF - 222 KB - 28 pp] for more information on determining appropriate effluent design flow.


    What monitoring requirements for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) are necessary in permits?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. In general, monitoring requirements in permits must effectively ascertain compliance with effluent limits. Please refer to 40 CFR 122.44(i) Exit EPA Site and Chapter 8 of the NPDES Permit Writers' Manual [PDF - 132 KB - 29 pp] for more information.


    Can a new source or a new discharger be authorized in water bodies that are currently listed as impaired for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus)?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. New sources and new dischargers can be authorized in water bodies currently listed as impaired. If a TMDL has been developed, the permit writer must demonstrate that there are remaining pollutant load allocations to allow for the additional loads and compliance schedules designed to bring the impaired water body into compliance with applicable water quality standards. When a TMDL has yet to be developed, the new source or new discharger can obtain a permit when certain conditions are met such as when the dischargers do not contain the pollutant causing the impairment, or other pollutant source reductions will offset the new discharge. For more information, refer to 40 CFR 122.4(i) Exit EPA Site and page 38 of EPA's decision on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation petition [PDF - 500 KB - 64 pp].


    Should WQBELs apply only if a water is determined to be impaired by nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus)?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. The permitting authority must include a WQBEL in a permit if nutrients or any pollutant cause, contribute to, or have the reasonable potential to cause or contribute to an excursion of a water quality standard. In other words, even if a waterbody is not currently impaired for nutrients, a permit writer must include a WQBEL if a discharge has the reasonable potential to cause or contribute to an excursion of the nutrient criteria. For more information on WQBELs, please refer to 40 CFR 122.44(d) Exit EPA Site.


    When determining reasonable potential for nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) NPDES permits, are dynamic models appropriate, and if so, which models?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. The decision to use dynamic models (time variable models) depends on the waterbody system to be modeled. The factors one considers to determine when to use a time variable model are found in a suite of technical guidances related to modeling the fate and transport of contaminants for the purposes of developing wasteload allocations that OW published between 1983 and 1990. Citations for these documents are as follows:

    USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1983a. Technical Guidance Manual for Developing Total Maximum Daily Loads: Book 2, Rivers and Streams, Chapter 2: Nutrient/Eutrophication Impacts. EPA 440/4-84-021. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

    USEPA. 1983b. Technical Guidance Manual for Performing Waste Load Allocations: Book 4, Lakes and Impoundments, Chapter 2: Nutrient/Eutrophication Impacts [PDF - 1.8 MB - 177 pp]. EPA 440/4-84-019. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

    USEPA. 1990a. Technical Guidance Manual for Performing Waste Load Allocations: Book 3, Estuaries, Part 2: Application of Estuarine Waste Load Allocation Models [PDF - 2.5 MB - 173 pp]. EPA 823/R-92-003. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.


    How can new nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) criteria be implemented in existing NPDES permits?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. The permitting authority may be able to modify an existing permit (a new nutrient standard may be an allowable cause for modification) during the existing permit term, wait until the end of the permit term, or use an overlay permit that captures multiple facilities and provides additional flexibility. Permitting authorities are encouraged to consider a watershed-based permitting approach, which allows for the coordinated reissuance of permits with applicable limits throughout a watershed and may expedite implementation of new criteria while lowering administrative burden. The Virginia Chesapeake Bay and the Connecticut Long Island Sound Permits are examples where states have utilized the overlay permit to implement new nutrient criteria. Refer to 40 CFR 122.62 Exit EPA Siteand Chapter 11 of the NPDES Permit Writers' Manual [PDF - 84 KB - 19 pp] for regulatory requirements and information on reopening a permit.

    For more information on examples of overlay permits, refer to "Case Study 1-General Permit for Nitrogen Discharges" and "Case Study 13-Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Virginia: Watershed-based General Permit for Nutrient Discharges and Nutrient Trading" located on EPA's Watershed-Based Permitting publications page.


    What options are available when treatment technology does not exist to enable dischargers to meet the WQBEL?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. If dischargers cannot meet the WQBEL based on existing water quality standards, states have the option of changing the water quality standards through variances or changes to designated uses, which would result in a different WQBEL that could be met. In other instances, dischargers may be able to meet the WQBELs based on existing water quality standards through options such as offsets from point and nonpoint sources (e.g., land based BMPs) and water quality trading, and watershed analysis.

    For information on variances, refer to EPA's Water Quality Standards Handbook. For information on changing designated uses, please refer to 40 CFR 131.10(g) Exit EPA Site. For information on offsets, trading, and watershed analysis, refer to the Watershed-Based Permitting website and the Water Quality Trading website.


    How can watershed-based permitting strategies, trading, or other novel permitting strategies be utilized to "meet" water quality standards?

    The answer to this question is not specific to nutrients. EPA promotes using a NPDES watershed approach and water quality trading as innovative tools that may provide low cost implementation solutions for meeting water quality standards. For more information on these tools, please refer to the Watershed-Based Permitting website and the Water Quality Trading website.


