What you need to know about the Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2) in New Jersey.
When it comes to stomwater permits here in New Jersey, figuring out what you need, don't need, and how to navigate the path to compliance with the regulations can be tricky. For any operation that isn't covered by one of the "industry-specific" stormwater permits, there's a chance you might be able to be covered by the Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit, or the 5G2 Permit for short.
The problem however, is getting into compliance with the 5G2 stormwater permit isn't a walk in the park because some of the permit requirements can be pretty hard to deal with. Sure you could read through the permit yourself, or call the State NJDEP, but as you can probably imagine, trying to distill the information can also be kind of tricky. So, let's dive into the info and see what's what to help you understand the ins and outs of the 5G2 Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit in New Jersey.
What's a New Jersey Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit?
As you can already probably guess, the 5G2 Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit is the basic stormwater permit for industrial facilities in New Jersey. Sounds good, right? So it will fit just about any industrial operation? Maybe yes, but unfortunately, maybe no.
For some types of industrial facilities, it depends on whether or not they could fall under an existing "industry specific" stormwater permit. In fact, there are several different New Jersey stormwater permits, all based on industries. For example, there's the SM2 Scrap Metal Stormwater Permit for scrap metal recyclers and the RSG & R13 Stormwater Permits for mining facilities, and other permits for other industries. There's also permits for municipalities, and even the Newark Airport! New Jersey has among the highest number of industry specific stormwater permits of any state out there.
Enough about those other permits, let's get back on track. At it's heart, the 5G2 stormwater permit here in New Jersey is a NPDES stormwater permit, similar to any other stormwater discharge permit you'd find elsewhere in any other state. However, this permit is specific to facilities in New Jersey, hence it's referred to as a NJPDES (New Jersey Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit, or "Nuh-Jip-Tees" as we like to pronounce it.
How complex is the 5G2 stormwater permit?
Here's the best part of the entire permit. It's super simple. It's just 13 pages long, and is without a doubt the easiest stormwater permit in New Jersey to use and understand. But don't let the length fool you though, there's more to take into consideration than you might be expecting. For that reason, let's cover the details about this simple to use New Jersey stormwater permit.
Who in New Jersey can use this stormwater permit?
This is sort of tricky. If you're an industrial facility in New Jersey, and you don't fall under any of the other industry specific permits, then this permit might apply to you. In fact, even if you do have one of those types of facilities covered by an industry specific stormwater permit, you could conceivably still use the 5G2 permit, but that's pretty unlikely as we'll come to in a moment.
There's one stipulation with the 5G2 permit that is hard for a lot of facilities to comply with, which more or less says that you have six months from when your permit is authorized (basically when the NJDEP says you're good to go) to eliminate industrial materials and activities from areas that are exposed to stormwater.
More or less, you need to operate and store your equipment and materials entirely indoors or under cover. This can disqualify a lot of operations because businesses routinely utilize outside space for either storing material or business operations.
It can be awfully hard to get covered under this permit simply because you can't do any industrial activities or store any materials or equipment outside without being entirely under cover, or otherwise it has to be indoors or in a sealed container such as a shipping container. No welding, fabricating, running machinery, processing, storing anything, or anything else done or kept outside, what-so-ever. Any and all materials and equipment have to be kept inside or under cover. If you get shipments of a product or material, it needs to be kept indoors. No more exterior holding areas, temporary storage locations, or any sort of bin of materials can exist outside exposed to the elements. Heck, even dumpsters have to have be covered when not in use!
This sounds easier said than done. If you're reading this and thinking I can't do that, I work inside and outside and we store materials outdoors, then you unfortunately can't use this stormwater permit in New Jersey, and you'll need to use an Individual Stormwater Permit instead and that can be quite a headache.
Who needs to get covered under the 5G2 Permit?
There's really no way to pinpoint who needs to use the 5G2 stormwater permit since it applies to any industrial operation that exists wholly inside of a building or under cover. A couple quick examples of types of businesses come to mind, such as:
- Print Shops
- Electronic recyclers who operate entirely indoors
- Transportation Facilities
- Medical Supply Manufacturing
- Food facilities such as commercial bakers, coffee roasters, etc.
