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National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Flexibilities under the Clean Water Act

NPDES Permit Application:

What should a permittee do if an application to re-issue or modify a permit will be delayed due to COVID-19?

If a permittee believes that an application to re-issue or modify a permit may be delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the permittee should contact the permitting authority as soon as possible. For permits that are issued by EPA, existing regulations provide the agency with discretion to extend the due date for renewal applications prior to the expiration date of the existing permit (see 40 CFR 122.21(d)(1) and (d)(2)(i)). For permits that are issued under state authorized programs, a permittee should contact the state.

Should new applications or notice of intent (NOI) be submitted via mail or electronically? What if a permittee already mailed in the application or notice?

New applications for a permit or notices of intent to be covered under a general permit may in some cases have to be delivered in a hard copy format. In those instances, please contact your state permit issuing authority for guidance. For EPA issued permits, providing an electronic copy of submissions will satisfy permittee obligations throughout the duration of the COVID-19 national health emergency.

What should a permittee do if an application requires a “wet” signature (i.e. actual physical signature)?

If an application to EPA requires a “wet” signature of a responsible official, EPA will accept a digital or other electronic signature (including scanned or facsimile) throughout the duration of the COVID-19 national health emergency.

How will EPA continue to facilitate robust opportunities for public participation in the permitting process during COVID-19?

To facilitate robust opportunities for public participation in the permitting process during the COVID-19 national health emergency, EPA intends to utilize and encourages the use of electronic and telephonic means of communication to the maximum extent possible under the law. EPA will issue public notices and solicit comments on permit actions via on-line tools and/or email. If public hearings are requested, EPA will seek to conduct those hearings utilizing remote capabilities via telephone and the internet. Some permits may be public noticed in local newspapers where appropriate.

For individuals or organizations that might have difficulty with either submitting comments electronically or participating in a hearing remotely, please contact the individual listed in the public notice as the person from whom interested persons may obtain further information.

Where the COVID-19 national health emergency affects the ability of the public to provide comments on a draft EPA-issued permit, EPA may consider extending comment periods depending on the circumstances.

Pretreatment Program Implementation:

Who do I contact if I have questions regarding the implementation of a pretreatment program?

If questions arise related to implementation of an approved pretreatment program, EPA encourages industrial users to contact their local approved pretreatment program, and for local approved pretreatment programs to contact their approval authorities (EPA or state), as appropriate. The EPA is available as a resource to the local pretreatment programs.

To the extent that questions arise about implementation of the national pretreatment program requirements of 40 CFR Part 403, please contact the appropriate EPA Regional Pretreatment Coordinator. Pretreatment program professionals at the municipal-, state-, and EPA-level regularly share information and are encouraged to do so during the COVID-19 national health emergency. 

Stormwater Discharge:

For construction and industrial facilities that will cease or be closed, how does the permittee comply with permit requirements?

For construction sites and industrial facilities, where work has temporarily ceased or facilities will be left unstaffed due to social distancing recommendations, stay at home orders, or other effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency, permittees are reminded of their requirements to timely stabilize disturbed areas and sediment stockpiles and leave sites/facilities in a condition that complies with applicable exposure minimization, good housekeeping, and stormwater control maintenance provisions (e.g., store materials in appropriate containers, keep all dumpsters and other storage containers covered, clean up outside areas of potential contaminants).