CONSTRUCTION SITE STORMWATER COMPLIANCE FOR CONTRACTORS
CALIFORNIA GENERAL PERMIT (CGP) FOR STORM WATER DISCHARGES ASSOCIATED WITH CONSTRUCTION:
Copyright – George Chan, P.E., Casamar Group, LLC
Regulation Effective Date: 7/1/2010
On July 1, 2010, after three years of issuing draft permits, conducting public hearings and taking in written comments, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to make the revised general permit (CGP, Order 2009-0009-DWQ) that regulates water quality at construction sites throughout the State (excepting the Lake Tahoe region) effective.
The new CGP governs all construction sites one acre and larger, linear (utility) projects, and sites that are less than one acre and are part of a common development plan.
The purpose of this document is to highlight the regulations that will affect the contractors’ activities at their construction sites* and to suggest recommended steps to comply with these new regulations. The entire contents of the new permit can be accessed by clicking the link below:
Principal elements of the program include:
- All projects are categorized into one of three risk categories (CGP Page 34 to 35 – Section VIII Risk Determination) .
The project’s SWPPP (either furnished by the Owner or prepared by the Contractor’s SWPPP developer) will have already predetermined whether the site is Risk Level 1 or 2 or 3, which will correspond with perceived low, medium or high water-quality risk. Each Risk Level will have its own implementation requirements. (Attachments C, D and E of the CGP). The cost of compliance increases with successively higher Risk Levels.
- SWPPP Implementation Personnel Qualifications (CGP Pages 33 – 34 – Section VII Training Qualifications and Certification Requirements)
The implementation of the SWPPP, such as BMP and storm related inspections, must be performed by a Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP) or by trained personnel under the responsible charge of a QSP. Effective September 1, 2011, the QSP shall have either one of the following certifications:
- A certified erosion, sediment and storm water inspector (CESSWI) or
- A certified inspector of erosion control (CISEC)
- Attended a State Water Board-sponsored QSP training course together with writing a 2-hour examination with a passing grade of 70% or better.
All persons responsible for implementing (for example, a laborer performing street sweeping functions) requirements of the CGP must be appropriately trained.
* This document only addresses traditional sites as they comprise over 90% of the construction activities. For linear (utility) projects, please refer to Attachment A in the link above.
- SWPPP Amendments and Revisions (CGP Page 38 – Section XIV A)
During construction, the site conditions may change or the BMPs as designed in the SWPPP may need modifications, the SWPPP can only be amended or revised by a Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD).
- SWPPP Availability; (CGP Page 38 – Section XIV C)
The SWPPP shall be available at the construction site during working hours while construction is occurring and shall be made available upon request by a State or Municipal Inspector. When the original SWPPP is retained by a crewmember in a construction vehicle and is not currently at the construction site, current copies of the BMPs and map will be left with the field crew and the original SWPPP shall be made available via a request by radio or telephone.
- Visual Inspections and Checklist; (Attachment C Page 5 Section G – Inspection, Maintenance and Repair)
Weekly inspections and observations of BMPs shall be conducted by a QSP or personnel supervised by a QSP. During extended storm events, the inspection frequency is increased to every 24 hours. In addition, at the conclusion of every inspection, an inspection checklist form must be completed and file with the SWPPP.
- Numeric Effluent Standards; (CGP Page 29 – Section V B)
During qualifying rain events (1/2″ or more), stormwater discharge at the project boundaries will be sampled and tested for pH and turbidity (a measure of the level of sediment).
For Risk Level 2 projects:
- Numeric action levels (NAL) = 250 NTU for turbidity; = 6.5 to 8.5 for pH
- Exceeding the levels will require reporting to the State and will trigger evaluations and installations of potentially new or additional water quality control BMPs.
- Exceeding the action levels will lead to enforcement action by the local Water Board if appropriate actions are not taken
For Risk Level 3 projects:
- Includes NAL requirements as per Risk Level 2 above, plus;
- Numeric limits (NEL) = 500 NTU for turbidity and = 6.0 to 9.0 for pH;
- Exceeding the limits automatically subject the site owner to potential enforcement
- Sampling of downstream receiving waters; (Attachment E – Page 14, Sections h, i, j) (Appendix 3 – Bioassessment Monitoring Guidelines)
Receiving water monitoring (including bioassessment) required for some Risk Level 3 sites that discharge directly into waterways
- Rain Event Action Plan (REAP); (Attachment D – Page 7, Section H – Rain Event Action Plan); (Attachment E – Page 8, Section H – Rain Event Action Plan)
Applicable to Risk Level 2 and 3 sites. The QSP must develop a REAP 48 hours prior to any likely precipitation event. The REAP must be implemented by a QSP 24 hours prior to the likely precipitation event.
- I. Specific BMP and Monitoring Requirements; (Attachments C, D, E)
Specific compliance (for example, site housekeeping) requirements are unambiguously stated for each Risk Level projects. The prescriptive minimum BMPs specified in the Permit provide the State with clear-cut pathways to exercise enforcement for non-compliance.
- Annual Reports; (CGP Page 40, Section XVI – Annual Reporting Requirements)
The contents of the Annual Report together with the filing date deadline are clearly stated in the Permit. Failure to submit the report by September 1 of each year and the omission of required contents can be grounds for a permit violation.
- Electronic Filing of Documents; (CGP Page 24 Section I – Electronic Signature and Certification Requirements)
All permit related documents will be required to be submitted electronically to the State, including Notices of Intent, SWPPP, Sampling Reports, Exceedance Reports and Annual Reports and Notice of Termination (NOT). The State has granted the public access to the electronic-submitted information via the internet.
- Record Keeping; (CGP Page 11, Section J 69)
All required records must be maintained by the Site Owner for three years from the date generated or date submitted, whichever is last.
In conclusion, the adoption of this new permit will deemphasize the approach of protecting water quality through iterative implementation of BMPs under the former permit (Order 99-08-DWQ). The new permit seeks to protect water quality through the regulation of stormwater and non-stormwater flows from construction sites.
Unfortunately, it will add significant costs and expose landowners to substantial risk of fines in either agency enforcement actions or private citizen initiated lawsuits. Per Region 2 stats, between 2005 and 2008, only 10inspections were documented; from 2008 to the present, 220 inspections have been conducted. It is anticipated that the number of inspections and enforcements will rise. A rigorous and vigilant approach by the construction team to achieve compliance cannot be over-emphasized.
Reducing the exposure to fines and penalties can be achieved, but not limited, by taking the following steps:
- Studying the Permit and all its related Fact Sheets, Attachments and Appendices in detail;
- Conduct periodic training of all BMP installation and maintenance personnel;
- Working closely with the Owner and the Engineer (QSD) to develop thorough SWPPP documents. During construction, it is essential that the entire construction SWPPP implementation team (Contractors, QSP, QSD and Owner) to work in concert via the SWPPP to achieve elimination or substantially mitigate the passage of construction related pollutants into the US waterways, either directly or indirectly;
- Ensuring timely and accurate electronic filing of all required documents.