Construction General Permit (CGP) Frequent Questions
Below, EPA answers common questions on the construction stormwater permitting program. This is intended to help operators understand the permit. Questions and answers are organized into the following categories:
- About EPA’s NPDES Construction Stormwater Permitting Program
- Activities Requiring Coverage Under the 2017 EPA CGP
- Obtaining CGP Authorization and Terminating Coverage
- Construction and Development Effluent Limitations Guideline and New Source Performance Standards
- Erosion and Sediment Control Requirements in the 2017 EPA CGP
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page. In the event of a conflict between this information and any corresponding provision of the EPA 2017 CGP, you must abide by the requirements in the permit.
Contact EPA with CGP-related questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program?
The NPDES program is a federal permitting program under the authority of the Clean Water Act (CWA) that establishes controls on point source discharges of pollutants to waters of the United States. Point sources are generally defined as discernible, confined, and discrete conveyances including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, or conduit from which pollutants are or may be discharged. See CWA section 502 and 40 CFR 122.2 for complete definitions of point source.
- What is the EPA Construction General Permit (CGP)?
The EPA CGP is an NPDES permit issued under the authority of the CWA and associated regulations for those areas where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority. The CGP authorizes the discharge of stormwater (and certain authorized non-stormwater discharges) from construction sites that disturb one acre or more of land, and from smaller sites that are part of a larger, common plan of development. This permit requires operators of such construction sites to implement stormwater controls and develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to minimize the amount of sediment and other pollutants associated with construction sites from being discharged in stormwater runoff.
- Why is it necessary to authorize or permit stormwater discharges from construction sites?
As stormwater flows over a construction site, it can pick up sediment, debris, and chemicals, and transport them to receiving waterbodies. Stormwater discharges containing sediment and turbidity can cause an array of physical, chemical, and biological impacts on receiving waters. In addition to sediment and turbidity, a number of other pollutants (e.g., metals, organic compounds and nutrients) associated with construction sites may become absorbed by or adsorbed onto mineral or organic particles found in fine sediment and end up being discharged to nearby waters. The sediment, turbidity, and other pollutants entrained in these stormwater discharges contribute to aquatic ecosystem degradation, increased drinking water treatment costs, and impairment of the recreational use and aesthetic value of impacted waters.
Sediment can also accumulate in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, leading to the need for dredging or other mitigation to prevent reduced water storage or navigation capacity. The requirements in the CGP for construction site stormwater discharges require operators to minimize erosion from construction sites and minimize the discharge of sediment and other construction site pollutants in stormwater.
- Do state-issued permits have to be the same as the EPA-issued permits for stormwater discharges from construction activities?
No. As long as they still meet their obligations under the CWA, nothing in the Act precludes a state from adopting or enforcing requirements that may be more appropriate to address discharges in their state or are more stringent or extensive than those required under NPDES regulations. Although states may issue permit requirements that differ from EPA’s, the Agency recognizes that many state-issued permits follow EPA’s permit and content.
Whether EPA, a state or a tribe issues the permit, the CWA and EPA regulations require NPDES permits to include requirements that implement the technology-based effluent limitations for the construction and development industry at 40 CFR part 450. In addition, where, notwithstanding these technology-based effluent limitations, the discharge has the reasonable potential to cause or contribute to an exceedance of water quality standards, permits must contain water quality-based effluent limitations as necessary to meet those standards.
- What types of construction activities must obtain NPDES permit coverage for their stormwater discharges?
Generally speaking, any “construction activity” that will disturb, or that is part of a common plan of development or sale that will disturb, one or more acres of land and discharges stormwater to waters of the U.S. must obtain NPDES permit coverage. Note that there are situations in which construction activities can be waived or excused from the requirement to obtain NPDES permit coverage (see related Q&A below). “Construction activities,” as defined in Appendix A of the 2017 EPA CGP, includes earth-disturbing activities, such as the clearing, grading, and excavation of land, and other construction-related activities (e.g., stockpiling of fill materials; placement of raw materials at the site) that could lead to the generation of pollutants. Also authorized under the CGP are discharges of stormwater from “construction support activities,” which include construction-related activities that specifically support the construction activity and involve earth disturbance or pollutant-generating activities of their own (e.g., activities associated with concrete or asphalt batch plants, equipment staging yards, materials storage areas, excavated material disposal areas, borrow areas).
The definition for “construction activity” does not refer to activities such as interior remodeling, completion of interiors of structures, etc. "Construction activity" also does not include routine earth disturbing activities that are part of the normal day-to-day operation of a completed facility (e.g., daily cover for landfills, maintenance of gravel roads or parking areas, landscape maintenance) nor activities under a state or federal reclamation program to return an abandoned facility property to an agricultural or open land use (as opposed to demolition of something in order to build something new).
- Are there situations where a permit is not needed?
If all of the stormwater from the construction activity is captured on-site and allowed to evaporate, soak into the ground on-site, or is used for irrigation (i.e., not discharged to a water of the U.S.), you do not need a permit. Under the CWA, it is illegal to have a point source discharge of pollutants to a water of the U.S. that is not authorized by the CWA. If you believe there is a potential for a discharge, EPA recommends that you apply for permit coverage before any potential discharge occurs. The controls that you use to keep the stormwater on your site so that it does not reach a water of the U.S. must be effective under any size storm. You may also have an obligation to the relevant state/tribe concerning discharges to ground water or impoundment of runoff (e.g., water rights).
- What if earth disturbance is a normal part of the post-construction use of the site?
The earth disturbing activity has to be part of a project to build, demolish, or replace a structure (e.g., building, road, pad, pipeline, transmission line) to trigger the need for permit coverage. Earth disturbance that is a normal part of the long-term use or maintenance of the property is not “active construction” and does not trigger the need for NPDES coverage under 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14)(x) or (15)(i). For example, re-grading a dirt road or cleaning out a roadside drainage ditch to maintain its "as built" state is road maintenance and not construction. Restoring the original well pad to work over an existing oil or gas well is operation of a well and not construction. Re-grading and re-graveling a gravel parking lot or equipment pad is site maintenance and not construction. Repaving is routine maintenance unless underlying and/or surrounding soil is cleared, graded, or excavated as part of the repaving operation. Where clearing, grading, or excavating (i.e., down to bare soils) takes place, permit coverage is required if at least one acre (separately or as part of a larger plan of development) is disturbed. Reworking planters that are part of the landscaping at a building is landscape maintenance and not construction. Applying daily cover at a landfill is simply part of operating a landfill and not construction.
- If a construction activity does not adversely impact water quality, is coverage under the CGP still necessary?