    How do technology-based effluent limits affect the need for water-quality based effluent limits (WQBELs) in permits?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. Water quality-based effluent limitations are needed where technology-based effluent limitations are not stringent enough to meet applicable water quality standards. Refer to 40 CFR 122.44(d) Exit EPA Site and Chapter 6 of the NPDES Permit Writers' Manual [PDF - 222 KB - 28 pp] for more information on WQBELs.


    Can a permit require chemical and biological sampling at points other than the discharge outfall?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. Biological sampling may be appropriate to effectively monitor the discharge status and ensure compliance. One practice for collecting ambient monitoring is described in EPA's Interim Guidance for Performance-based Reductions of NPDES Permit Monitoring Frequencies [PDF - 87 KB - 23 pp], which states that the permit authority can grant reductions in effluent monitoring for a permittee with a history of good compliance and permitting performance in exchange for ambient monitoring. In an attempt to test some of the ideas in the 1996 Interim Guidance, performance track facilities have been piloting programs to strike a balance between ambient monitoring and end-of-pipe monitoring. Specifically, Kodak Colorado Division and other dischargers near Kodak on the Cache la Poudre River have formed an ambient water quality monitoring group. This group was formed in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) to monitor the ambient water quality of the receiving water body.

    More information about this ambient monitoring group is located on EPA's National Environmental Performance Track website. Also refer to Chapter 8 of the NPDES Permit Writers' Manual [PDF - 132 KB - 29 pp] for information on including special studies and additional monitoring in NPDES permits.


    In the absence of a TMDL, do permitting authorities have the flexibility to use a watershed approach similar to a TMDL analysis? Does EPA have guidance on an appropriate margin of safety for nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) TMDLs associated with the wasteload allocation/load allocation (WLA/LA) to ensure that water quality standards are met when implemented into permit limits?

    This question is not entirely specific to nutrients, and therefore, is answered the same as for any other water quality criteria. Yes, in the absence of a TMDL, permitting authorities have the flexibility to use a watershed approach similar to a TMDL analysis. One such approach is watershed-based permitting, which may be valuable where a TMDL is not available or as a tool to implement a TMDL. However, unless the watershed-based permitting effort includes all of the required elements of a TMDL or a TMDL alternative, a waterbody impaired by nutrients should remain on the 303(d) list until it meets standards or has an actual TMDL established or approved by EPA. The Chesapeake Bay implemented a watershed-based permitting approach for controlling nutrient discharges [PDF - 196 KB - 3 pp]. You can find more information on the Watershed-Based Permitting website. For information on determining the margin of safety for nutrient TMDLs, refer to Chapter 9 of EPA's Protocol for Developing Nutrient TMDLs [PDF - 2.5 MB -137 pp].


    Are seasonal water quality-based permit limits for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) appropriate?

    The answer to this question is specific to nutrients. Seasonal water quality-based permit limits are not explicitly specified in the NPDES regulations under 40 CFR 122 Exit EPA Site. However, seasonal permit limits may be acceptable if they are consistent with applicable water quality standards, and with the assumptions and requirements of the wasteload allocation of any approved TMDL (40 CFR 130.7(c) Exit EPA Site). For example, if the water quality standards for nutrients provide for seasonal limits, permits can include seasonal limits. See the memorandum, discussing nitrogen and phosphorus annual permit limits [PDF - 444 KB - 5 pp] implemented to protect the Chesapeake Bay.


    Does each vessel in a fleet require its own coverage under the general permit?

    Yes, each individual vessel is required to comply with the limitations and requirements of the permit including inspections, recordkeeping and reporting.

    Discussion

    The Clean Water Act and NPDES regulations generally require that each point source, e.g. vessel, seeking to discharge pollutants to the waters of the US must obtain a permit under the NPDES program and be compliant with those limitations and requirements. The VGP represents the most expeditious process by which a vessel can obtain this coverage. Any vessel that meets the conditions requiring submission of an NOI must file its own NOI for seeking coverage under the general permit.


    Must vessels maintain a physical copy of the permit onboard?

    No. Vessels are not required to keep a physical copy of the permit onboard the vessel. The VGP does require that certain documents including the NOI (if an NOI is required) be maintained onboard the vessel.

    Discussion

    The VGP is a general permit issued under the NPDES program by EPA and each vessel does not receive an individualized copy of a permit; therefore a physical copy of the permit is not required to be maintained on the vessel. While there is not a individual permit document with limitations that is issued to the vessel, EPA recommends that a copy of the VGP be maintained onboard each vessel for reference to ensure that all requirements are complied with by the vessel. This is especially important for vessels that may operate in waters where states have provided 401 certification conditions (see Section 6 of the VGP).


    How long does the VGP last (e.g. when must it be reissued)?

    The VGP was issued on December 19, 2008 and expires on December 19, 2013.


    In the situation where a barge is towed by multiple tugboat operators or fleeters from different companies, may the barge owner submit the NOI for the barge?

