Section 402 of the Clean Water Act created the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, which regulates the discharge of pollutants from point sources to surface waters. When a construction project requires at least 1 acre of land disturbance — or is part of a larger common development that totals at least 1 acre of land disturbance — an NPDES permit and Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or state/local NPDES-delegated authority before breaking ground.
The SWPPP is a guide to be used by construction personnel to reduce soil erosion and limit the potential for sediment and other on-site pollutants to leave the project area and enter surface waters of the state. The SWPPP includes guidance for the installation and maintenance of erosion and sediment control best management practices (BMPs), inspection and ground stabilization requirements, good housekeeping practices, and spill control and response procedures.
Adhering to NPDES permit and SWPPP requirements, bid specifications, design drawings, contracts, forms, orientations, certifications and countless other factors make construction projects complicated and, at times, hectic. With all these things needing to be completed before breaking ground, it’s hard to imagine the process becoming more complex.
Often, construction tasks and responsibilities are divided and assigned to different contractors with different specialties. It is possible for each individual contractor to report to a general contractor who serves as a project manager, but sometimes contracting situations are much more complicated.
When contractors come and go as their work is begun and completed, the NPDES permit coverage and subsequent SWPPP processes can be disrupted. Because the scope of the NPDES permit coverage needs to span the life of a project — from installation of BMPs through completion of site restoration — it’s important that project owners understand the do’s and don’ts of effectively managing and implementing SWPPPs to maintain compliance with NPDES permits during complicated, phased projects with multiple independent contractors.