Waivers are possible only for discharges of stormwater associated with small construction activity (i.e., construction disturbing less than 5 acres). These waivers are authorized by federal regulation at 40 CFR 122.26(b)(15)(i)(A) & (B) and are explained in Appendix C of the permit. Waivers are not available for any construction activity disturbing 5 or more acres, or less than 5 acres if part of a common plan of development or sale that will ultimately disturb 5 or more acres (or if designated for permit coverage by EPA).
- My project will disturb less than one acre, but it might be part of a larger common plan of development or sale. How can I tell and what must I do?
In many cases, a common plan of development or sale (as defined in Appendix A of the permit) consists of many small construction projects. For example, an original common plan of development for a residential subdivision might lay out the streets, house lots, and areas for parks, schools and commercial development that the developer plans to build or sell to others for development. All these areas would remain part of the common plan of development or sale until the intended construction occurs.
If your smaller project is part of a larger common plan of development or sale that collectively will disturb one or more acres (e.g., you are building on 6 half-acre residential lots in a 10-acre development or are putting in a fast food restaurant on a 3/4-acre pad that is part of a 20-acre retail center) then you need permit coverage. The "common plan" of development or sale is broadly defined as any announcement or piece of documentation (including a sign, public notice or hearing, sales pitch, advertisement, drawing, permit application, zoning request, computer design, etc.) or physical demarcation (including boundary signs, lot stakes, surveyor markings, etc.) indicating construction activities may occur on a specific plot. You must still meet the definition of operator in order to be required to get permit coverage, regardless of the acreage you personally disturb. As a subcontractor, it is unlikely you would need a permit.
However, where only a small portion of the original common plan of development remains undeveloped and there has been a period of time where there are no ongoing construction activities (i.e., all areas are either undisturbed or have been finally stabilized), you can re-evaluate your individual project based on the acreage remaining from the original common plan. If less than five but more than one acre remains to build out the original common plan, then a permit might still be required, but you can treat your project as part of a "small" construction activity and might be eligible for the waivers available for small construction activities (e.g., one of six lots totaling 2 acres in a 50-acre subdivision can be treated as part of a 2-acre rather than 50-acre common plan). If less than one acre remains of the original common plan, your individual project could be treated as part of a less than one-acre development and no permit would be required.
- When can you consider future construction on a property to be part of a separate plan of development or sale?
After the initial common plan construction activity is completed for a particular parcel, any subsequent development or redevelopment of that parcel would be regarded as a new common plan of development. For example, after a house is built and occupied, any future construction on that lot (e.g., reconstructing after fire, adding a pool or parking area for a boat), would stand alone as a new common plan for purposes of calculating acreage disturbed to determine if a permit is required. This would also apply to similar situations at an industrial facility, such as adding new buildings, a pipeline, or new wastewater treatment facility that was not part of the original plan.
- What if the extent of the common plan of development or sale is contingent on future activities?
EPA recognizes that there are situations where you will not know up front exactly how many acres will be disturbed, or whether some activities will even occur. If you are not sure exactly how many acres will be disturbed, you should make the best estimate possible and might wish to overestimate to ensure you do not run into the situation where you should have permit coverage, but do not have it. For example, if you originally estimated less than 5 acres would actually be disturbed and took advantage of the "R" Factor waiver, but you actually disturbed 5.5 acres, you would lose your waiver and may have to go through the permit process mid-stream. This could result in delays in obtaining permit authorization and costs associated with contract changes to implement permit requirements - in addition to being liable for any unpermitted discharges.
If you have a long-range master plan of development where some portions of the master plan are a conceptual rather than a specific plan of future development and the future construction activities would, if they occur at all, happen over an extended time period, you could consider the "conceptual" phases of development to be separate common plans provided the periods of construction for the physically interconnected phases will not overlap. For example, a university or an airport may have a long-range development concept for their property, with future development based largely on future needs and availability of funding. A school district could buy more land than needed for a high school with an indefinite plan to add more classrooms and a sports facility someday.
- What if the common plan of development or sale actually consists of non-contiguous separate projects?
There are several situations where discrete projects that could conceivably be considered part of a larger common plan can actually be treated as separate projects for the purposes of permitting:
- A public body (e.g., a municipality, state, tribe, or federal agency) need not consider all their construction projects within their entire jurisdiction to be part of an overall common plan. For example, construction of roads or buildings in different parts of a state, city, military base, university campus, etc. can be considered as separate common plans. Only the interconnected parts of single project would be considered to be a common plan (e.g., a building and its associated parking lot and driveways, airport runway and associated taxiways, a building complex).
- Where discrete construction projects within a larger common plan of development or sale are located at least 1/4 mile apart and the area between the projects is not being disturbed, each individual project can be treated as a separate plan of development or sale provided any interconnecting road, pipeline or utility project that is part of the same common plan is not concurrently being disturbed. For example, if a utility company was constructing new trunk lines off an existing transmission line to serve separate residential subdivisions located more than 1/4 mile apart, the two trunk line projects could be considered to be separate projects.
- Is NPDES permit coverage required for oil and gas construction?
Oil and gas construction activities are exempt from the requirement to obtain NPDES permit coverage unless the facility meets one of the conditions in 40 CFR 122.26(c)(1)(iii) noted below. The following regulations applicable to oil and gas construction activities are currently in effect:
- 40 CFR § 122.26(a)(2) The Director may not require a permit for discharges of storm water runoff from mining operations or oil and gas exploration, production, processing or treatment operations or transmission facilities, composed entirely of flows which are from conveyances or systems of conveyances (including but not limited to pipes, conduits, ditches, and channels) used for collecting and conveying precipitation runoff and which are not contaminated by contact with or that has not come into contact with, any overburden, raw material, intermediate products, finished product, byproduct or waste products located on the site of such operations.
- 40 CFR § 122.26(c)(1)(iii) The operator of an existing or new discharge composed entirely of storm water from an oil or gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operation, or transmission facility is not required to submit a permit application in accordance with paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section, unless the facility:
- Has had a discharge of storm water resulting in the discharge of a reportable quantity for which notification is or was required pursuant to 40 CFR 117.21 or 40 CFR 302.6 at any time since November 16, 1987; or
- Has had a discharge of storm water resulting in the discharge of a reportable quantity for which notification is or was required pursuant to 40 CFR 110.6 at any time since November 16, 1987; or
- Contributes to a violation of a water quality standard.
Also in effect is the provision added to the CWA in accordance with Section 323 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 defining the term “oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities” to mean “all field activities or operations associated with exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations, or transmission facilities, including activities necessary to prepare a site for drilling and for the movement and placement of drilling equipment, whether or not such field activities or operations may be considered to be construction activity.” See 33 U.S.C. § 1362(24).
