NPDES Permit Information

What is an NPDES Permit?

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System(NPDES) is a permit program that addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into a water of the of the United Stated. The NPDES permitting program is administered through the state by the Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) based on guidelines and regulations passed down by the federal EPA.  Many conservation districts are delegated to work within the Chapter 102 program that deals with NPDES permitting among other things. The primary aspect of NPDES that we work with involves Stormwater Discharges from Construction activities.

What do I need an NPDES Permit for?

In general any construction project involving the disturbance of over 1 acre of earth requires an NPDES permit. If the disturbance can be done under 1 acre or about the size of a football field without the end zones.

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As mentioned in the E&S section if it can be kept under one acre(43,560 square feet) of disturbance it can typically avoid requiring an NPDES permit and save a time and money. Wayne Conservation District does review and acknowledge Small Project E&S plans, if you are interested in that call us at 570-253-0930 or click here.

How to get an NPDES permit.

The first thing you need to do is determine if there is anyway you can adjust the project to keep it under an acre. Feel free to call us, we can provide guidance and technical assistance for your project, free of charge as a Wayne Count Resident. 

If keeping it under one acre isn’t avoidable then you need to get started as soon as you know what you want to do as the engineering and permitting can take time. Many small projects plans can be reviewed and the acknowledgement issued within a few days or the same day on occasion. NPDES permits may take several months or more for review. The NPDES permit goes through several steps.

Do I submit it on paper or electronically?

At this point Chapter 102 NPDES permits are being accepted on paper, digitally through e-mail or file sharing, or electronically through the Greenport. To submit through the greenport you will have to register in the Greenport and follow the directions provided by DEP. Feel free to contact them or us for further guidance.

Who can write an NPDES permit application?

A person must be a qualified professional in order to write and submit an application. Parts of the application are very technical in nature and require complex math, design, and software skills. Most often a design or engineering firm is hired to create an NPDES permit application. Please contact us at 570-253-0930 for further guidance on who can design NPDES plan.  There are a number of great companies right here in Northeast PA!

What is an NPDES plan package?

A plan package that is submitted to us is comprised of several components to make a complete NPDES permit application package.

Individual vs General NPDES Permits

At the time of writing NPDES permits come in two kinds, a General or an Individual NPDES permit.  There are a number of aspects of a project which are taken into consideration to determine if it’s a General or Individual Permit. In Wayne County the primary variable is the watershed designation. General permits are typically not issued in Special Protection Watersheds, only Individual Permits are permitted in Special Protection Watersheds. Wayne County is comprised of about 94% Special Protection Watersheds so we mostly receive individual permits.  Click here for more information on watersheds!  There is a cost difference for the application(General=$500, Individual=$1,500) and Individual permits typically require a higher level of BMP use.

1. Notice of Intent(General NPDES) or Application Packet(Individual NPDES) and GIF

The Notice of Intent and Application Packet are just synonyms that mean the same thing, they’re both application packets for an NPDES Permit but in their new revisions they’re slightly different. These packets contain the framework of the NPDES permit. They will have the basic information like project address, permittees, contractors, etc.  It is signed by the Permittee, the person holding the permit. It may or may not require an engineers stamp/signature. If another company is doing construction work and is involved in the day to day decisions of the project they typically need to be added as a co-permittee. Permittee’s are responsible for ensuring the project is completed according to the approved plan. It is easier and often cheaper to add co-permittees before applying but they can be added or removed after the permit is approved.

The application packet in the newer plans is broken down into modules which contain information pertinent to specific aspects of the packet such as E&S BMP’s, PCSM BMPS, etc. The Application Packet also contains a GIF or General Information Form, which is not creatively named, it simply contains some general information about the applicants, project, etc. The application also contains some other things that may be required such as a PNDI(Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Index), clearance papers from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, municipal and county notifications, etc.  

2. Erosion and Sediment Control Plan

This will typically come in two parts, a narrative and a drawing. The narrative is a booklet which contains information about the site, past use, present use, nearby waters, potential thermal impacts, soil types, etc. It may contain a wetland delineation if wetlands are on or near the site. The narrative will typically contain calculations that support the use of certain BMP’s and mathematically explain drainage areas and their runoff. 