- Fabricators & Manufactures
In short, virtually any type of business can get covered under the 5G2 Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit as long as they're indoors or under cover. In other words, a lot of operations across New Jersey!
We always like to say people in warehouses need 5G2 permits, but that's not always the case. Generally, if you run a business in New Jersey that's entirely indoors, whether it's in a warehouse, old building, garage, under a tent, etc., you might need to get a 5G2 stormwater permit. The key always is you're industrial, your facility isn't covered by other industrial stormwater permits, and you're entirely indoors or under cover.
How can I get covered under the 5G2 Stormwater Permit?
It's pretty simple. You'll need to fill out three forms, all which are on the NJDEP's website.
The three forms are:
- Notice of Intent - Or NOI for short, which is basically the first form you'll fill out, which contains information you should know first hand, including things like the name of the company, point of contact, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Pretty simple stuff.
- A Supplemental Form - This form pertains to all the equipment, operations and maintenance, and materials you'll store outdoors exposed to stormwater. Since this permit requires you to conduct everything mentioned indoors or under cover, this form is really easy to complete.
- A Certification Form - This form might be the easiest of the three. This one just states that you will prepare and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), which is required under this permit. Preparing the SWPPP can be simple considering the Department offers a SWPPP template comprised of forms outlining your operation.
You need to complete these three forms, prepare and implement a SWPPP, pay a fee of a few hundred dollars, and as mentioned, you have to eliminate any material or activity exposure to stormwater by putting it or conducting it under cover or indoors.
How much does the 5G2 stormwater permit cost?
Like all stormwater permits in New Jersey the 5G2 permit comes with an annual fee that you'll be billed for once per year, and which you'll have to remit to the State in order to continue your permit coverage. Fail to pay it, and there goes your permit coverage! This is important to remember, since we have seen a few instances for whatever reason, the State has failed to bill the permittee, and they then run the risk of losing permit coverage, and are forced to call the state and actually ask for a bill (can you imagine that!?).
The annual fee for the 5G2 permit - the simplest and easiest of the NJ stormwater permits - is $800 per year (as of 2018), compared to most other stormwater permits which start at $2,300 per year and go upwards from there. So not only simple and easy, but relatively cheap too.
One positive aspect of the NJ stormwater permitting program is that they don't charge application fees, but instead rely on these annual fees. So when you make your NOI application, you just complete it, send it in, become covered (eventually), and presto! You get a bill for your annual fee. Congratulations, you're in the system!
Once you're covered, are there any additional costs? That depends, but most likely yes, you're going to incur some additional costs down the road. Like what?
Let's say you have to do some things to guarantee compliance with the 5G2 permit, such as building a new storage structure for those materials that you used to store outdoors. Going to cost you some money! Supposed you start observing during your monthly inspections that in fact your parking lot is routinely dirty, and really should be swept monthly or weekly. Additional costs!
We recently did a project under the 5G2 permit where they needed to swap out their old, uncovered trash dumpster for a new, fully contained one. And, turns out that lots of the facility employees enjoyed their smoke breaks, and routinely threw their cigarette butts on the ground. Extra costs? Yes, they needed to spring for the new dumpster, and they bought and installed several "butt buckets" throughout the outdoor parking areas.
And not all of these costs may be up-front or one-time costs. In the example of having to sweep more frequently (or at all), the facility might have to hire a monthly sweeping contractor to visit from now on, which is going to keep costing down the road.
How long does it take to get the Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2)?
Let’s face it, when you’re dealing with the government in New Jersey, don’t expect speedy results.
After submitting all the required documents and forms and implementing a SWPPP, you’d like to think you’d be authorized under this permit immediately, but the truth is, it could take a while in order to receive coverage. Literally, it could take a few weeks, or we've seen it take as long as the better part of several months to get the permit. Why? I couldn't tell you, but it's just the way it is.
But during that time, you can either do one of two things: The first thing that we highly recommend you do is begin your stormwater program and conduct inspections and your other requirements just as if you were covered under the permit. The other option, which we don't recommend, is you can sit tight and wait to begin your program once you receive coverage. If anyone ever asks, you can say that you submitted your application and are awaiting coverage, but depending on your inspector, they might not buy that answer.