The exemption at 122.26(c)(1)(iii) does not apply to CWA 404 permits. The exemption only applies to stormwater discharges from oil and gas exploration, production, processing or treatment, or transmission facilities (e.g., facilities/activities directly related to extraction or basic oil/gas processing such as fractionation plants, and not to such operations as liquified natural gas (LNG) re-gasification and ethanol plants). Additionally, if any portion of the construction activity associated with one of these facilities no longer qualifies for the oil and gas exemption, the operator must obtain construction stormwater permit coverage for all subsequent discharges of pollutants to a water of the U.S. from the site. If the operator determines that all of the construction activities associated with the facility are in fact exempt, the owner/operator is not required to obtain NPDES construction stormwater permit coverage (although EPA encourages development and implementation of a SWPPP). However, if the project has had a stormwater discharge of a reportable quantity or a stormwater discharge that contributes to a violation of a water quality standard (e.g., sediment discharges violating a water quality criterion or causing loss of fishing resources), the operator is in violation of the CWA prohibition on the discharge of a pollutant by a point source to a water of the U.S. without NPDES permit coverage for any subsequent discharges.
For more information about the potential need for permitting of oil and gas construction activities, see the Oil and Gas Stormwater Permitting webpage.
- Who is eligible for coverage under EPA’s CGP?
Operators in an area where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority (see Appendix B of the permit) may be eligible for coverage under EPA’s 2017 CGP. The CGP applies to operators of construction activities that will disturb one or more acres of land, or that will disturb less than one acre but are part of a common plan of development or sale that will ultimately disturb one acre or more. Operators requiring permit coverage include any party associated with a construction activity that meets either of the following two criteria:
- The party has operational control over construction plans and specifications, including the ability to make modifications to those plans and specifications (e.g., in most cases this is the owner of the site); or
- The party has day-to-day operational control of those activities at a project that are necessary to ensure compliance with the permit conditions (e.g., they are authorized to direct workers at a site to carry out activities required by the permit; in most cases this is the general contractor (as defined in Appendix A) of the project).
Where there are multiple operators associated with the same project, all operators must obtain permit coverage. Subcontractors generally are not considered operators for the purposes of this permit.
To be authorized under the CGP, the operator must meet the eligibility requirements specified in Part 1.1 of the permit. The operator must also submit a Notice of Intent, which provides certification that the eligibility requirements have been met and that permit requirements will be complied with.
- What if I am required to obtain NPDES permit coverage and eligible for coverage under EPA's CGP, but fail to obtain permit coverage?
If an operator is required to obtain NPDES permit coverage and eligible for coverage under the CGP but does not submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) or any individual permit application for its stormwater discharges from an active construction site, then the resulting discharges constitute unpermitted discharges in violation of the CWA.
- What is a Notice of Intent (NOI)?
EPA’s CGP relies on the submission of an electronic document called a Notice of Intent (NOI) to gain coverage under the permit. An NOI for a general permit is notice to the NPDES permitting authority (EPA in this instance) of the operator’s intent to be covered under the general permit. An NOI typically contains basic information about the site and the proposed discharge. By signing and submitting the NOI, the operator is certifying that the information submitted is true, accurate, and complete, that the operator meets the eligibility requirements, and that, if and when covered, the operator will comply with the permit conditions and effluent limitations. A fraudulent or erroneous NOI invalidates permit coverage. An incomplete NOI delays permit coverage until such time as the NOI has been completed and the applicable waiting period has passed (i.e.,14 days for the EPA CGP).
- What type of information must be submitted in an NOI?
Operators must provide the following in their NOI for coverage under the 2017 EPA CGP:
- Approval to use a paper NOI form if granted a waiver from electronic reporting by an EPA Regional Office;
- NPDES permit information;
- Operator information;
- Project/site information;
- Discharge information;
- Chemical treatment information, if applicable;
- SWPPP information;
- Endangered species protection information;
- Historic preservation information;
- Certification of NOI; and
- Contact information for NOI preparer.
A paper copy of the NOI is included as Appendix J of the 2017 CGP.
- Who is responsible for submitting the NOI for EPA CGP coverage?
Any operator of an eligible site that must obtain permit coverage must submit an NOI to be covered under the permit. The party that meets the first part of the definition of “operator” (the party that has operational control over construction plans and specifications, including the ability to make modifications to those plans and specifications) in most cases will be the owner of the site. The party that meets the second part of the definition of “operator” (the party that has day-to-day operational control of those activities at a project that are necessary to ensure compliance with the permit conditions) in most cases will be the general contractor of the project. Where there are multiple operators associated with the same project, all parties meeting the definition of “operator” must submit an NOI to be covered under the EPA CGP if such coverage is sought.
You are probably not an operator, and therefore are not responsible for submitting an NOI to be covered under the EPA CGP, if:
- You are a subcontractor hired by, and under the supervision of, the owner or a general contractor (i.e., if the general contractor directs your activities on-site, you probably are not an operator); or
- You are a utility service line installer whose activities on-site result in an earth disturbance, but you are not legally a subcontractor or an operator, and there is another entity with permit coverage for the project and they have a SWPPP that specifically identifies someone other than you (or your subcontractor) as the party having responsibility for addressing the impacts your activities might have on stormwater quality.
- What is my responsibility as an operator for subcontractors under EPA’s CGP?
Operators covered by the permit must ensure that all activities on the site comply with the requirements of the permit. Operators are not required to provide or document formal training for subcontractors or other outside service providers, but operators must ensure that such personnel understand any requirements of the permit that may be affected by the work they are subcontracted to perform. See Part 6 of the permit.
- If I want to pursue EPA CGP coverage, how many NOIs will I have to submit?
Each operator for a site must submit one NOI to cover the areas of the site that are under his/her control. For example, if you are building homes on multiple lots as part of a larger residential subdivision development, you can submit one NOI to cover all of your lots, even if they are on opposite sides of the development.
- My site’s disturbances will occur in an area covered by EPA’s CGP and in an area covered under a state-issued construction stormwater permit. Do I need coverage under both the EPA-issued CGP and the state-issued permit?
Operators of sites disturbing one or more acres of land where only a portion of the project occurs in an area where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority (and there will be a discharge of pollutants through stormwater to waters of the U.S. within the area where EPA is the permitting authority) need coverage under an EPA-issued construction stormwater permit (e.g., the CGP), and likely would need coverage from the NPDES permitting authority(ies) that have jurisdiction over the other portions of the project (i.e., from a state or tribal permitting authority) if there will be a discharge of pollutants through stormwater to waters of the U.S. in the other area. For example, if a project has contiguous disturbances or disturbances that are part of a common plan of development or sale that occur both in the State of New Mexico and the State of Arizona, and the disturbances will total an acre or more of land and will result in the discharge of pollutants through stormwater in both states, the operator of the project will need coverage under an EPA-issued stormwater permit (e.g., the CGP) for the disturbances in New Mexico and, if required by the State of Arizona, an Arizona-issued stormwater permit (even if the portion of the project in EPA’s jurisdiction is less than an acre).
