Ask the Lawyer About Storm Water Permits
Q: I am building a custom home on a cleared one-third-acre lot in a 15-lot subdivision. My consultant says I need to obtain an NPDES storm water permit. To build the home, I don’t need to clear the lot any further. Do I need this permit, and what are the penalties for not getting it?
A: In all but five states and the District of Columbia, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has handed over the storm water permit program to the state. You don’t say where you are located, so I will assume you are in one of the “delegated” states.
With respect to the first question, the quick answer is “yes,” you need a storm water permit before you begin work. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the EPA’s NPDES implementing regulations, any person who disturbs more than one acre of property must obtain a storm water permit. And, if you are disturbing less than one acre, but are part of a larger development that will disturb more than one acre, you also need a permit.
In the delegated states, there are two ways this issue is being handled. In some states, the permitting authority will require you to obtain permit coverage on your own — either by getting an individual permit or applying for coverage under the state’s “general permit.” In situations like yours, the vast majority of builders apply for coverage under the state’s general permit. Usually, this will require you to develop a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and file a notice of intent that you plan to use the state’s general permit.