We always recommend submitting everything, and then beginning the program ASAP. Monthly inspections, one annual inspection, and annual training - why not get started right away?
Can I get covered under this stormwater permit in New Jersey myself?
Yes. Bottom line, yes you can obtain this permit yourself. Like with most other NJPDES permits, you can get them yourself.
But, getting permits and all that government stuff might not be something your responsible for or want to do. We often see folks responsible for environmental, safety, and other areas of the business, and adding another responsibility is usually more than they want to deal with.
You run a business and your main goal is making money, not seeking permit coverage. Consultants are a good solution for taking care of all of this ‘paperwork’ behind the scenes while you focus on running your business. But of course with hiring a consultant you'll be spending money, and for organizations with budget restraints, hiring outside help isn't always in the cards.
Do I need to hire a consultant to help me with the 5G2 permit?
Maybe, maybe not. It depends on several factors. Do you have someone on staff who is capable of understanding the 5G2 regulations and requirements, who can fill out an NOI, who can produce a SWPPP, and who can conduct training and inspections? If so, then you don't need anyone's help.
But if you can't, or you just aren't sure, then maybe some "outside help" might be the ticket. A good, knowledgeable stormwater consultant can make sure you really qualify for the 5G2 permit (or even suggest some strategies to get you to where you do qualify if you don't immediately), can help you prepare a SWPPP that will stand up to scrutiny by a State inspector, can train you so that you really understand what you're doing, and in general can get you up and running the right way. Given that the NJDEP does sometimes hand out fines for stormwater permit violations, any money spent on a consultant for 5G2 compliance might be money well spent!
How much would consulting fees be relative to 5G2 compliance for you? Again, it depends. What exactly do you need help with? Just the NOI? NOI and a SWPPP? NOI, SWPPP and training? We've had some clients who have asked us to do their monthly inspections for them, or visit them once per year for training and an inspection from an outsider's point of view. So it all depends on what you want. However, we find that most of the time, it's a site visit to confirm 5G2 applicability, an NOI, a SWPPP, and then finally on-site (or webinar) training in the SWPPP and its requirements, including how to do inspections. For that, we've found that over the years we tend to charge on average anywhere between about $1,500 and $5,000 or so, depending upon the complexity of the facility and its operations.
But again, let's be clear, if you're sharp and have some good people on staff, then you might not need anyone's help, and you can keep that money in your bank account.
Will I need to change my facility around to use the Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2)?
From what we've discussed above, you can see that the main, #1 factor in whether or not you can be covered under the 5G2 permit is that everything must be done indoors or under cover. For some facilities, that's not a problem, and they can easily be covered by the 5G2. For others, it might mean doing something, like maybe storing some materials indoors, or in a storage shed, or under some type of weather-resistant cover. If it means the difference between being covered by a simple, relatively inexpensive 5G2 permit, then it might be the smart thing to do compared to the alternatives.
But what if you didn't meet the "no exposure" requirement, but you were close? Technically, you don't qualify for the 5G2 permit. But if you maybe did some simple things, then maybe you would. In nearly all cases, it'd be worth it.
What do I need to do with the 5G2 Permit?
Once you're covered under the permit you're going to need to do a few things, which are
In order to keep this permit, you (the person in charge of this program, and/or anyone included in the pollution prevention team) has to conduct and document a monthly inspection of the areas at your facility exposed to stormwater or snow-melt runoff. This kind of inspection shouldn't be something too difficult for anyone to complete. You're basically taking a walk around outside and noticing any issues or problems you might see and address them. You should look for things like trash buildup, uncovered materials or dumpsters, leaks or spills outside, the stormwater discharges location, the condition of the exterior of your facility, things of that nature. Remember, in short, you're looking to confirm that there are no materials or equipment exposed to stormwater that might contribute pollutants to runoff. Overall, simple stuff.