- Where are NOIs sent?
Operators must use EPA’s NPDES eReporting Tool (NeT) to electronically prepare and submit NOIs for coverage under the 2017 CGP, unless you receive a waiver from your EPA Regional Office. Waivers from electronic reporting may be granted based on one of the following conditions:
- If your operational headquarters is physically located in a geographic area (i.e., ZIP code or census tract) that is identified as under-served for broadband Internet access in the most recent report from the Federal Communications Commission; or
- If you have limitations regarding available computer access or computer capability.
If you wish to obtain a waiver from submitting a report electronically, you must submit a request to the EPA Regional Office. In that request, you must document which exemption you meet, provide evidence supporting any claims, and a copy of your completed NOI form. A waiver may only be considered granted once you receive written confirmation from EPA. If the EPA Regional Offices gives you approval to use a paper NOI, and you elect to use it, you must complete the form in Appendix J of the permit. You must also look in Part 9 of the permit to determine if copies of the NOI form must be sent to a state or Indian tribe.
- What is the deadline for submitting an NOI for my construction activities and when is my official start date for permit coverage after submitting my NOI?
Type of Operator NOI Submittal Deadline1 Permit Authorization Date2 Operator of a new site (i.e., a site where construction activities commence on or after February 16, 2017) You must submit your NOI at least 14 calendar days prior to commencing earth-disturbing activities. 14 calendar days after EPA notifies you that it has received a complete NOI, unless EPA notifies you that your authorization is delayed or denied. Operator of an existing site (i.e., a site where construction activities commended prior to February 16, 2017) No later than May 17, 2017. New operator of a permitted site (i.e., an operator that through transfer of ownership and/or operation replaces the operator of an already permitted construction site that is either a “new site” or an “existing site”) At least 14 calendar days before the date the transfer to the new operator will take place. Operator of an "emergency-related project" (i.e., a project initiated in response to a public emergency (e.g., natural disaster, disruption in essential public services), for which the related work requires immediate authorization to avoid imminent endangerment to human health or the environment, or to reestablish essential public services) No later than 30 calendar days after commencing construction activities. You are considered provisionally covered under the terms and conditions of this permit immediately, and fully covered 14 calendar days after EPA notifies you that it has received a complete NOI, unless EPA notifies you that your authorization is delayed or denied.
1If you miss the deadline to submit your NOI, any and all discharges from your construction activities will continue to be unauthorized under the CWA until they are covered by this or a different NPDES permit. EPA may take enforcement action for any unpermitted discharges that occur between the commencement of construction activities and discharge authorization.
2Discharges are not authorized if you are NOI is incomplete or inaccurate or if you are not eligible for permit coverage.
- Who should certify/sign the NOI?
The certifier of the NOI for the EPA CGP (i.e., the person who must sign the NOI form before it is submitted to EPA) must, in accordance with 40 CFR 122.22, be one of the following:
- For a corporation: A responsible corporate officer, which means: (i) a president, secretary, treasurer, or vice-president of the corporation in charge of a principal business function, or any other person who performs similar policy- or decision-making functions for the corporation, or (ii) the manager of one or more manufacturing, production, or operating facilities, provided, the manager is authorized to make management decisions which govern the operation of the regulated facility including having the explicit or implicit duty of making major capital investment recommendations, and initiating and directing other comprehensive measures to assure long term environmental compliance with environmental laws and regulations; the manager can ensure that the necessary systems are established or actions taken to gather complete and accurate information for permit application requirements; and where authority to sign documents has been assigned or delegated to the manager in accordance with corporate procedures.
- For a partnership or sole proprietorship: A general partner or the proprietor, respectively.
- For a municipality, state, federal, or other public agency: By either a principal executive officer or ranking elected official. A principal executive officer of a federal agency includes (i) the chief executive officer of the agency, or (ii) a senior executive officer having responsibility for the overall operations of a principal geographic unit of the agency (e.g., Regional Administrator of EPA).
Note that the certifier cannot use an authorized representative to certify the EPA CGP NOI form.
- Who is authorized to sign the SWPPP, inspection reports, corrective action reports, and other compliance documents?
SWPPPs, inspection reports, corrective action reports, and other permit documents can be signed by the person authorized to sign/certify the NOI (see Q&A above), or by a “duly authorized representative” of the person authorized to sign/certify the NOI, pursuant to 40 CFR 122.22(b) and Appendix I, Section I.11.2 of the 2017 EPA CGP. A duly authorized representative may only sign these documents if:
- The authorization specifies either an individual or a position having responsibility for the overall operation of the regulated facility or activity such as the position of plant manager, operator of a well or a well field, superintendent, position of equivalent responsibility, or an individual or position having overall responsibility for environmental matters for the company (a duly authorized representative may thus be either a named individual or any individual occupying a named position); and
- The signed and dated written authorization is included in the SWPPP. A copy will be required to be submitted to EPA, if requested, pursuant to 40 CFR 122.22(c) and Appendix I, Section I.11.2.3 of the proposed 2017 EPA CGP.
The duly authorized representative cannot be a subcontractor or third party. The subcontractor or third party may develop the SWPPP, and may conduct inspections and corrective actions and complete reports, but the actual signature must be made by the NOI signer/certifier or a duly authorized representative of a person authorized to sign/certify the NOI.
- The information I submitted on my NOI has changed. Do I need to modify my NOI? If so, how do I modify it?
Yes, you must update your NOI when information on your original NOI has changed. To modify an NOI, you may submit a “Change NOI” form using EPA’s NPDES eReporting Tool (NeT). Waivers from electronic reporting may be granted as specified in Part 1.4.2. If the EPA Regional Office gives you approval to submit a paper NOI modification, you may indicate any NOI changes on the same NOI form in Appendix J in the permit. When there is a change to the site’s operator, a new NOI will must be submitted by the new operator, and the previous operator must submit a Notice of Termination (NOT) form as specified in Part 8.3.
- If an operator has permit coverage as part of a larger common plan of development or sale, can an NOT be filed once the project is complete?
Yes, once all of the construction activities included in the original NOI are eligible for termination of coverage under Part 8 of the EPA CGP, then the operator must submit the NOT in accordance with the permit. Operators do not have to wait for other portions of the larger common plan of development or sale that they did not include in their original NOI and do not have control over (i.e. another operator’s site) to be complete before submitting an NOT. However, if portions of the common plan project that the operator described in the original NOI are eligible for termination, but other portions are still undergoing active construction or are yet to be started, then the operator must wait until all portions of the project that are permitted under that original NOI are completed before submitting the NOT. For example, if the operator is a general contractor building homes on multiple lots as part of a larger residential subdivision development, and the operator has submitted one NOI to cover all of the lots, that operator would not be able to submit an NOT until all of the lots are eligible for termination.
