We explain what NJPDES stormwater permits are and whether or not your facility in New Jersey needs a stormwater permit.
For the last 20+ years, we've been helping businesses, government agencies, and others deal with NJPDES stormwater permits here in New Jersey. A fairly common issue we hear is people not understanding them, or knowing why they need one.
Several of our clients initially starting doing business with us because they had to get into compliance with their stormwater permits due to things like not knowing they needed one, they weren't following the regulations, or just needed help staying in compliance.
However, a common question we heard, especially from folks here in New Jersey, was
"What's an NJPDES permit? What's a New Jersey stormwater permit? Why do I need one?"
It's a great question! There are literally thousands of business and facilities across the Garden State that need an NJPDES stormwater permit, but from our experience, most folks are ill informed about the rules and regulations.
So let's try to keep this simple and get to the bottom of it.
What's an NJPDES permit? What's a NJ stormwater permit?
Certain types of facilities (usually industrial ones) as well as larger municipalities, are required by Federal law to get a stormwater permit to discharge stormwater to waters of the United States. These permits are designed to address water pollution that occurs from stormwater runoff from both industrial and municipal sources.
In New Jersey, these permits are handled by the NJDEP who call them New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NJPDES for short.
So, to put it in a very basic way, New Jersey stormwater permits, or NJPDES permits, are permits needed by industrial facilities and municipalities, that are designed to address, curb, and limit the pollution caused by stormwater runoff. Simple enough, right?
Doesn't it rain on everyone? Why do I need a New Jersey stormwater permit?
Why on earth would the State of New Jersey require a permit for runoff?!
It's obvious that streams, rivers and other waterways get dirty, cloudy, or whatever else you want to call it after it rains. There's a link between stormwater runoff and water quality. When it rains, water quality goes down. That's a given.
Many say this is a natural process, and to a certain extent, it is. Before there were people on this planet, streams still got dirty due to dirt from runoff and erosion when it rained.
But now, man’s activities contribute to this process through the use of chemicals, land-clearing activities associated with development, fertilizer usage, fuel spills, exposed materials in stockpiles, garbage, and much more. Humans have the ability to add a lot of pollution to stormwater runoff.
So why do you need one of these permits? Simply because they regulate man’s impact on the environment in an effort to curtail or restrict activities that could potentially result in additional water pollution. The permits put rules, regulations, and limits on what you can and cannot let leave your site in run off.
Do I need an NJPDES stormwater permit if water doesn't leave my site?
You might be thinking alright, I'm off the hook, no stormwater leaves my site! I don't need any NJ stormwater permits! I'm fine, right?
No, not in New Jersey! Here, we've taken the Federal requirements regarding discharges to surface waters, and gone one better.
New Jersey included "groundwater" as well. Think of the groundwater beneath your very feet at this moment, even if it might be far, far underground. That water also can become contaminated by dirty runoff, if for example your runoff went into a retention basin where it just sat and infiltrated into the ground.
Sounds unlikely? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. What if your runoff had oils in it? Some types of industrial organic solvents? Some types of trace metals like lead or mercury? Wouldn't you then agree that there might be the potential for your runoff to have an impact on groundwater?
That's why New Jersey regulates BOTH surface water discharges and groundwater discharges.
This makes a difference, since a lot of businesses and others in New Jersey think "gee, my runoff doesn't leave my site, it only soaks into the ground, so I don't need a stormwater permit". WRONG. You still need an NJPDES permit!
You can see as a result, that virtually every business needs a stormwater permit in New Jersey, whether they discharge to a surface water body or storm drainage system, or if it soaks into the ground on site and never goes anywhere.
Furthermore, you need a stormwater discharge permit even if everything you do is indoors or under cover. While that one may be a bit harder to digest, and lots of other states give you a pass here, New Jersey doesn't. They do have an easier, kinder permit for you to use, but hey, it's still a stormwater permit.
Now bear in mind, not all businesses need an NJPDES stormwater permit. It's mainly industrial facilities and larger municipalities, or anyone else who is doing something that raises the ire of the NJDEP and they force you to get a permit. Your local convenience store doesn't need one, the big box commercial business down the street doesn't need one, your office building probably doesn't need one. But pretty much everyone else does.
If you're still not clear, or still not sure if you need a New Jersey stormwater permit, call us. If you need more information, click here to contact us or give us a call at 609-693-8301 today to learn more about stormwater regulations in New Jersey.