We explain New Jersey stormwater permits in a way that actually makes sense.
Just about every industrial facility in New Jersey needs some type of stormwater permit. Additionally, some facilities need permits for process wastewater. But the biggest challenge isn't getting the permit you need, it's navigating the labrynth of regulations that will apply to your operation.
Even the most basic NJPDES permits in New Jersey can be confusing and cumbersome to business owners and facility managers. All too often we're called in when folks throw in the towel because they've either received garbled information from a regulator, bad advice from a bad consultant, or even worse, they've tried to go it on their own and attempted to check out the regulations online.
Some of our best clients today turned to us when they didn't understand their permit's regulations and they just needed help. However, just because the rules can be tricky to navigate does not mean you can feign ignorance. If you don't understand basic permit requirements, it's very easy to find yourself in hot water, and you could be looking at a violation or penalty before you know it.
New Jersey stormwater permit requirements explained.
I'm going to try to break as much of this down as I can, but bear in mind, there are several different types of New Jersey stormwater permits, all of which are called NJPDES permits. Each have their own specific rules and regulations, but here we'll discuss some universal basics we see in each permit.
Also, below are some related articles that might be helpful for learning about stormwater permits and regulations.
What are NJPDES Permits?
These are stormwater discharge permits based on NPDES permits created under the Federal Clean Water Act. The NJDEP runs the program, hence it's called the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. Virtually every state has one of these permits, and they're usually called something similar.
The main stormwater permit requirements for New Jersey operations.
Anyone who discharges any type of "polluted or contaminated water" to a "water of the State of New Jersey" needs a permit at their operation. This means if water (process wastewater or stormwater) leaves your site into a stream, lake, river, bay, wetland area, catch basin, storm drain, etc, you need to have a permit that has restrictions, limits, or benchmarks on what the quality of your runoff can be. The NJDEP also regulates groundwater discharges, so a "water of the State of New Jersey" doesn't just mean surface waters.
Bear in mind that virtually every type of discharge is going to need to be monitored, sampled, and tested. That means stormwater testing usually done either anually, quarterly, or even monthly.
Also, most New Jersey stormwater permits are going to require some form of annual stormwater training, and possibly annual & monthly inspections of your facility, your discharge locations, and other areas of importance with regards to your stormwater permit.
NJPDES permits cover both stormwater and process water.
The two main types of discharges are stormwater discharges (rainfall which lands on your site, becomes contaminated by running over materials, dirt, sediment, spills, stockpiles, etc., and runs off your site) and process wastewater discharges (water used in the processes at your site, such as cleaning, mixing, rinsing, sewage, industrial effluent, etc.).
Even if your operation is entirely indoors, you still need a NJ stormwater permit for runoff from your site. Additionally, if your site is squeaky clean and your runoff isn't contaminated, you still need a stormwater permit and are regulated.
Permit regulations for stormwater and process wastewater discharges are usually as different as night and day. Stormwater discharges are usually covered by one of several types of general permits, which are supposed to be easier, cheaper, less involved, and have less requirements (but they're still not simple or easy as far as I'm concerned). Process wastewater discharges are usually more complicated and based on an individual facility's particular situation, and are usually therefore called "Individual Permits".
New Jersey stormwater permits usually require a SWPPP & DCP.
Typical permit requirements for stormwater discharges includes the development of an SWPPP (Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan) as well as a written DCP (Drainage Control Plan), the implementation of stormwater BMPs (check out our article on what are the best stormwater BMPs?). These two documents are designed to help you manage your stormwater and easily stay in compliance with the rules & regulations.
When we prepare SWPPP & DCPs for our clients, we do so in a manner that's the easiest to use and understand from our clients perspective. The end goal is to make things easier for you, not the regulators.
Examples of NJPDES stormwater permit requirements.
Here's some examples of what facility operators would need to do:
- An operation completely indoors - Let's say they make a widget, and their entire operation is indoors. They might have stormwater runoff from their property into the local municipal storm drainage system, but that's it. This discharge type is a "discharge to surface water", even though it gets there indirectly. Although the runoff most likely isn't that contaminated, it does rain on the facility's parking area, dumpsters, possibly some temporary outside storage, where it picks up the potential for pollution. This facility will need a general stormwater permit, a SWPPP, a DCP, they'll have to conduct inspections and training and certifications, and pay an annual fee.
- A wood recycling facility near a creek - In New Jersey, wood recyclers have their own industry specific NJPDES stormwater permit, like a lot of other industries. They'll need that permit (unless it's a very unique operation that needs an individual permit), a SWPPP, a DCP, inspections, training, certifications, an annual fee, and they'll have to conduct quarterly stormwater monitoring. Since they discharge to the nearby creek, they are also a "discharge to surface water".
- An industrial facility with on-site retention basins - The facility discharges stormwater to the ground, otherwise known as a "discharge to groundwater" facility. If this operation has an industry specific permit, they'll need that, otherwise they'll use an Individual Permit. They'll need a SWPPP, DCP, inspections, training, certifications, pay annual fees, and possibly have stormwater monitoring requirements on the water entering the retention basin.
- A facility which discharges process wastewater - Immediately they'll need an Individual Permit, whether they discharge to either surface water or groundwater. The requirements would be specific to the facility and its discharges, but likely include operational restrictions, intense discharge monitoring, and need to comply with strict discharge limits. Not an easy or cheap thing to do!
Additional NJPDES Stormwater Permit Resources
Here are some additional information we find clients find helpful when learning about NJ stormwater permits.
- What is a stormwater permit? (a good general overview)
- What is a SWPPP? (explains about your stormwater pollution prevention plan)
- What does non-exposure mean under an NPDES stormwater permit? (for facilities completely indoors)
- Do I need to report bad stormwater samples? (some information for those who conduct sampling & monitoring)
So, in a very simple sense, those are some of the basic permit requirements in New Jersey for anyone needing a stormwater permit or process wastewater permit. Of course, it can get a lot more complicated than this brief review makes it out to be, but this provides the general idea of how these permits work.
If you're still unsure about what you need, or have questions about your operation, your best advice is to get expert advice. Honestly, I'd suggest you contact an expert before you call the NJDEP, because they're advice can be confusing, and if you're not in compliance, you run the risk of alerting them to operation. Either way, not helpful.