And once during the year, you'll have to conduct and document a comprehensive facility inspection. You're basically going to do the same things as your monthly routine inspection, only this time you'll ramp it up considerably and do a more detailed and thorough inspection, including going over your SWPPP and inspection records, training records, etc.
Someone at your facility will need to go through a form of annual training each year. You'll need to document who attended, what was covered, how long the training was, where it was, who provided the training, etc. It could be just you, the person in charge of being responsible for permit compliance, it could include your boss, co-workers, anyone who you think would benefit from knowing about the ins and outs of the permit you'll be covered under.
Annual training for the 5G2 permit can be any form that best fits your needs. Either webinars or classroom style training, or even just sitting around the office and discussing stormwater issues are all good methods of training. Some topics could be anything from spills outside and how to handle them to ensuring trash is disposed of properly. Anything you think might impact stormwater quality or management at your facility would be a good topic to go over.
And we can't stress this enough, document everything. Including your training.
What about stormwater sampling?
As we said, this permit is simplest NJPDES permit available. The biggest reason why in our book is you don’t have to sample stormwater. That's right, no stormwater sampling, testing, monitoring, etc. You don't have to worry about going outside in the rain and getting a sample ever.
You might think, what is the point of getting a stormwater permit that doesn’t even require you to monitor stormwater leaving your site? That’s a good question, but it does make sense, since if you don't have any materials or equipment outdoors that is contributing pollutants to stormwater (the main requirement of the 5G2 permit), then why have to take samples to confirm a lack of pollutants in your runoff?
How long is the 5G2 Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit in New Jersey good for?
NPDES permits are generally good for 5 years, and that’s the way it is here in New Jersey. So after 5 years, the permit is considered expired, but still in effect until a new permit is issued.
Right now there are so many NPDES permits in New Jersey that are long since expired, but luckily with this one, it was just renewed so it'll be good for a few years. Just to be crystal clear:
- It was issued on 01/24/2018
- It became effective on 02/01/2018
- It expires on 01/31/2023
So if you have a permit, you'll be covered under it until it's reissued. Most times when a permit is reissued you are rolled into the new one, especially with a permit as simple as this one. But, always make sure that you're covered when a new permit is issued! You don't want to find out the hard way!
What if I'm not covered under the Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2) at my business in New Jersey?
If you don’t have it, you run the risk of being in violation, and getting in trouble. That could be a monetary fine, could be a slap on the wrist, could be you just need to get covered under the permit and all will be forgiven. Inspectors in New Jersey are sort of allowed to do as they see fit when it comes to compliance issues, so you never know what to expect. Regardless, at the end of the day you'll need to get covered under the permit if required to do so. You can try to argue your way out of it, but don't expect to win.
How will anyone find out? How would you know about this? Generally people figure it out by the following ways:
- They know they need a permit because of being in a similar business prior to the one they're at now, or they're opening another facility of the same type in New Jersey.
- A consultant informs them of the need to get into compliance during the course of other work. We run into this a lot with Class D electronic recyclers in New Jersey when getting them setup with their recycling approvals.
- A vendor or client requires complete compliance with all applicable environmental regulations, so a manager of some sort will start looking into "water permitting stuff".
- An inspector either visiting the facility or even just driving by will determine they need a permit and will inform them, or issue a NOV (notice of violation) for non-compliance.
As you can imagine, the last bullet point there really gets you off on the wrong foot since it looks like you've been trying to skirt your responsibilities.
Are there any alternatives to the Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2)?
Yes. There are other types of permits available to you.
Industry specific stormwater permits - If you qualify for any one of the industry specific stormwater permits, you can get covered instead under one of them. As previously mentioned, there's a whole bunch of them, for things like asphalt plants, mining sites, concrete plants, wood recycling facilities, scrap metal facilities, Newark Airport, and a whole lot more. If you're in one of those pigeon-holes, then they're probably your best choice. No "indoors or under cover" required!
If not, you're in for some bad news. Two words - individual Permit. THey are your other, and likely worst, choice. If you can't fit into any category so far (5G2, non-applicability, or industry specific permit), then you need your own individually created permit, which is tailored to your particular operation and requirements. That type of permit is called an "Individual Permit", since it's written for you individually. These take a ton of time, have tough requirements (usually tougher than any other types of permits), and will cost you a lot more in the long run in terms of costs, liability, and aggravation. Definitely to be avoided if possible.