The drawing is typically a large set of plans which explain the project visually. The drawing needs to have soil types indicated on it, prior and proposed site conditions with marked contour lines to determine slope. It must be done to scale, should show terrain type such as meadow, forest, gravel lot, lake, nearby waters. It should have a key to indicate BMP’s, the LOD(limit of disturbance), etc..  Within that drawing any BMP’s such as pumped water filter bags, compost filter socks, silt fence, etc should have a detailed technical drawing showing how they will be used and installed. All the details are typically contained on a few pages after the drawings. There will also be one or more pages of narrative within the plan showing sequence of construction, maintenance schedule and procedures, and what if any BMP’s will need to be installed under an engineers guidance. The purpose of the plan is to be able to build the whole project using just the drawing part of the plan for reference by the party doing the building.

3. Post Construction Stormwater Management(PCSM) Plan

The PCSM is the keystone of the NPDES permit. The goal of Post Construction Stormwater Management is to mitigate changes in the project area so as to not increase the runoff during rain events.  Impermiable surfaces such as warehouses, parking lots, houses, concrete patios, etc dramatically increase runoff causing erosion and sediment pollution.  Our waterways formed in a mostly forested and meadowed world without distribution centers, roads, and acres and acres of parking lots everywhere.  PCSM standards are working to manage and even reduce runoff to our waterways which have become overloaded with runoff during storms. PCSM practices also clean water of sediment and pollution before it leaves the site through the use of settling ponds, retention basins, vegetated swales, subsurface impoundments, etc. Often time sediment basins utilized in the E&S plan are modified and converted into PCSM controls.

The math and engineering that goes into a PCSM plan is complex. Engineers will look at how much rain falls per hour at different rates of storms using data gathered from that site specific area. They will then look at the site before construction and calculate how much runoff comes from where and where it goes. With that information in mind they will then run those same calculations to determine what the net change in stormwater runoff is post construction as result of constructing X square feet of housing, industrial buildings, or parking lots.  They will then look at the small watersheds on the property and determine how to hold that water on site for a defined period to reduce flooding, clean the water, and allow it replenish groundwater rather than runoff.

Stages of getting an NPDES Permit.

  1. Come up with a plan of what you want to do.  Does it need to be over an acre? If it’s close and you might want to reduce it a little call us and we can provide technical assistance and guidance on the matter.
  2. Determine what you want to do. Meet with all parties involved in your project.
  3. Contact and look at hiring an engineer.  Look at similar projects that have been done in your area, talk to people and find out who you think may be a good fit for you and your project.
  4. Have a meeting with your engineer and come up with a solid game plan. Figure out what you want to do. Realize that once you submit a plan, making changes after submission may be difficult.  It could get very expensive and delay your permit a significant amount of time. We can’t stress enough to make a great effort to work with your planner to go in with your best plan the first time.
  5. Once you have a solid plan together and your engineer is close to submission, contact the Wayne Conservation District or DEP to setup a Pre-application meeting.  The pre-application meeting is a great opportunity to bring your plan to the people who will review it and address any concerns.  We will have a meeting, usually at the Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes Barre and take a look at the application.  Having this meeting can save weeks of time and money spent redesigning if corrections can be made prior to submission.
  6. Once the changes have been made the plan preparer will submit the application package including the Application, GIF, Modules, etc as well as the E&S narrative and drawing and PCSM narrative and drawing.  They are to submit 3 copies of each, one signed original.  These can be submitted to the Wayne Conservation District, 648 Park Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.  All payment must be submitted in checks at time of submission.  More information is available in our fee schedule.
  7. Once the project is submitted the WCD does a completeness review where we check to make sure everything is there and sort out and minor errors prior to submitting to DEP.  If it’s all in order we send the application package and the PCSM plan to DEP.  
  8. WCD then begins the technical review of the E&S plan.
  9. What if there are deficiencies in the plan? Some minor deficiencies can be handled by a phone call or e-mail and not delay the permit.  Major deficiencies may result in DEP sending out a technical deficiency letter.