- What are my options for meeting the “final stabilization” criteria?
In the 2017 EPA CGP, you can terminate permit coverage as soon final stabilization has been achieved on all areas not covered by permanent structures for which you had control over during construction, provided you have met the other requirements for terminating coverage. For the purpose of this discussion, “permanent structure” is used not only in the more traditional sense of “buildings,” but to refer also to other things built on the ground whose intended purpose would require it to remain in a non-vegetated condition after construction has ended (e.g., parking lots, roads, gravel equipment pads, sidewalks, runways). The permit specifies that final stabilization be achieved through vegetative or non-vegetative measures.
Final vegetative stabilization means that operators have established uniform, perennial vegetation (i.e., evenly distributed, without large bare areas), or for arid or semi-arid areas, will be established, that provides 70 percent or more of the cover that was provided by vegetation native to local undisturbed areas. Perennial vegetation could include grasses, ground covers, trees, shrubs, etc. If prior to construction the cover on your site is 50 percent of the site, you would be required to return the site to 35 percent cover (70 percent of 50 percent). For arid, semi-arid, or drought-stricken areas, where the environmental threat is lower, final stabilization is considered to have been met if the area you have seeded or planted to establish vegetation will within three years provide 70 percent or more of the cover that was provided by vegetation native to local undisturbed areas. In addition to seeding or planting the area to be vegetatively stabilized in arid and semi-arid areas, to the extent necessary to prevent erosion on the seeded or planted area, you must apply non-vegetative erosion controls that provide cover for at least three years without active maintenance by you. Non-vegetative erosion controls in this context include what are known as “temporary degradable rolled erosion control products,” a.k.a., “erosion control blankets” (ECBs).
Final non-vegetative stabilization means that non-vegetative stabilization methods have been implemented to provide effective cover for exposed portions of the site. Examples include, but are not limited to, rip-rap, gravel, gabions, and geotextiles.
- What if the operator(s) changes before the project is completed?
If operational control changes, the old operator must submit an NOT and the new operator must submit an NOI before taking over operational control. In many instances, operational control changes, but only for a portion of the site. In these instances, the new operator must:
- submit an NOI because their site is part of a larger common plan; and
- develop their own SWPPP or adopt the SWPPP of the previous owner if it's still applicable (revisions are likely to be necessary to update the explanations of the operators and stormwater controls - controls that were designed for site grading and utility installation for the overall project (e.g., perimeter controls) may not be adequate for the single "big box" or home site.)
- How does EPA’s Construction and Development Effluent Limitations Guideline and New Source Performance Standards (C&D rule) relate to the EPA CGP?
EPA finalized the Effluent Limitations Guidelines and New Source Performance Standards for the construction and development industry (i.e., the C&D rule) on December 1, 2009. The C&D rule became effective on February 1, 2010, after which all NPDES construction stormwater permits are required to incorporate the C&D rule requirements. EPA’s 2012 CGP included language that implements the C&D rule requirements. In March 2014, EPA amended the C&D rule. All new or re-issued NPDES construction stormwater permits must incorporate the C&D rule requirements, as amended. Therefore, the 2017 CGP includes revisions that reflect the 2014 C&D rule amendments, as well as maintains the existing changes that were made to the 2012 CGP to incorporate the other portions of C&D rule requirements not affected by the 2014 amendments.
- What does the C&D rule require?
The requirements in the C&D rule include a suite of non-numeric effluent limitations that apply to all permitted construction sites. (See 40 CFR 450.21.) The non-numeric effluent limits include requirements for:
- Erosion and Sediment Controls;
- Soil Stabilization;
- Pollution Prevention Measures;
- Prohibited Discharges; and
- Surface Outlets.
- Do I have flexibility in preparing the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and selecting stormwater controls for my site?
Yes. SWPPP requirements were designed to allow maximum flexibility to develop the needed stormwater controls based on the specifics of the site. Some of the factors you might consider include: more stringent local development requirements and/or building codes; precipitation patterns for the area at the time the project will be underway; soil types; slopes; layout of structures for the site; sensitivity of nearby waterbodies; safety concerns of the stormwater controls (e.g., potential hazards of water in stormwater retention ponds to the safety of children; the potential of drawing birds to retention ponds and the hazards they pose to aircraft); and coordination with other site operators.
The approach and controls used for minimizing pollutants in stormwater discharges from small construction sites may vary from those used for large sites since their characteristics can differ in many ways. Operators of small sites may have more limited access to qualified design personnel and technical information. Sites may also have less space for installing and maintaining certain controls. A number of structural controls (mulching, use of inlet protection, or silt fence) and non-structural controls (minimizing disturbance, good housekeeping) have been shown to be efficient, cost effective, and versatile for small construction site operators to implement. As is the case with large construction sites, erosion and sediment control at small construction sites is best accomplished with proper planning, installation, and maintenance of controls.
For eligible small residential lot projects, EPA encourages operators to use the Small Residential Lot SWPPP template, which provides a streamlined template for developing the required SWPPP. See EPA’s small residential lot template and small lot brochure for more information.
- Will every operator have to have his or her own separate SWPPP or is a joint plan allowed?
The only requirement is that there be at least one SWPPP for a site that incorporates the required elements for all operators, but there can be separate plans if individual operators so desire. EPA encourages operators to explore possible cost savings by having a joint SWPPP for several operators.
- What are the buffer requirements in the EPA CGP and how do I determine my requirements?
The C&D rule includes a non-numeric effluent limitation to “provide and maintain natural buffers, unless infeasible.” However, it does not specify what size buffer is necessary to meet the requirement, but rather leaves this and other related determinations up to the NPDES permitting authority. The 2017 CGP maintains the specificity added in the 2012 CGP to the C&D rule buffer requirement to ensure consistent implementation where EPA is the permitting authority.
To provide maximum flexibility for operators, EPA developed buffer compliance alternatives in the CGP. One compliance alternative allows operators to provide a minimum undisturbed natural buffer width of at least 50 feet between the site’s disturbances and any waters of the U.S. occurring within 50 feet of the construction site. Alternatively, the operator can choose to establish a smaller buffer or no buffer, if establishing a 50-foot or any buffer is infeasible, as long as other controls are implemented that ensure that the equivalent level of sediment load reduction is achieved as a 50-foot natural buffer. EPA also established more flexible compliance alternatives for linear construction sites and for small residential lots. To learn more about EPA’s buffer requirements and how to comply with them, see Appendix G in the permit.