    The NOI for the discharges from the barge must be submitted by a party with operational control over the barge. If the barge owner meets the definition of "operator" of the barge in Part 7 of the VGP, the barge owner may submit the NOI for discharges from the barge.

    Discussion

    Under VGP §1.5, for vessels greater than or equal to 300 gross tons or that have the capacity to hold or discharge more than 8 cubic meters (2113 gallons) of ballast water, the owner or operator must submit a complete and accurate NOI within specified timeframes.

    Under the NPDES regulations, if a vessel is owned by one person but is operated by another, it is the operator's duty to obtain a permit. 40 C.F.R. §122.21(b). For the purposes of the Vessel General Permit, an "operator" is any "party . . . who (1) has operational control over vessel activities, including the ability to modify those activities; or (2) has day-to-day operational control of those activities that are necessary to ensure compliance with the permit or to direct workers to carry out activities required to comply with the permit." VGP Part 7.

    Therefore, any entity who meets this definition may submit an NOI for their vessel. Under many circumstances, the owner maintains operational control over their vessel's activities and thus may submit the NOI. Note that in a situation where more than one party meets the definition of "operator" of the barge, only one of them need submit an NOI.


    Is there a mechanism for batch submission of multiple NOIs?

    Yes. EPA's Electronic Notice of Intent (eNOI) system has a batch submission process. Instructions can be found on the website and technical support is available.


    Is there a mechanism for others (e.g., a ship's agent) to prepare NOIs on behalf of vessel owner/operators?

    Yes. EPA's Electronic Notice of Intent (eNOI) system allows an NOI form to be created by one entity and be certified by the operator separately. Instructions are available on the website and technical support is available.


    How long does it take for EPA to process the NOI once it is submitted and for the vessel to receive coverage under the VGP?

    If the NOI is submitted electronically, EPA requires at least 30 days to process a complete and accurate NOI submittal and allow coverage under the VGP for vessels which have not previously been covered under the VGP. EPA may require additional time dependent upon the information submitted with the NOI. Paper submission of NOIs can take approximately 60 days to process.

    Discussion

    Vessels must have coverage before discharging into water covered by the permit and Part 1.5 of the VGP provides the timeframes for submitting the NOI. The minimum 30 day period allows EPA to examine the information submitted with the NOI and determine whether coverage under the VGP is appropriate or whether an individual permit should be required for the vessel. EPA encourages vessels to submit an NOI as soon as possible but no later than 30 days prior to entry into waters covered by the permit to minimize any chance that coverage would not be granted before arrival. An NOI is effective until permit expiration and EPA encourages vessels that potentially might seek entry into waters covered by the permit before December 19, 2013 to apply now.


    Is a written document provided to confirm receipt of the NOI and whether coverage has been granted?

    If the NOI is submitted electronically, the system will provide an e-mail confirmation to the certifying official that the NOI was received. EPA will provide separate notification within 30 days whether coverage has been granted or if further review is required. The status of a pending NOI will also be available through the on-line NOI submission system.

    If the NOI is submitted in paper form, EPA will not provide confirmation of receipt. EPA will only provide a notification of whether coverage has been granted or if further review is required.


    If a vessel is a commercial fishing vessel of any size or other non-recreational vessel less than 79 feet in length and has ballast water discharges, must an NOI be submitted?

    Per the terms of the VGP, if the vessel has a ballast water capacity of 8 cubic meters, an NOI must be submitted for the ballast water discharge only. These vessels may also seek an individual permit to obtain the necessary coverage. For more information see Part 2.5 of the VGP Fact Sheet.

    Discussion

    On July 30, 2010, President Obama signed P.L.111-215 (Senate Bill S. 3372) into law. This law amends P.L. 110-299 (Senate Bill S. 3298), which generally imposes a moratorium during which time neither EPA nor states may require NPDES permits for discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial fishing vessels of any size and other non-recreational vessels less than 79 feet. As a result of P.L. 110-299, the VGP does not cover vessels less than 79 feet or commercial fishing vessels, unless they have ballast water discharges. P.L. 111-215 extended the expiration date of the moratorium from July 31, 2010 to December 18, 2013.


    Is a Notice of Termination (NOT) required for vessels not required to submit a NOI?

    No. If the operator is not required to submit a NOI for the vessel, then there is also no requirement to submit a NOT when ceasing coverage under the permit. See Part 3.8.2.2 of the VGP Fact Sheet for more information.


    Is a Notice of Termination (NOT) required when the vessel leaves the waters of the United States?

    No. The vessel does not need to submit a NOT upon leaving U.S. waters, nor does a previously covered vessel need to submit a new NOI prior to re-entering U.S. waters. See Part 3.8.2.1 of the VGP Fact Sheet for more information.


    Will any NOI filings under this permit be accessible to the public?

    All NOIs are available for public review through posting on the internet. The link to the website follows:


    For purposes of VGP section 4.1.1, what constitutes a voyage?

