New Surface Water Requirements for Construction Sites

On December 1, 2009, U.S. EPA adopted new rules which establish the first national standards for the control of pollutants (sediment, turbidity and nutrients) discharged via stormwater from construction sites to surface waters. 

U.S. EPA’s new rules will impact residential and commercial construction and development companies, as well as those entities involved in highway, street and bridge construction.  These entities are already required to obtain a stormwater discharge permit (usually from a state agency, but sometimes from U.S. EPA) and to employ certain control measures to manage stormwater discharges to surface water. 

U.S. EPA’s new national effluent limitations and standards will serve as the minimum stormwater discharge requirements on all permittees and will be incorporated into stormwater discharge permits (both general and individual) when these permits are issued or renewed on a going forward basis.  

The new rules will require all construction site owners and operators disturbing one or more acres to implement a range of erosion and sediment control practices.  These practices are designed to prevent discharges of sediment and other pollutants through the use of effective planning and erosion control measures.  Permittees are also required to implement pollution prevention measures to control discharges from activities such as dewatering and concrete washout.  The rules contain stringent requirements for soil stabilization as well. 

Owners and operators of construction sites that impact 10 or more acres of land at one time will also have to monitor stormwater discharges and ensure that these discharges comply with a numeric limit on turbidity.  More specifically, these construction sites will be required to meet a numeric limitation of 250 NTU (a turbidity measurement) which will be measured from water samples taken throughout the day and averaged. 

U.S. EPA’s new requirements will be phased in over the next four years to allow permitting authorities time to develop monitoring requirements and to allow the construction industry time to prepare for compliance with the numeric limitation. 

The first sites to be affected are construction sites that disturb 20 or more acres at one time; they will be required to conduct monitoring of discharges and to comply with the numeric limitations beginning August 1, 2011.  Construction projects that disturb 10 or more acres at one time will be subject to the monitoring and numeric discharge limitations starting in February 2014.  

Please contact Jill A. Weller at 513-579-6980 for further information.


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