- If there is no existing or limited natural vegetation in the 50-foot buffer area between a water of the U.S. and my site’s disturbances, do I need to comply with the buffer requirements?
If the 50-foot area between your site’s disturbances and a water of the U.S. (i.e., the buffer area) is completely occupied by preexisting development disturbances (e.g., impervious cover), EPA would consider there to be no preexisting natural buffer area on your site and would consider it infeasible to provide and maintain a natural buffer, and you would be exempt from the buffer requirements in the EPA CGP. For example, the buffer requirements would not apply if a waterfront promenade completely occupied the 50-foot buffer area.
For any buffer areas that are only partially occupied by preexisting development disturbances, the buffer requirements in the EPA CGP will apply. The buffer requirements also apply to areas in the 50-foot buffer where natural vegetation is limited or nonexistent (e.g., rocky or sandy areas) and that are otherwise not occupied by preexisting development disturbances.
For any natural buffer areas on your site with limited vegetation or where there are preexisting development disturbances partially occupying the area, the permit does not require that the natural buffer area in existence be enhanced (e.g., through establishment of new vegetation). Compliance can be achieved simply by retaining and protecting from construction activities the natural buffer that existed prior to the commencement of construction. Or, if you will be conducting new disturbances within the 50-foot buffer area, to comply with the permit you would only be required to compensate for the loss in buffer sediment removal function resulting from your project’s new disturbances; you do not have to compensate for the preexisting development disturbances. EPA provides an example for how this calculation could be done in Attachment 3 of Appendix G in the permit (see Example 2).
- If I provide an undisturbed 50-foot, natural buffer consistent with Part 2.2.1(a)(i), are perimeter controls still required at the site pursuant to Part 2.2.3?
Yes. The requirement to provide and maintain a natural buffer or its equivalent in Part 2.2.1 is independent of (and does not substitute for) the requirement in Part 2.2.3 to install perimeter controls along areas of the site that will receive pollutant discharges. Therefore, where an operator complies with Part 2.2.1 by providing and maintaining a full 50-foot, natural buffer between its construction activities and any waters of the U.S., it must also install perimeter controls to meet the requirement in Part 2.2.3. The Construction and Development Effluent Limitation Guidelines and New Source Performance Standards require construction sites to provide and maintain natural buffers around Waters of the U.S. (40 CFR §450.21(a)(6)) and minimize sediment discharges from the site (40 CFR §450.21(a)(5)), which EPA implements in the CGP in Parts 2.2.1 and 2.2.3.
- Is there any flexibility in applying the buffer requirements for small residential lots?
Yes. EPA recognizes that operators on small residential lots (i.e., lots being developed for residential purposes that will disturb less than one acre of land, but are part of a larger residential project that will ultimately disturb greater than or equal to one acre) that are constructing within the 50-foot buffer area may, due to limited technical resources, have difficulty determining the necessary supplemental erosion and sediment controls to provide the equivalent sediment removal function of a 50-foot buffer. Because of this, and due to the lower risk of sediment discharge from these sites, EPA provides in the permit two streamlined compliance options to assist operators of small residential lots in meeting the proposed permit’s buffer requirements.
The first compliance option identifies the minimum specific controls that an operator of a small residential lot would need to implement based on the buffer width to be retained. For example, Small Residential Lot Compliance Alternative 1 specifies that, if you retain a buffer width of 30 feet or less, you would need to provide the following: (1) a double row of perimeter controls between the disturbed portion of your site and the surface water spaced a minimum of five (5) feet apart, and (2) completion of stabilization within seven (7) calendar days of the temporary or permanent cessation of earth-disturbing activities.
The second compliance alternative specifies the controls the operator of the small lot would need to implement based on both the buffer width to be retained and the site’s relative risk of sediment discharge. Operators on small lots must first determine their site’s sediment risk level (i.e., High, Moderate, or Low) based on their location, soil type, and slope using the tables provided in Appendix G in the proposed permit. Based on the site’s risk level and the width of buffer to be retained, Small Residential Lot Compliance Alternative 2 then specifies the controls to be implemented. For example, if your site is of “Moderate” sediment discharge risk and you are able to retain a 35-foot buffer, you must provide a double row of perimeter controls between the disturbed portion of your site and the surface water spaced a minimum of five (5) feet apart. See Appendix G in the permit for details about these compliance alternatives.
- Is there any flexibility in applying the buffer requirements to linear construction projects?
Yes. EPA recognizes that dispersal of stormwater discharges through adjacent vegetation is a common practice on many linear project sites, and therefore operators of linear construction sites will in many cases find it feasible to treat stormwater discharges through vegetated buffers. However, EPA recognizes that operators of linear construction sites may have difficulty in fully complying with each of the compliance alternatives due to site constraints (i.e., operators of linear construction sites may not be able to provide the full 50-foot naturally vegetated buffer width). For this reason, EPA has provided a more flexible alternative to the buffer compliance alternatives in the CGP. The permit requires operators of linear construction sites to retain as much natural buffer as feasible, and/or to the extent feasible provide supplemental erosion and sediment controls in the buffer area. For example, if a linear construction site has only ten feet of right-of-way between the disturbed area and a stream, permit compliance can be achieved by providing a ten-foot natural buffer, or by providing a narrower buffer (e.g., five feet) and additional erosion and sediment controls (e.g., a fiber roll barrier in addition to the perimeter control), or by providing exclusively erosion and sediment controls. Note that operators must document in their SWPPP their rationale as to why it is infeasible to comply with the buffer requirements in Part 7.2.6(b)(i)(e), and describe any buffer width retained and/or supplemental erosion and sediment controls installed.
- Why will I have to obtain specific authorization to use cationic treatment chemicals under EPA’s CGP?
A common theme among the comments received for the proposed 2012 CGP requirement regarding treatment chemicals was that EPA should take extreme precaution when authorizing the use of cationic chemicals, especially in light of data suggesting that they are acutely toxic to aquatic species and the fact that the use of such chemicals on construction sites is very different from their use in highly engineered systems for water or wastewater treatment. In response to the comments received on the use of these chemicals, EPA conducted additional research regarding the relative toxicity of cationic chemicals for aquatic species. EPA confirmed that cationic chemicals have been found to be acutely toxic to some species. EPA’s research is encapsulated in a memorandum entitled “Literature Survey of Polymer Toxicity for Construction General Permit (CGP) Work Group” (Office of Research and Development, November 2011), which is available in the docket for the final 2012 CGP.
