Do I have to report bad stormwater sample results?

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Jan 6, 2015

Time to Read 6 Minutes

Learn what to do next when you receive bad stormwater discharge sample results.

When you get bad stormwater results, you might wonder if you can ignore the results and grab another sample, hopefully one with better results. After all, it'd be a lot better to only report good sample results, right? The answer's not so simple, and almost without exception you have action to take, and you have to report the results.

It happens to a lot of folks who have to sample in accordance with their stormwater permit, even if they run squeaky clean operations. Since we deal with a ton of facilities across the country with stormwater permits, we tend to hear a lot: "Can we just throw away the bad results and start over?"

Sure, pretending it never happened would be real easy, and I completely understand where you're coming from if you're wondering the same thing. The answer is important, and getting it right can keep you out of some serious trouble, and even help you avoid bad results in the future.

Why do I have to report bad stormwater sampling results?

Let's get this straight from the outset. If you have an NPDES stormwater permit or something similar covering stormwater or any other type of water discharges, and you're required to do monitoring, then you have to report all results obtained. All your results! That means the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you don't report your stormwater sampling results, then you are probably breaking both Federal and State law. It's not worth it. Going to jail for failure to submit stormwater discharge results sounds about as lame as anything I can think of! And trust me, I've seen it before.

Got it? You can't throw the results away. You have to own them, and live up to what they mean. You have to report any and all results.

Do I need to report bad stormwater samples?

How do I fix my bad stormwater sampling results?

Remember, you can always make your situation a whole lot better, and possibly avoid any bad outcomes in the future. How?

  • Depending on your permit, you'll have a minimum you have to take during a monitoring period (month, quarter, year). You have to take the minimum, but you can always take more. Got a bad result? Figure out why, address the problem, and take another sample. It may help out your situation with regulators, and at the end of the day, fixing issues and getting better results is really what your stormwater permit is all about.
  • Can you report the average of your results? Look into it. Certain stormwater permits may allow you to report the average of your stormwater monitoring results. At the very least, let your inspector or regulating agency know why your results were bad, and what you did to fix them, and they might cut you some slack.
  • You're required to report bad stormwater results. You may need to submit a report explaining why they're poor, and the steps you've taken to address the situation. Doing so might meet a permit or reporting requirement, and might lessen the blow of a bad result.
  • The biggest and most obvious… A bad result gives you the information you need to make changes, and prevent it from happening again in the future. What caused the bad result? What can I do about it? Fix the problem. Review your stormwater BMPs. Make sure your inspections are being done correctly. Check your outfalls. Figure out the problem and correct it.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That adage rings true for stormwater sampling. If you get bad results, expect more bad results. If you get good results, you should continue to get good results. If you're finding you're having issues with getting good stormwater samples, then you need to address the issue. For some people, that's as simple as ramping up BMPs. For others, that's stormwater training. The problem isn't going to solve itself.

So to answer the question above, yes, always report your bad stormwater sampling results.

Consider taking a second sample AFTER you've fixed the issues that caused the bad sample in the first place. Don't ignore them.

Need help with stormwater permit compliance?

For a lot of folks out there, this is a pain to deal with. After all, you have a business to run! If you're overwhelmed, you're not alone. RMA has been actively involved in helping companies get and stay in compliance with stormwater permits across the United States since our founding in 1992. Long story short, we know the ins and outs of the environmental problems industrial and commercial facilities face and can help you get into compliance with stormwater permits and other applicable environmental laws and regulations, ensuring your business stays out of trouble and in compliance.

Our staff members have been on-site at thousands of operations across the country, so when we say we've seen it all and done it all, we mean it. We've helped everyone, from globe-spanning, multi-national organizations to small "mom & pop" operations. No matter your size or location, we'd love to learn how we can help.

So, if you're having any type of issue at your facility and need the help of an environmental consulting firm with a proven track record, reach out. Even if we can't help, we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction. Feel free to contact us at, click here to contact us, or give us a call anytime at 888-RMA-0230 to learn how we can help your facility deal with stormwater permits and other environmental regulations.

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