    For the purposes of VGP section 4.1.1 (including its routine visual inspection provisions), a voyage is generally considered to begin when the vessel departs a dock or other location at which it has loaded or unloaded (in whole or in part) cargo or passengers, and to end after it has tied-up at another dock or location in order to again conduct such activities. For example, for a barge on the Mississippi River, such voyage would begin when it departs a location at which it has cargo loaded onto it and end when cargo is unloaded at another location.

    For vessels such as mobile oil and gas rigs, which are in a mode of transportation only when relocating between drill sites, a voyage for purposes of VGP section 4.1.1 is generally considered to begin when the rig departs one site and to end when it arrives at the new site to commence operations which are not transportation-oriented, such as drilling.

    For vessels such as harbor tugs, which may be in semi-continuous operation for up to a week within the same harbor and do not carry passengers or cargo, for purposes of VGP section 4.1.1, a voyage is generally considered to begin when the crew or master take charge of the vessel and to end when that crew or master are replaced by another crew or master, at which point a new voyage would begin due to the arrival of the new crew or master. For example, if crew changes occur every seven days on a harbor tug, the voyage begins with crew arrival, ends on day seven with departure of that crew, and a new voyage begins on day seven with arrival of the new crew. A routine visual inspection thus would be necessary during the tenure of the initial crew and also during tenure of the new crew.

    Discussion
    Section 4.1.1 of EPA’s Vessel General Permit (VGP) provides that at least once per week or once per "voyage," whichever is more frequent (but not more than once per day), permittees must conduct a visual inspection of safely accessible deck and cargo areas and all accessible areas where chemicals, oils, dry cargo or other materials are stored, mixed, and used, as well as verifying that monitoring, training, and inspections are logged according to VGP requirements. The routine visual inspections under this VGP section were intended to be measures of good marine practice that the prudent mariner is already employing to ensure vessel, crew, and environmental health and safety (see VGP Fact Sheet section 6.1).

    The term "voyage" is not defined in the VGP, nor does it have a single clearly understood meaning in the maritime context (see generally, discussion of maritime law "voyage" definitions at http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/V/Voyage.aspx). In general usage, the term voyage involves a trip by water of some duration (see, Webster's NewWorld College Dictionary (4th Ed.), defining "voyage" as "a relatively long journey or passage by water or, formerly, by land"). The lack of a clear commonly-understood definition has resulted in questions as to how VGP section 4.1.1 (which uses the term "voyage" as a trigger for some of its requirements) is to be interpreted.

    The answer above interprets the term "voyage" for purposes of VGP section 4.1.1 in order to provide clarity as to when its obligations are triggered. For each situation addressed in the above answer, the analysis began with the general understanding of the term voyage to mean a trip by water of some duration, and for the need to provide easily recognizable discrete beginning and end points so as to clarify what constitutes a "voyage." The answer provided was developed taking into account a variety of underlying vessel usages and the underlying purpose of the visual inspection requirement – to ensure that such inspection occurs when conditions on the vessel have changed in a way that might implicate vessel discharges.

    Accordingly, the "general" interpretation in the first paragraph of the answer, which addresses vessels used in carrying cargo or passengers, takes into account the movement of cargo or passengers onto or off the vessel in defining "voyage." Such an approach ensures that an inspection occurs after a vessel departs following loading or unloading cargo or passengers, as those operations can result in, for example, spillage of cargo material or discarding of rubbish on deck or discharge into the water. For vessels that do not engage in such activities, we necessarily looked to other logical beginning and endpoints to use in defining "voyage," as set out in the second and third paragraph of the answer above. While we generally interpret "voyage" as described above, there are certain classes of vessels where such a definition does not work and, therefore, EPA interprets the terms differently for such vessels as set out in the following paragraph.

    Vessels that shift in and out of use as a means of transportation (such as mobile drilling rigs) are operating in a capacity as a means of transportation when moving between sites, and therefore are covered by the VGP during that period, but not when operating in their industrial capacity as a drilling rig (see, VGP Fact Sheet section 3.5.2.1 for further discussion). The transition from industrial mode to transportation mode is a change in operation that may affect the nature and characteristics of discharges such that a visual inspection is prudent. Thus, for such vessels we interpret "voyage" in paragraph 2 of the answer above in terms of departure from one site and arrival at a new site to commence non-transportation activities. Harbor tugs, which operate within harbor confines and also do not carry cargo or passengers, are addressed in paragraph 3 of the answer above, which uses the instance of a new crew or master taking over operation of the vessel to determine when a "voyage" begins and ends. This change was chosen as a trigger because, in addition to being a readily identifiable discrete event, it also will result in a visual inspection being performed by incoming sets of crew, thereby ensuring that they become familiar with conditions on the vessel that may implicate vessel discharges.

    Lastly, we note the interpretation of "voyage" given in the answer above does not in any way serve to relieve permittees of the VGP’s minimum requirement that visual inspection be conducted at least once per week. See, VGP Section 4.1.1 (stating visual inspections must be conducted at least once per week or per voyage, whichever is more frequent).


