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EPA Proposes Stormwater Permit for Construction Sites

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft permit for public comment aimed at regulating the discharge of stormwater from construction sites.

Stormwater discharges during construction activities can contain sediment and pollutants that harm aquatic ecosystems, increase drinking water treatment costs and pollute waters that people use for fishing, swimming and other recreational activities, the EPA said.

The proposed Construction General Permit includes a number of enhanced protections, including provisions to protect impaired and sensitive waters, and would apply in areas where the EPA is the permitting authority. These areas include Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, most territories and most Native American country lands.

Some of the significant proposed permit modifications include new requirements for:

· Eligibility for emergency-related construction

· Required use of the electronic notice of intent process

· Sediment and erosion controls

· Natural buffers or alternative controls

· Soil stabilization

· Pollution prevention

· Site inspections

· Stormwater pollution prevention plans

· Permit termination

Many of the new permit requirements implement new effluent limitations guidelines and new source performance standards for the construction and development industry. These became effective on February 1, 2010. The requirements include a suite of erosion and sediment controls and pollution prevention measures, which apply to all permitted construction sites.

In November 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that the effluent limitation rules could add nearly $1 billion in annual costs to construction projects.

Industry body the Federal Stormwater Association was not available for comment.

More information on the proposed Construction General Permit is available here.

Picture credit: E. Hoba

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