Why would you go with another permit other than the 5G2? I don't know, and I certainly don't advise you do that. Do yourself a favor and get covered under this permit if you can, since it is by far your best bet since it's the simplest, easiest, cheapest permit out there.
Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2) VS Non-Applicability Forms
One last thing, and this is where it gets kind of weird. It sounds kind of like a Catch-22 in my opinion.
First of all, any industrial facility needs a stormwater discharge permit, not because it rains on the facility, but because the facility has materials and equipment exposed to stormwater that can contribute pollutants to runoff, regardless of the type of pollutants or the amount. Simple enough. But what if really, truly nothing is exposed to stormwater, and everything (and I mean everything!) is indoors or under cover. Why then would you still need a permit? You wouldn't. You can instead opt out of the need for a permit by claiming that you have "permanent no exposure". No permit, no fees, no hassles. Sounds great, right? The problem is, the bar is very, very high for this. You might be cynical and say that the State of New Jersey sets the bar so high since it wants to collect fees and get you in a permit program, but the truth is many facilities do qualify for this opt out. We've done it for a number of facilities. But again, the bar is high.
For example, consider if you have loading docks. If they extend beyond the "permanent wall" of the building, then you don't qualify, and need a permit. Or, if you have any materials stored outdoors under overhangs, tarps, or in storage containers and other structures that aren't permanent buildings, then you don't qualify. Or if you have "poor housekeeping" as evidenced by "traces of oil, grease or other compounds on the ground" that can be seen in spots, then you don't qualify. In other words, very, very tough to qualify. We're not saying impossible, but tough.
You can also avoid a permit under the Non-Applicability Form option for a few other reasons which I won't go into, as some of them can be a bit complicated. But suffice to say, there might be other options out there. Having said so, for most operations, you're going to end up with the 5G2 permit.
Will I get inspected by the NJDEP if I get this stormwater permit?
Maybe. Facilities covered under the 5G2 are supposed to be inspected once every 5 years, but I don't know if that's a real regulation or just a rule-of-thumb the NJDEP employs. Most 5G2 facilities we've dealt with have been inspected more than once, but it's not every year. But for most facilities, the inspections tend to be fairly simple and quick affairs, since there really shouldn't be much to see. A quick walk-around of the outside of the building and grounds to confirm nothing's exposed to stormwater, a review of your SWPPP and paperwork, and if all's good, that's it. From our experience, these inspections will usually take you about 1 hour with an inspector from the NJDEP, who may (or may not) provide you with some advance notice that they're coming just to confirm that you're open and that someone will be available. But again, you may get not get any notice at all, they might just show up. Since that's their right under the permit you got from them, there's not much you can do except cooperate in all respects, be helpful and friendly, and get it over with. For most 5G2 facilities, the inspections are not a big deal.
What happens if I screw up under the 5G2 permit?
Like all NJPDES permits, there are penalties involved if you screw something up. I'm not real sure what you can do under the 5G2 permit to get a violation, but I guess if they show up and there's materials or equipment stored outdoors (that should be caught by your monthly inspections, so shame on you!), if you haven't been documenting your inspections, if your SWPPP isn't up to date, or anything else, then you're probably going to get a Notice of Violation with a timeline for you to correct any deficiencies or problems found. Usually, there wouldn't be a fine or other serious penalty, unless someone had knowingly lied on the NOI application, you're grossly out of compliance, some other serious problem was found, or you're just plain uncooperative. Do the right thing, don't make mistakes (or at least serious ones), and you'll be fine. If you're not sure, seek some qualified help.
5G2 Stormwater Permit Fact Sheet & More Info
That's a ton of information to break down, right!? Fortunately, we created a quick fact sheet for your convenience which goes over everything here quickly without any filler. So if you need to present information to your boss, manager, or just want some lighter reading, don't worry, we took notes for you and have a quick, single page document outlining what you need to know about the 5G2 stormwater permit here in New Jersey.