    What is the definition of phosphate free cleaners and detergents for purposes of the VGP?

    Phosphate free soaps, cleaners, and detergents, are defined in Part 7 of the Permit. Phosphate free is defined as materials which contain, by weight, 0.5% or less of phosphates or derivatives of phosphates.

    Discussion

    "Phosphate free" refers to any cleaning product that is not formulated with phosphorous containing compounds, which would readily be converted to phosphate in the aquatic environment, as an intentional part of the product formulation. EPA considers "readily be converted to phosphate" to be products that break down through simple hydrolysis or oxidation reactions. EPA considers the term "phosphate" to encompass phosphoric acid, phosphonates, organophosphates, any salt of a hydrogen phosphate, and any salt of phosphate. "Derivatives of phosphate" include polyphosphates, such as sodium tripolyphosphate (Na5P3O10),pyrophosphate and phosphorus oxoacids.

    For purposes of this permit, cleaning products that contain such phosphorous containing compounds as an unintentional consequence of manufacturing (i.e., do not exceed 0.5% of the content of the product by weight) are considered phosphate free.


    What is the definition of biodegradable for purposes of the VGP?

    Biodegradation is the process whereby organic matter is used by microorganisms, present in the environment, as a food source. Ultimate biodegradation is the level of degradation achieved when an organic compound is totally utilized by aerobic microorganisms. This results in the production of carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts, and biomass.

    Regarding cleaning products, for purposes of the VGP, EPA considers testing that demonstrates either the removal of 70 percent of dissolved organic carbon, production of 60 percent of the theoretical carbon dioxide, or consumption of 60 percent of the theoretical oxygen demand within 28 days to indicate the cleaning product is biodegradable. Acceptable test methods include: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Test Guidelines 301 A-F, 306, and 310, and International Organization for Standardization 14593:1999.

    For the purposes of the VGP, EPA considers biocidal substances that yield 60 percent of theoretical maximum carbon dioxide and demonstrate a removal of 70 percent of dissolved organic carbon within 28 days as described in EPA 712-C-98-075 (OPPTS 835.3100 Aerobic Aquatic Biodegradation) to be biodegradable.


    Can a vessel receive a waiver from permit limitations or requirements of the VGP, for instance, if the vessel is an older vessel?

    No, waivers are not available for permit limitations or requirements of the VGP.

    Discussion

    General permits such as the VGP are a set of limitations and requirements issued to control a category or categories of discharges. As such, permittee-specific waivers are not generally available from general permit limitations or requirements.


    Is a tanker barge considered to be a tanker or a barge for purposes of the VGP?

    The VGP has vessel class specific requirements in Part 5 of the VGP. Part 5.4 addresses barges and 5.5 addresses oil or petroleum tankers. If a vessel is a tank barge, then it must meet the requirements in Part 5.4; if a vessel, including a tank barge, is transporting oil or petroleum, then it must also comply with Part 5.5 of the VGP.


    How are unmanned and/or empty barges being towed covered by the permit?

    Empty or unmanned barges are typically still considered to be operating in a capacity as a means of transportation unless they have been removed from active service. Unmanned or empty barges are treated the same as any other manned or loaded barge under the general permit, and thus are eligible to obtain the required NPDES permit coverage under the VGP.


    Are training vessels eligible for coverage under the VGP?

    Training vessels that are non-recreational vessels and are greater than 79 feet in length or have ballast water discharges are eligible to obtain the required NPDES permit coverage under the VGP.


    Are emergency vessels (e.g., fire boats, police boats) eligible for coverage under the VGP?

    Yes, emergency vessels that are greater than 79 feet in length or have ballast water discharges are eligible for coverage under the VGP.

    Discussion

    Permit requirements apply to discharges incidental to the normal operation of emergency vessels. In addition, for these vessels, the VGP in Part 5.7 authorizes the discharge of waste streams in conjunction with training, testing and maintenance operations of emergency vessels, provided that they comply with all additional requirements of the Clean Water Act (Section 311) and the National Contingency Plan (40 CFR Part 300).


    How will a vessel know that it is within the 3 nautical miles zone covered by the permit?

    Operators of vessels located in the territorial seas should utilize appropriate navigational aids and maps to locate both the outer boundary of the territorial seas and the vessel's relative location. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts are a useful source for this information.

    For more information see:


    If a vessel is engaged in a Pacific Nearshore voyage, yet does not travel farther than 50 nautical miles from waters subject to the VGP in its voyage, must it still exchange ballast water?

    In general, such vessels would not need to exchange ballast water if they do not travel farther than 50 nautical miles from waters subject to the VGP (See Part 2.2.3.11 of the VGP). However, Section 6 of the VGP contains additional requirements for certain state waters with respect to ballast water discharge which may require exchange, even if a vessel does not travel 50 nm from shore.


    Are crude oil tankers engaged in the coastwise trade (including those to and from Alaska) subject to the VGP's ballast water requirements?