In addition to the public comments and the Agency’s aquatic toxicity research, EPA considered approaches that state permitting programs have taken to address cationic treatment chemicals. EPA found that where cationic chemicals are specifically addressed, the use of these chemicals is heavily conditioned. These considerations, in addition to EPA’s research, led EPA to the conclusion that the use of cationic treatment chemicals at construction sites is best managed if its proposed use is subject to a greater degree of individualized review. For that reason, EPA has provided for site-specific authorization if a site intends to use cationic treatment chemicals during construction. In authorizing the use of such chemicals, EPA may identify additional stormwater control measures that are needed in order to ensure that discharges do not cause or contribute to an exceedance of water quality standards. All of the above applies equally to the 2017 CGP.
The CGP authorizes the use of anionic polymers, flocculants, or other treatment chemicals at sites provided operators using such measures comply with the requirements in Part 2.2.13 of the permit. Operators that plan to use cationic treatment chemicals are only eligible for coverage under the CGP if site-specific EPA authorization is provided; otherwise, an individual permit is required in order to use such chemicals associated with a discharge of pollutants to waters of the United States.
- What are the stabilization deadline requirements in the EPA CGP?
The 2017 CGP establishes a modified approach to the stabilization deadlines, which is based on the concept of phasing construction disturbances. Sites that disturb 5 acres or less total must complete stabilization within a 14-calendar day timeframe, which is the same timeframe that applied to sites in the 2012 CGP. For sites that disturb more than 5 acres total over the course of a construction project, operators have the flexibility to choose between completing stabilization within a 14-calendar day timeframe if they limit disturbances to 5 acres or less at any one time, or within a 7-calendar day timeframe if they do not limit disturbances to 5 acres or less at any one time. The intent of this approach is to provide an incentive to disturb less land at any given period of time by providing longer stabilization timeframes if the disturbance is kept below a threshold level.
The deadline for sites discharging to sensitive waters remains unchanged (within 7 calendar days), and the exceptions for sites in arid, semi-arid, and drought-stricken areas and for operators affected by circumstances beyond their control also remain unchanged.
Total Amount of Site Land Disturbance Occurring at Any One Time Deadline i. Five acres or less (≤5.0)
Note: this includes sites disturbing more than (>5.0) acres total over the course of a project, but that limit disturbance at any one time (i.e., phase the disturbance) to five acres or less (≤5.0)
- Initiate the installation of stabilization measures immediately in any areas of exposed soil where construction activities have permanently ceased or will be temporarily inactive for 14 or more calendar days; and
- Complete the installation of stabilization measures as soon as practicable, but no later than 14 calendar days after stabilization has been initiated.
ii. More than five acres (>5.0)
- Initiate the installation of stabilization measures immediately in any areas of exposed soil where construction activities have permanently ceased or will be temporarily inactive for 14 or more calendar days; and
- Complete the installation of stabilization measures as soon as practicable, but no later than 7 calendar days after stabilization has been initiated.
- How can I determine if there is drought in the area where my construction project is in order to qualify for the modified stabilization deadlines in Parts 2.2.14(a)(iii)(a) and 2.2.14(b)(iii)(a) and for the reduced inspection frequencies in Part 4.4.2?
To determine if your construction site is in an area of drought, one approach you may follow is to follow the evaluation protocol listed below:
Step 1: Reference the High Plains Regional Climate Center climate mapping tool. Exit For the Select Product field, use “Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI)” and for the Updated Daily field, use “Last 90 days.” Select the appropriate region, and take note of the SPI value for the location of your construction project by comparing your location’s color to the indicator bar next to the map.
Step 2: Reference the New Mexico State University New Mexico Climate Center drought classifications. Exit Look at the “Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI)” column in the matrix and compare the SPI value obtained in the first step.
Step 3: Reference the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. For the period during which construction will occur, take note if the outlook indicates that any of the following conditions are likely: (1) “Drought persists”, (2) “Drought remains but improves”, (3) “Drought removal likely”, or (4) “Drought development likely.”
Step 4: If the SPI indicates that the area is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought, and/or the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook indicates that any of the conditions noted in step 3 are likely, you are likely eligible for the modified stabilization deadlines in Parts 2.2.14(a)(iii)(a) and 2.2.14(b)(iii)(a) and for a reduction in inspection frequencies in Part 4.4.2. Contact your permitting authority if additional clarity is needed. Make sure to document information on the drought period in your SWPPP as per Part 7.2.6(b)(vi)(c) and 7.2.7(c).
- What does it mean to limit disturbances at any one time to 5 acres or less?
For the purposes of the stabilization requirements in Part 2.2.14(a), limiting disturbances to 5 acres or less at any one time means that at no time during the project do the cumulative earth disturbances exceed 5 acres. The following examples qualify as limiting disturbances at any one time to 5 acres or less:
- The total area of disturbance for a project is 5 acres or less.
- The total area of disturbance for a project will exceed 5 acres, but the operator ensures no more than 5 acres will be disturbed at any one time through implementation of stabilization measures. In this way, site stabilization can be used to “free up” land that can be disturbed without exceeding the 5-acre cap to qualify for the 14-day stabilization deadline. For instance, if an operator completes stabilization of 2 acres of land on a 5-acre disturbance, then 2 additional acres could be disturbed while still qualifying for the longer 14-day stabilization deadline.
- Will the stabilization deadline for my site change if disturbances exceed 5 acres?
Yes. The important determiner of which stabilization deadline applies is the total amount of disturbance occurring at any one time during the course of the project. If at any point during the course of the project, total land disturbance at any one time exceeds 5 acres, the deadline to complete stabilization for this portion of the project is within 7 calendar days of initiating stabilization. This deadline applies regardless of the fact that a previous phase of construction may have limited disturbance to 5 acres or less and was able to take advantage of the 14-calendar day deadline for stabilization. For instance, if an operator commences work on a 20-acre project by clearing and grading a 5-acre portion of the site, and while that construction is ongoing and prior to stabilization the operator clears and grades another 3-acre area, for example, the operator would be required to comply with the 7-day stabilization deadline because the amount of disturbed area on the site at any one time exceeds the 5-acre threshold. If total land disturbance at any one time is subsequently reduced to 5 acres or less, the deadline to complete stabilization will return to within 14 calendar days. Therefore, operators have the flexibility to disturb more land when necessary, but are required to stabilize faster because more land is unprotected and vulnerable to erosion and sediment transport during storm events. This approach intends to provide the incentive to stabilize enough land to bring total disturbance at any one time back under the 5-acre threshold so that the operator can resume receiving the benefit of the longer 14-calendar day stabilization deadline.
- What are the requirements for impaired and high quality waters in the EPA’s CGP?
The CGP includes requirements to protect impaired waters that receive construction site stormwater discharges. Operators of sites that discharge to sediment- or nutrient-impaired waters must comply with more rapid site stabilization requirements and increased site inspection requirements. Operators of sites that discharge to high quality waters (i.e., Tier 2, 2.5, or 3 waters) must also comply with the requirements for more rapid site stabilization and increased site inspections. Operators of sites that discharge to any waters impaired for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and are engaging in demolition of any structure with at least 10,000 square feet of floor space built or renovated before January 1, 1980, must implement additional controls to minimize the exposure of PCB-containing building materials.
