Dewatering Permits – The Highlights
Anytime water (groundwater or municipal water) is discharged to surface water or to a drain system that discharges to surface water without first running through a public or privately owned treatment works, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit is required. Surface water includes but is not limited to a river, lake, pond, or the ocean. A local permit from the town or city water and sewer commission is typically also required if the discharge is to a drain. The EPA permit program is called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES for short.
There are three different permits which may be required for the types of dewatering operations most commonly associated with construction or remediation activities, the Construction General Permit (CGP), the Dewatering General Permit (DGP) and the Remediation General Permit (RGP). The first permit is administered by EPA Headquarters, and in New England the latter two are issued by EPA Region-1. The CGP is used for dewatering operations on non-contaminated construction sites larger than 1-acre. The DGP is for short and long term dewatering at non-contaminated sites that are smaller than 1-acre. The RGP is for dewatering sites that have identified pollutants that are not specified in the CGP or DGP in their intended discharge. The RGP would apply to all sites with this knowledge, regardless of their size, and is most commonly associated with sites that have had a spill of oil or hazardous material. In some instances, sites may require an RGP even if they are not and never were a Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) disposal site. In other cases, more than one of these permits may be required at a time, so it is important to know when each category applies.
All the permits require the applicant to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to EPA prior to the commencement of dewatering. Written authorization to discharge will be granted to the applicant, once EPA has reviewed the application and determined to be complete. The permit application process itself (before the approval process) can take several weeks and may include the installation of groundwater monitoring wells (if there aren’t any pre-existing) as well as groundwater sampling, the design of treatment system works, and development of spill prevention and management plans. All NPDES permits require follow-up sampling after dewatering operations begin to ensure that discharges remain within the permit limits.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is in the process of obtaining delegation authority to administer NPDES permits in Massachusetts. The timeframe for the implementation of this program is currently unknown, as the legislation has only just been submitted (Bill H.2777), but in the meantime MassDEP must be copied on all NPDES filings with the EPA. (Updated 6/30/17 : MassDEP has recently changed its position on receiving notification of RGP discharges. Only those discharges that are seeking authorization to discharge to a Class A Outstanding Resource Water in Massachusetts must provide MassDEP with a copy the Notice of Intent filing with EPA). Cooperstown’s staff is teaming up with the Licensed Site Professional Association (LSPA), MassDEP and EPA to create a training course which will be offered to LSPs and other environmental professionals. This course will explain how to apply for and use NPDES permits, with a focus on the RGP. If you or someone you know needs help with an application or getting permission to discharge, please get in touch with us. We are happy to assist in any way that we can.