    Yes, such vessels are subject to the ballast water exchange and flushing requirements contained in VGP Parts 2.2.3.6 and 2.2.3.8, as well as any additional exchange or flushing requirements for coastwise voyages resulting from State 401 certification conditions contained in Part 6 of the VGP . Unlike section 1101(c)(2)(L) of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act, as amended, there is no Clean Water Act exemption for crude oil tankers engaged in coast wise trade.


    When filling out Ballast Water Reporting Forms, does the VGP require that saltwater flushing be noted on the form, or is maintaining flushing records onboard sufficient?

    Those vessels that conduct saltwater flushing as required by Part 2.2.3.7 (ocean going voyages) and Part 2.2.3.8 (Pacific nearshore voyages) of the permit must note that fact on the Ballast Water Reporting Form, which is found in the Appendix to 33 CFR Part 151, Subpart D.

    Discussion

    On the form, saltwater flushing should be indicated by checking off the "Underwent Alternative Management" box and indicating that the vessel conducted saltwater flushing in the "specify alternative method" line, and by filling out Section 5, Ballast Water History. The information must be kept on board the vessel to meet the requirements of this permit, and must submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard where required under Coast Guard regulations.

    See Section 4.3 of the VGP for more information.


    Is a diving inspection required to determine whether there are living organisms on a vessel's hull? How does EPA suggest making such a determination without a diving inspection?

    A diving inspection is not required by the VGP. As explained in section 6.1 of the VGP Fact Sheet, the permit requires self-inspections for the visible portion of the hull (e.g., those portions that are visible from above the waterline or those portions which are visible when the vessel is in reasonably clear water) for the presence of attached living organisms. However, in accordance with VGP Part 4.1.3 vessel owner/operators must document which portions of the vessel are not inspectable for the annual inspection in their recordkeeping documentation.

    Discussion

    In addition, as stated in Part 4.1.3 of the VGP, if any of portions of the vessel hull are not inspectable without the vessel entering drydock, the vessel owner/operator must inspect those areas during their drydock inspection and their results must be documented in their drydock inspection reports.


    What is the definition of tributyltin (TBT) or other organotin compound for purposes of this permit?

    Tributyltin is a toxic organometallic compound which was previously registered for use as a biocide in antifouling paints applied to vessel hulls and other underwater parts of ships and boats. Organotins are the larger family of organometallic compounds to which tributyltin belongs. As used in the text of this permit, when EPA is referring to "organotins," the Agency is referring to these compounds in their capacity as biocides. In the United States and many other countries, the use of antifouling paints containing tributyltin has been phased-out due to concerns about its environmental impacts.

    Discussion

    For purposes of this permit, EPA has prohibited the use of antifouling paints containing TBT or any other organotin compounds as a biocide. In cases where TBT antifouling coatings have been applied to a ship, all residual TBT must be removed from immersed surfaces or a sealer-coat must be applied to prevent any residual TBT leaching into the environment. EPA is unaware of any nonbiocidal use of TBT which would result in a residual presence in antifouling paints; hence, EPA reaffirms that there must be zero discharge of TBT from vessel hulls.

    Other less toxic organotins such as dibutyltin are used in very small quantities as catalysts in biocide-free coatings that can be applied to immersed areas of ships to control fouling. Biocidal-free coatings create a slick surface to which fouling organisms cannot firmly attach. To function properly, the coating surface must remain smooth and intact, and not leach into the surrounding water. Because these less toxic organotins are used as a catalyst in the production of biocide free coatings, such production may result in trace amounts of organotin in anti-foulant coatings. EPA interprets the provisions of Part 2.2.4 of the VGP which apply to TBT "or any other organotin compound" to authorize the use of non-biocidal coatings which contain these trace amounts of catalytic organotin (other than TBT) under the following conditions:

    • The trace amounts of organotin are not used as a biocide. On a practical level, when used as a catalyst, an organotin compound should not be present above 2500 mg total tin per kilogram of dry paint.
    • The coating is not designed to slough or otherwise peel from the vessel hull. Incidental amounts of coating may be released by abrasion during cleaning or after contact with other hard surfaces (e.g., moorings).


    Section 5.4.1 of EPA's Vessel General Permit (VGP) provides that "[i]f a visible sheen is noted," vessel operators must undertake certain corrective action and recordkeeping. The permit further defines "visible sheen" to include "visual color." Would identification of color on the water that did not originate from an oily discharge (e.g., discoloration caused by colored dust) trigger the corrective action and recordkeeping requirements of §5.4.1?

