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Be Ready to Show Your Storm Water Permits, SWPPP
By Michael R. James

The new EPA Multi Sector Storm Water General Permit (MSGP) is now available and auto recyclers have probably already heard quite a bit about it. The changes were not significant but a new clause in the permit may cause problems for facilities that do not have the correct paper work. If the permit and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is in place, and if the listed Best Management Practices (BMP) are being implemented, then a business is ahead of the game. If not, then it would be a good time to be concerned and get these things in place.

In the last couple of weeks, James Environmental Management, Inc. has participated in discussions with the EPA on behalf of auto salvage facilities where the absence of the correct paper work and the absence of completing the requirements of the permit have led to pretty stiff fines by the EPA. In the new permit is a clause that can only lead to more of this kind of thing.

In June, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) notified James Environmental and its members of a very important change in the new Storm Water Permit affecting the US EPA regulated states. States still regulated by the EPA are in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

At the last possible second, during the re-write of the permit, one of the national environmental groups succeeded in getting language included in the permit that "requires facilities to provide a copy of their storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) to anyone that requests a copy in writing." In the past, businesses that must have SWPPP were required to provide a copy when requested by those regulating the facility. What does this new clause mean in English? Any individual or environmental activist now can ask for a copy of a facility's SWPPP and the business is obligated to provide it to them. Not providing a copy of the SWPPP when requested in writing can lead to the facility being sued under the citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act.

What should auto recyclers and others who are required to have a SWPPP do?

  • If you do not have a permit or a SWPPP, you should immediately initiate actions to write or have one written.
  • Except in rare cases, you are required to have a permit and a SWPPP. You are required to implement your SWPPP. This means there are inspections that must be completed, sampling that should be performed and, most importantly, there are BMPs that must be implemented. As ARA has indicated, "state enforcement officials can demand to see your plan unannounced."
  • If you are in one of the states regulating their own storm water program such as New Jersey or Texas or Illinois you should also give this subject attention. Many of the States are already beginning to modify their permits to be consistent with the US EPA permit.
  • Pay attention to the potential for the public to ask for a copy of your plan. The citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act encourage intervention in your compliance with environmental regulations by private individuals. Who are those people that might ask for a copy of your SWPPP? They could be a disgruntled employee, neighbor, or customer, or an environmental activist group like the Bay Keepers in California.
  • Go back and look at those BMPs. Make sure they have been implemented or make sure you have a plan on how and when they are to be completed. If you say that you are sweeping the driveway every week, then make sure you are doing just that. If you are not sweeping the driveway every week, then do not say it.
  • Look at the rest of the SWPPP. Are you doing everything in your plan that you say you are? Does it say you provide training to the employees on Storm Water issues? If it does, then you should make sure the training is being completed and documented. Does it say you are to complete an inspection of the facility on a quarterly basis? If it does, then you should make sure the inspections are completed and documentation provided. Make sure you are doing what you say you are.

Should a facility receive a written notice, ARA has suggested the facilty "either provide a copy of the document to the requesting party immediately or seek the advise of your attorney without delay."

For other questions or information, contact James Environmental Manage-ment, Inc. at 512-244-3631.

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