IGP Compliance in the Time of COVID-19

Industrial Permit Annual Reporting Season is Right Around the Corner…What is your Facility’s Status?

By your Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors at NV5 David Renfrew, QISP/ToR, QSD/P, CPSWQ, PMP

This may seem odd, but when I think of the Industrial General Stormwater Permit (IGP) and Compliance in the time of COVID-19, I reflect on Gabriel García Márquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Marquez states that “wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” This makes me think about those IGP sites where the Legally Responsible Person (LRP) or Duly Authorized Representative (DAR) asks questions such as…“Why didn’t we address these best management practices (BMPs) sooner?” or “If we knew our annual sample results were high in April, why did we wait until November to start implementing additional BMPs?” or worse…“Why are we in ERA level 2 and why are we getting Notices of Violation (NOV) letters from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) about our missing reports?”

The current reality is that facility managers have huge responsibilities with the ongoing COVID-19 response actions and compliance seems like an unneeded constraint while keeping their facilities working – if they are an essential service provider. However, compliance is still a requirement for California’s IGP and many other regulatory programs (see https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/covid-19_updates/index.html). Per the State Water Resources Control Board notice (SWRCB)… timely compliance by the regulated community with all Water Board orders and other requirements (including regulations, permits, contractual obligations, primacy delegations, and funding conditions) is generally considered to be an essential function during the COVID-19 response. As a result, the Water Boards consider compliance with board-established orders and other requirements to be within the essential activities, essential governmental functions, or comparable exceptions to shelter-in-place directives provided by local public health officials.” Facility managers should review the SWRCB’s statement and evaluate any actions that may have been put by the wayside or provide communicative responses with the RWQCB if required compliance is not possible.

Leaks and spills can happen at any time, trash and debris can still run offsite, and new contractors may be coming on to your sites to respond to COVID-19 assessments or to perform cleaning, but they may not be familiar with other pollution control requirements. We have been seeing spent gloves and other cleaning supplies on the ground at some sites as a result of the current crisis and inadvertent disposal handling. Managers still need to make sure the waste generated from these and other activities is managed properly and doesn’t make it into storm drains. We have also heard of unusual spills due to the lack of appropriate staff levels due to furloughing, new staff handling unfamiliar activities, or sewer overflows (due to so many flushable wipes – which are really not supposed to be flushed, being put down the sanitary sewer). Non-stormwater discharges still need to be prevented and BMPs need to be maintained. You can only do this by performing the required dry weather observations and assessment of BMP functionality by those familiar with your facility Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and the IGP. You may need to modify your procedures to safely perform the required inspections in accordance with your COVID-19 exposure prevention and action plans.

While I write this article, it has been raining in Southern California. We know of several facilities that are still collecting and sending their samples to laboratories to maintain the 2x sampling requirement for January through June. We have had a unique and unusually dry winter and an even more unique and unusually wet spring. Each condition presents issues and opportunities to comply with the IGPs stormwater sampling requirements. We may have a few more opportunities to sample even into mid-May this year before getting into the typically dry summer season. Managers should look at their facility’s Stormwater Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS) account page to ensure that their ad-hoc reports have been uploaded and to assess the results against Numeric Action Levels (NALs) and upcoming Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Numeric Effluent Limits (NELs) if applicable.

So, what’s your current status? If you have an industrial permit, did you know that your facility may be in multiple statuses during the permit year? If you are in ERA level 1 or 2 status, you need to be aware of the reporting requirements and deadlines. Level 1 and 2 status requires support by a Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner (QISP). Now is the time to start conducting your facility’s Annual Comprehensive Facility Compliance Evaluation (due before June 30th) in preparing for your annual report (due on or before July 15). While it may seem premature to think about these evaluations, now is the time to start the budgeting process, the BMP planning, and the procurement of additional BMPs before the next permit year’s rainy season (typically beginning in October).  We see many missed opportunities for facilities to get back to baseline status because they waited until October to start the evaluation process when they knew six months prior that they were headed to ERA level 1 or 2. Starting July 1, 2020, compliance with the TMDLs becomes an even more important situation to assess.  TMDLs become effective for many facilities in the Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego regions and varies by watershed. Sample exceedances are handled differently between NALs and NELs. NEL exceedances come with mandatory minimum penalties and may become more costly over time and are based on the severity of the exceedances. More importantly, timely submittals of ad-hoc reports can be viewed as a compliance violation with monetary penalties.

With decades of experience, we understand the importance of efficient and effective compliance for your business. Our experts are QISPs, Certified Professionals in Storm Water Quality (CPSWQ), Professional Engineers (PE), Qualified SWPPP Practitioners (QSP), and Qualified SWPPP Developers (QSD). Our mission is to help keep your operation in compliance with the extensive record-keeping, reporting, certification, and training requirements, as well as TMDL compliance and evaluations, ERA level 1 and 2 reporting, and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) preparation, revision, and implementation. Through the strategic use of sound science, we prepare and implement compliance monitoring to be cost-effective as well as manage and limit your risk. For any questions or needed support with your compliance program, please contact David Renfrew at 760-908-5749.

David Renfrew is a Vice President, Water Resources Director at NV5 in Oceanside, CA. He is also a Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner and an Industrial Permit Trainer of Record.