    The visible sheen provision in VGP § 5.4.1 applies only in the context of discharges of "oil" and/or "oily mixtures" as defined in VGP § 7. Therefore, identification of color on the water that did not originate from an oily discharge would not trigger the corrective action and recordkeeping requirements of §5.4.1

    Discussion

    The provision in question is contained in the first paragraph of VGP section 5.4.1, which reads as follows: "Barges must minimize the contact of below deck condensation with oily or toxic materials, and any materials containing hydrocarbon. Whenever barges are pumping water from below deck, the discharge shall not contain oil in quantities that may be harmful as defined in 40 CFR Part 110. If a visible sheen is noted, vessel operators must initiate corrective action in accordance with Part 3 and meet recordkeeping requirements in Part 4.2 of this permit." VGP § 5.4.1 prohibits discharges that contain oil in quantities that may be harmful as defined in 40 C.F.R. Part 110, which uses, in part, a "sheen" test for that purpose. 40 C.F.R. 110.3(b) (stating that "discharges of oil in … quantities that . . . may be harmful" includes discharges that "cause a film or sheen upon or discoloration of the surface of the water. . ." ; see also, 40 C.F.R. 110.1 (defining sheen as "an iridescent appearance on the surface of water"). Apart from using the "sheen" term in the specific context of oily discharges, the VGP also expressly states in VGP § 5.4.2 that "[t]he visual sheen test is used to detect free oil by observing the surface of the receiving water for the presence of an oily sheen." The term "visible sheen" is further defined in VGP § 7 consistent with methods used under the effluent guideline program for determining the presence of free oil. 40 C.F.R. Part 435, Appendix 1 to Subpart A at § 8.6; see, 58 Fed. Reg. 12507 (March 4, 1993). Finally, the accompanying Fact Sheet for the VGP makes clear that the visible sheen test "was chosen as an approach to determine whether oil is being discharged in quantities that may be harmful, because the visible sheen test is easy to use and is consistent with existing CWA requirements." VGP Fact Sheet § 4.3.1.4.


    From where should graywater be sampled?

    For those vessels which must sample graywater (e.g., Cruise Ships), graywater samples needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the treatment system must be representative of the treated effluent to be discharged, and must therefore be collected after treatment and prior to the discharge into waters of the US. This sampling point could be from a sampling port in the vessel piping or, if feasible, from a discharge port located above the waterline.


    Does analytical monitoring of graywater required for cruise ships in Parts 5.1. and 5.2 of the VGP need to be done by an approved lab?

    For purposes of this permit, analytical monitoring of graywater does not need to be conducted by an approved lab.

    Discussion

    EPA allowed this flexibility in the VGP to accommodate vessels engaged in international voyages which rarely frequent U.S. waters or vessels which test to see if their systems meet certain standards before entering waters of the U.S. The analytical monitoring must be done for each of the constituents (biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), fecal coliform, suspended solids, pH, and total residual chlorine), in accordance with methods specified in 40 CFR Part 136.


    Is there any centralized list or database of state requirements under Section 401?

    Section 6 of the VGP provides the state requirements.

    Discussion

    Section 6 of the VGP describes additional state-specific limitations and monitoring requirements that apply to vessels. Additionally, the EPA Vessel Discharge Homepage provides links to state certification letters and relevant contacts.


    Where can I find a list of Frequently Asked Questions for the Vessel One Time Report System?

    The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions for the Vessel One Time Report System.


    The VGP requires certain records to be kept “on the vessel” or, in the case of a barge, on the accompanying tug. Many companies are using electronic recordkeeping systems for Coast Guard and other recordkeeping requirements. May electronic recordkeeping systems be used to meet the recordkeeping requirement under the VGP?

    EPA considers records required under Part 4.2 of the VGP that are maintained in electronic recordkeeping systems to be “written records” kept “on the vessel or accompanying tug,” for purposes of complying with the VGP in the circumstances described below.

    Discussion

    Part 4.2 of the VGP requires that certain “written records” be kept “on the vessel or accompanying tug.” Required records include: owner/vessel information; a voyage log; records of any violation of any effluent limit and corrective action taken; a record of routine inspections and any deficiencies or problems found; analytical monitoring results; a log of findings from annual inspections and any corrective actions planned or taken; a record of any specific requirements given to the vessel by EPA or state agencies; additional information on vessel maintenance and specified discharges; and a record of training completed. Part 4.2 states that “Operators may choose how these records will be maintained, but must retain these records on the vessel for a period of 3 years.”

    Part 4.2 further states that “It is not the intention of this permit to require separate records for the Coast Guard and EPA. Rather, vessels can harmonize their recordkeeping practices, where appropriate, so that records are not unnecessarily duplicative. For example, information can be logged with maintenance records, the ship’s log, in existing ISM/SMS plans or recordkeeping, or other additional recordkeeping documentation as appropriate but must be provided to EPA or its authorized representative if requested.”

    Recordkeeping technology is a rapidly changing field. Many vessel operators are increasingly using electronic record keeping systems to create and maintain required records, using software, electronic forms and onboard computer terminals that collect and transmit data electronically to shoreside databases for collection and storage.

    Given the foregoing, EPA considers records required under Part 4.2 of the VGP that are maintained in electronic record-keeping systems to be “written records” kept “on the vessel or accompanying tug”, for purposes of complying with the VGP, provided that the records are: in a format that can be read in a similar manner as a paper record, legally dependable with no less evidentiary value than their paper equivalent, and accessible to the inspector during an inspection to the same extent as a paper copy stored on the vessel would be, if the records were stored in paper form.

