The Clean Water Act (CWA)
The Clean Water Act (CWA), which was enacted in 1972, built the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States to maintain Water Quality Standards (WQS) for surface waters in the U.S. 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."
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).
The 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.