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The Clean Water Act and the NPDES

The Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act (CWA)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. "Clean Water Act" became the Act's common name with amendments in 1972. (Source: EPA Summary of the Clean Water Act)

 Before the Clean Water Act (CWA), however, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the Nation’s first major movement to address water pollution in the United States. Over time, the act was significantly reorganized and expanded and in 1972 became known as the Clean Water Act.


National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Section 402 of the Clean Water Act requires that all construction sites on an acre or greater of land, as well as municipal, industrial and commercial facilities discharging wastewater or stormwater directly from a point source (a pipe, ditch or channel) into a surface water of the United States (a lake, river, and/or ocean) must obtain permission under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. All NPDES permits are written to ensure the Nation's receiving waters will achieve specified Water Quality Standards (WQS).

"From 2008 to 2010 there has been over $20,000,000 in Clean Water Act Violations and stormwater non-compliance alone."


The NPDES Program and Regulations

According to Federal regulations, permit coverage for stormwater discharges associated with construction activity can be obtained through individual state permits or general permits. Individual permitting involves the submittal of specific data on a single construction project to the appropriate permitting agency that will issue a site-specific NPDES permit to the project. NPDES coverage under a general permit involves the submittal of a Notice of Intent (NOI) by the regulated construction project that they intend to comply with a general permit to be developed by EPA (Federal General Permit) or a state with delegated permitting authority (State-Specific General Permit).

“The NPDES program requires that any site operator (on a one (1) acre+ project) and/or building facility intending to discharge into U.S. waters obtain a permit before initiating any type of stormwater release.”

The NPDES program was set forth to control all direct discharges into water bodies of the United States. To date, all states (excluding Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and all Native American and Federally-owned properties) have been delegated the responsibility of managing the federal requirements of the NPDES program. These responsibilities currently involve all point source discharges (pipes and channels) and nonpoint sources (construction project sites).

Erosion Control Blanket ImplementationThe NPDES program requires that any site operator (on a one (1) acre or greater project) and/or building facility intending to discharge into U.S. waters obtain a permit before initiating any type of stormwater release. The Federal and all State-Specific NPDES general permits (Construction, Municipal, Industrial or Agricultural) explain the conditions as well as the effluent and/or non-effluent limitations under which an operator or building facility may release a discharge.*Currently the EPA has temporarily suspended all numeric effluent limitations and only requires a non-numeric effluent limitation for Water Quality Standards (WQS).*

Because of these guidelines found within the Federal and State-Specific NPDES permits, all federally delegated, and all non-delegated states, have passed legislation to ensure that proper awareness and compliance with all NPDES requirements within the Clean Water Act (CWA) are upheld. The directives mandate that all persons involved in land development design, review, permitting, monitoring, or inspection, or any land disturbing activity to meet the imposed education and training requirements.



Stormwater Management Training and Credentialing


StormwaterONE is a private occupational trade school for Stormwater Management and is located in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.


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To Learn more about our Online Stormwater Management Training click on the image below!

Would highly recommend

Very informative and would highly recommend for anyone in or around construction/excavation sights!

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Eric M
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