    (1) Readability/Legal Dependability

    EPA expects that the following features of an electronic recordkeeping system would together generally ensure that records created and/or maintained in such systems are readable and legally dependable with no less evidentiary value than their paper equivalent:

    1. From the vessel or tug, and from any other point of access to the electronic recordkeeping system, electronic records, including signatures, certifications, and alterations, can be: (i) displayed to EPA, including its authorized representatives, in a format that can be read in a manner similar to a paper record and that associates data with field names or other labels that give the data contained in the record meaning and context (not solely in a computer code or data string), (ii) easily copied for EPA, including its authorized representatives, to review and access at EPA staff computers using non-proprietary software, and (iii) can easily be printed to paper form;
    2. Associated metadata in their native format is preserved and available upon request;
    3. Electronic records cannot be modified without detection and are preserved in a manner that cannot be altered once created. For example, any changes to an electronic record are automatically and indelibly recorded in a logically-associated (i.e., cryptographically bound) audit trail that records each change made without obscuring the data to which the modification is made or its antecedents;
    4. The electronic recordkeeping system automatically identifies any person who creates, certifies, or modifies an electronic record using electronic signatures that meet the same signature, authentication, and identity-proofing standards set forth at 40 C.F.R. § 3.2000(b) for electronic reports (including robust second-factor authentication);
    5. Originals of any electronic record are immediately and automatically transferred to and held at a single location by a custodian of records who is not an author, certifier, or modifier of the electronic records. The original electronic record is secured in a fashion that protects it from tampering or destruction;
    6. The electronic recordkeeping system automatically identifies: 1) the name, address, telephone number and email address for the custodian of records described in “d” above; and 2) the address and owner of the location where the original electronic record is located. The electronic records and their associated metadata remain available and the discharger/permittee can demonstrate that the records have not been changed in any modification of the record-keeping system or migration to a successor record-keeping system;
    7. Clear instructions guide users of the electronic record-keeping system in proper use of the system and unambiguously communicate the legal significance of using an electronic signature device; and
    8. Computer systems (including hardware and software), controls, and attendant documentation that are part of the electronic record-keeping system are readily available for, and subject to, agency inspection.

    (2) Accessibility

    EPA will generally consider electronic records to be accessible enough to be considered to be stored “on the vessel” when the vessel operator is able to, immediately, upon request, provide to government officials or authorized representatives:

    1. Paper or electronic copies of requested records required to be maintained pursuant to the VGP; and
    2. Electronic access, using hardware and software available on the vessel or tug, to required VGP records via electronic storage on the vessel or tug, or via direct access to an electronic system of records stored elsewhere, provided that the location of the original record is within the United States.

    EPA notes that it may change this answer at any time, based upon experience with electronic recordkeeping, or any other new information or considerations.


    What is the Vessel General Permit (VGP)?

    The VGP is a Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that authorizes, on a nationwide basis, discharges incidental to the normal operation of non-military and non-recreational vessels greater than or equal to 79 feet in length. The draft Vessel General Permit would replace the current 2008 Vessel General Permit, which expires in December 2013. The 2013 draft VGP would continue to regulate 26 specific discharge categories that were contained in the 2008 VGP, and for the first time, would authorize the discharge of fish hold effluent (which was previously exempt by P.L. 111-215).


    What changes are in the 2013 draft VGP?

    For the first time, the draft VGP contains numeric ballast water discharge limits for most vessels. The draft VGP also contains more stringent effluent limits for oil to sea interfaces and exhaust gas scrubber washwater, which would improve environmental protection of U.S. waters. EPA has also improved the efficiency of several of the VGP’s administrative requirements, including allowing electronic recordkeeping, requiring an annual report in lieu of the one-time report and annual noncompliance report, and requiring small vessel owners and/or operators to obtain coverage under the VGP by completing and agreeing to the terms of a Permit Authorization and Record of Inspection form.


    What is the draft Small Vessel General Permit (sVGP)?

    The draft sVGP, if finalized, would authorize discharges incidental to the normal operation of non-military and non-recreational vessels less than 79 feet in length and commercial fishing vessels. Recognizing that small commercial vessels are substantially different in how they operate than their larger counterparts, the draft Small Vessel General Permit is shorter and simpler. The draft permit specifies best management practices for several broad discharge management categories including fuel management, engine and oil control, solid and liquid maintenance, graywater management, fish hold effluent management, and ballast water management.


    Why is EPA proposing a draft sVGP?

    Currently, a Congressional moratorium (initiated by Public Law 110-299 and subsequently extended by Public Law 111-215) exempts all incidental discharges, with the exception of ballast water, from commercial fishing vessels and non-recreational, non-military vessels less than 79 feet in length from having to obtain a Clean Water Act permit until December 18, 2013. The Small Vessel General Permit would provide permit coverage for these entities after that date.


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