Anti-Pollution Plans Key to Avoiding Storm Water Fines
The best way to make sure a project is in compliance with federal storm water requirements and to avoid onerous fines is a good Storm Water Pollution Protection Plan (SWPPP). Three Virginia engineering firms say that the right SWPPP isn’t too difficult if you remember three steps.
Preparation. The person whose name is on the permit application is responsible for the SWPPP. If it’s a developer, that means that they’ll be the one fined for non-compliance even if they’ve allowed the builder to begin working on the site. The SWPPP also needs the signature of the person responsible for performing inspections on the site.
You need to make sure that your SWPPP refers to all the elements that are on your approved site plan, including a complete description of your project and the proposed disturbed acreage, slope and storm water flow and drainage patterns. You also must identify potential sources of pollution and describe what you plan to do to reduce or control it — and where those controls will be located.
Make sure you refer to your erosion and sediment (E&S) control plan, spill prevention plan and countermeasures, wetlands delineation map and anything else that might be enforceable under your general permit.
The idea, says Barbara Young, of Rinker Design Associates in Manassas, Va., is to produce a document that demonstrates that you’re doing what you can, within the bounds of good engineering practices, to avoid problems associated with runoff.
Maintainance. As your project proceeds, your SWPPP will grow in size, which is why it’s a good idea to keep it in a three-ring binder, says Eileen Watson of Williamsburg Environmental Group in Herndon. You should include records of your regular inspections, lists of contractors and subcontractors working on your site, your proposed and actual construction schedule and all other pertinent information.
Keep your SWPPP binder easily accessible in the construction trailer, or, if you aren’t using one, in a storage shed, phone booth or, as a last resort, the back of your pickup truck. “The important thing is that all records should be kept on site, with a copy off site in your office,” says Watson.
If your SWPPP is accessible, you can bring it with you to pre-construction meetings with your subs and make sure that they are familiar with their roles and responsibilities, especially when it comes to erosion and sediment controls. You want to be sure that your subs know where to place the portable toilet (a hint: not near a stream or anyplace where any pumping or drainage problems result in a spill that hits the sewer system), what to do about diesel tanks, how to keep silt fences in place.
Inspection. Remember to document, document, document. The Responsible Land Disturber (RLD), a licensed professional engineer or a certified third-party inspector must inspect the site a minimum of every two weeks or within 48 hours of rainfall that could cause potential runoff from your site. They should inspect all pertinent areas of the job site except those that you have designated as stabilized — and that designation needs to appear as an update to your SWPPP.
In addition to the disturbed areas, make sure you inspect places where you have stored materials that may be exposed to rainwater, such as fuel tanks, piles of backfill, or fertilizers and paints. You can be sure that these are the first places that a state inspector will look, says Jason Murnock of Angler Environmental in Manassas.
Continue to inspect until you have established sufficient permanent vegetation to withdraw your E&S measures, Murnock says. When you have marked those stable areas on your SWPPP, you don’t need to worry about the state inspecting them any more.
Make sure you avoid situations that red-flag your project for a state inspector: if you need a silt fence along a public road and it’s down, or your construction entrance is full of dirt or mud, or there’s a buildup of trash and sediment near the curb inlet, there’s a better chance that the EPA or its state agent will come knocking.
On the bright side, builders and developers who develop a reputation for maintaining a clean site and keeping their SWPPP inspection records up to date are less likely to be monitored, and thus less likely to be fined for non-compliance. “Do your best, show honest reports, and don’t gloss over your E&S failures,” which are always likely to happen, said Murnock. “That’s the best way to be bumped into the back of the line.”
To read elsewhere in this issue about how the EPA is cracking down on storm water permit enforcement, click here.
Ready for a Visit From the EPA?
“Storm Water Permitting: A Guide for Builders and Developers,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides a starting point for builders and developers to use in locating and understanding storm water permitting requirements. To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.