- What does it mean for a waterbody to be impaired for a “sediment-related parameter”?
A sediment-related parameter is an indicator pollutant used to measure sediment pollution, such as total suspended solids (TSS) or turbidity.
- With regard to the requirement to conduct an inspection within 24 hours of the occurrence of a storm event of 0.25 inches or greater, if a project’s normal business hours are Monday through Friday and a storm produces greater than 0.25 inches of rain on a Saturday, would an inspection be required on Monday? Or, would an inspection be required on Sunday (i.e., a non-work day)?
Under the CGP, inspections are only required during a project’s normal working hours. In addition, the permit explains that “within 24 hours of the occurrence of a storm event” means that an inspection is required within 24 hours once a storm event has produced 0.25 inches of rain, even if the storm event is still continuing. With respect to when an inspection would be required for operators conducting inspections after a 0.25 inch storm event if the rain volume threshold is reached on a non-working day, it was EPA’s intention that the inspection be conducted on the next work day. For example, if the storm event that produces 0.25 inches of rain occurs on a Saturday, the inspection would be required on Monday, the next work day.
- What does it take to be considered a “qualified person” for inspections?
A “qualified person” is a person knowledgeable in the principles and practice of erosion and sediment controls and pollution prevention, who possesses the appropriate skills and training to assess conditions at the construction site that could impact stormwater quality, and who possesses the appropriate skills and training to assess the effectiveness of any stormwater controls selected and installed to meet the requirements of this permit. EPA’s current definition for “qualified person” is written broadly to allow flexibility for the multiple types of projects covered under the CGP. States often specify minimum training requirements along with the various trainings, certifications, and accreditations available through private organizations. It is ultimately the operator’s responsibility to ensure the members of the stormwater team understand the permit’s requirements so that they know what is required to carry out their relevant permit-related responsibilities. With respect to inspections, staff conducting the inspections are required to know, among other things, the location of all stormwater controls on the site required by this permit, how they are to be maintained, and when and how to conduct inspections, record applicable findings, and take corrective actions.
- Can I electronically prepare and sign the SWPPP, inspection reports, corrective action reports, and any other compliance documents and maintain them as electronic records?
Recordkeeping technology is a rapidly changing field. Many construction operators are increasingly using electronic systems to create and maintain required records, such as their SWPPP and inspection and corrective action reports, using computer and tablet software, applications, and electronic forms.
Under the 2017 CGP, SWPPPs, inspection reports, and corrective action reports may be prepared, signed, and kept electronically if the records are: (a) in a format that can be read in a similar manner as a paper record; (b) legally dependable with no less evidentiary value than their paper equivalent; and (c) accessible to the inspector during an inspection to the same extent as a paper copy stored at the site would be, if the records were stored in paper form.
Below are EPA’s recommendations with respect to electronically preparing, signing, and maintaining SWPPPs, inspection reports, and corrective action reports under the 2017 CGP. EPA notes that it may change this guidance at any time, based upon experience with electronic recordkeeping, or any other new information or considerations.
EPA expects that an electronic recordkeeping system used in compliance with Part 4.7.3 (inspection reports); Part 5.4.4 (corrective action reports); and Parts 7.3 and 7.4.2 (SWPPPs) of the 2017 CGP will generally ensure that records created and/or maintained are readable and legally dependable with no less evidentiary value than their paper equivalent. The following are attributes of an electronic recordkeeping system that will ensure readability and legal dependability:
a. From any other point of access to the electronic recordkeeping system, electronic records, including signatures, certifications, and alterations, can be: (i) displayed to EPA, including its authorized representatives, in a format that can be read in a manner similar to a paper record and that associates data with field names or other labels that give the data contained in the record meaning and context (not solely in a computer code or data string), (ii) easily copied for EPA, including its authorized representatives, to review and access at EPA staff computers using non-proprietary software, and (iii) can easily be printed to paper form;
b. Associated metadata in their native format is preserved and available upon request;
c. Electronic records cannot be modified without detection and are preserved in a manner that cannot be altered once created. For example, any changes to an electronic record are automatically and indelibly recorded in a logically associated (i.e., cryptographically bound) audit trail that records each change made without obscuring the data to which the modification is made or its antecedents. If audit trail technology is not feasible, iterative copies of electronic documents may be kept. Having a system to detect document modifications is important for final versions of documents kept for compliance purposes and does not have to include “draft” documents that are still undergoing changes;
d. The electronic recordkeeping system identifies any person who creates, certifies, or modifies an electronic record;
e. Originals of any electronic record are immediately and automatically transferred to and held at a single location by a custodian of records who is not an author, certifier, or modifier of the electronic records. The original electronic record is secured in a fashion that protects it from tampering or destruction;
f. The electronic recordkeeping system identifies: (i) the name, address, telephone number and email address for the custodian of records described in “d” above; and (ii) the address and owner of the location where the original electronic record is located. The electronic records and their associated metadata remain available and the operator can demonstrate that the records have not been changed in any modification of the recordkeeping system or migration to a successor recordkeeping system;
g. Clear instructions guide users of the electronic recordkeeping system in proper use of the system and unambiguously communicate the legal significance of using an electronic signature device; and
h. Computer systems (including hardware and software), controls, and attendant documentation that are part of the electronic recordkeeping system are readily available for, and subject to, agency inspection.
EPA will generally consider electronic records to be accessible enough to be considered to be stored at the site when the operator is able to, immediately, upon request, provide to government officials or authorized representatives:
a. Paper or electronic copies of requested records required to be kept pursuant to Part 4.7.3 (inspection reports); Part 5.4.4 (corrective action reports); and Parts 7.3 and 7.4.2 (SWPPPs); and
b. Electronic access, using hardware and software available at the site, to required permit records via electronic storage at the site, or via direct access to an electronic system of records stored elsewhere, including legacy systems that have been migrated to a current system, provided that the location of the original record is within the United States.
- When am I supposed to begin conducting inspections at my site?
Compliance with all CGP requirements, including the inspection requirements, begins on the effective date of coverage. Coverage begins 14 calendar days after EPA acknowledges receipt of an NOI (electronically via the NeT system), unless EPA notifies you that your coverage has been delayed or denied. However, if no “construction activities” or “construction support activities” (as defined in Appendix A) have commenced due to an unforeseen delay, the inspection “clock” would begin only when you initiate construction activities. You should note in the SWPPP when construction activities actually commenced and modify your NOI to reflect the “estimated project start date” once the estimated date is known so that you properly document why inspections did not begin 7 or 14 calendar days after the effective date of permit coverage.