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Keeping Posted on the Multi-Sector General Permit Program

by Christina Falk

"Urban stormwater runoff is identified as a major source of pollution in 37% of all waterbodies assessed as impaired in New York State. In another 40% of impaired waterbodies, urban stormwater runoff is a contributing source. In addition, for 35% of the waters with less severe minor impacts or threats urban stormwater runoff is noted as a major contributing source of impact. (Top Ten Water Quality Issues in New York State, 2010)."

Many of us are familiar with stormwater regulations that municipalities are implementing to protect water quality in their communities. Stormwater discharges from industrial facilities are also a concern and in 2006 the Department issued a permit to address this potential source of pollution. Facilities such as marinas, vehicle maintenance facilities, auto salvage operations, etc. are eligible for coverage under this permit for stormwater discharge. In total the permit covers twenty-nine specific categories of industry, known as sectors, plus one generic category.

The current version of the MSGP became effective on March 28, 2007 and will expire on March 29, 2012. The general permit is being reissued in 2012 to conform with the Clean Water Act requirement of renewing the permit at least every 5-year. At the end of 2006, there were approximately 1,100 facilities covered under the MSGP. Today, more than 1,500 facilities are currently covered under the permit and over 500 additional facilities have effective No Exposure waivers.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan

To gain coverage under the MSGP, one of the key requirements is that each facility must develop and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). All the SWPPPs have a minimum set of required activities. In addition, each SWPPP must address activity and site specific sources of contamination. The SWPPP is the nucleus of the stormwater management program required by the MSGP.

The development of the plan raises awareness of potential sources of contamination to stormwater. Each required section of the plan is intended to assist facility staff with identification, tracking and mitigation of impacts to water resources. Development of a generic SWPPP has been required since the inception of NYS's MSGP program in 1993; however, the sector-specific SWPPP requirements in the current version of the MSGP are more detailed and proscriptive, which allows better protection of local waterbodies.

Permit Implementation

After a company receives their permit coverage, they must implement it. Every quarter permittees must conduct their visual monitoring and send their results to the Department. They must also conduct dry weather flow inspections to locate any unauthorized discharges in dry weather condition.

Also annual compliance evaluations must be completed and submitted to the Department by March 31 each year. Most facilities are also required to annually have one sample analyzed for specific pollutants of concern that are associated with the activities conducted at the site.

The results of the monitoring are designed to be used as built-in indicators of the effectiveness of a facility's SWPPP. By comparing the results of the monitoring with benchmark cut-off concentrations listed in the MSGP, facilities are able to determine the effectiveness of their SWPPP. If cut-off concentrations are exceeded, the permittee is required to identify the source of contaminants, implement corrective actions, and amend the SWPPP to include the corrective actions. The Department has found that because most operators know their industry and facility very well, they develop solid solutions that are insightful, creative and cost-effective.

Permit Assistance and Updates

The Multi-Sector General Permit has been challenging for both permittees and DEC. DEC staff have been providing the regulated community with technical assistance and helped them understand the environmental concerns associated with stormwater. In working with facility managers, DEC staff have seen the permittees work hard to and comply with the new permit requirements.

To assist the regulated community, DEC staff have developed educational materials, which are available on the DEC web public web site at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/62803.html Included are:

  • Step-wise directions for obtaining permit coverage and developing a SWPPP
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Industry-specific questions
  • Announcements of training courses offered to trade associations

DEC is currently working with stakeholders to revise the MSGP so the next version is ready in 2012. Lessons learned from communication with permittees and evaluation of data collected since 2008 is helping with the permit revisions. The draft permit emphasizes limiting the regulatory burden on facilities with industrial sectors that have been found to present a minor potential for contamination to stormwater, while taking a proactive approach to address problem areas in others. In addition, efforts are being made to develop additional educational materials targeted to the most common needs of permittees

Public notice of the draft MSGP is anticipated to occur in the autumn of 2011. The release of the draft will be announced in the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB). The ENB comes out each week on Wednesday and is available via the web at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/enb/enb.html Interested parties will be invited to comment on the draft in writing. The Department will review all the comments and prepare both a responsiveness summary and the final draft. The release of the final draft will also be announced in the ENB.

Christina Falk has left the agency. For questions contact Carol Lamb-LaFay is the Section Chief of the General Permits Section at calambla@ gw.dec.state.ny.us.

This article was originally printed in the Fall 2011 issue of ClearWaters magazine, the official publication of the New York Environment Association, Inc. For subscription information, contact NYWEA directly.