Understanding what an SWPPP is is vital to staying in compliance with your stormwater permit. We discuss what it stands for, what it is, and why your operation or facility may need one.
In an environmental training course I'm teaching in Phoenix this week, we spent some time talking about stormwater permits and stormwater pollution prevention plans. Going over everything, I had a class attendee stop me and ask:
"What's an SWPPP?"
It's a great question because we go from stormwater permits to stormwater plans to SWPPP lightning fast, and it can all get jumbled together and unless you're living and breathing this stuff like I do, it can be kind of confusing. And, since virtually every industrial facility, construction activity, and municipal stormwater permit require one, it's important to understand really what it is. If you fail to understand what it is, you could end up facing a problem, like a penalty or violation from a regulator or 3rd party.
And by the way, many people pronounce it as "swip", or sometimes SWP3, or simply a stormwater plan. They are usually, but not always, one in the same.
So what is an SWPPP?
First off, think literally what it stands for: Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. Really, the name says it all! It's a plan to prevent stormwater pollution. That's it.
Ok, great, but what is a stormwater pollution prevention plan? Think of it as your guidebook of practices that you will use at your location or project to make sure that the stormwater discharged off your location is as clean and unpolluted as possible. These practices are commonly called "Best Management Practices" or stormwater BMPs, and there are almost an infinite number of them. Some are universal for every facility, some are site specific, some won't work well for you, while others might work great. You'll need to figure out which stormwater BMPs really work best for your facility or location on an almost case by case basis.
So your plan will be loaded with information on how to handle your facility in order to keep stormwater pollution to a minimum, but what's it actually look like? In almost every case we've ever seen, a stormwater plan is really nothing more than a notebook, with written out stormwater BMPs along with some form of site plans which detail how you ensure any stormwater discharged from your site is as clean and free of pollutants as possible.
Beyond stormwater BMPs and site maps, your plan usually involves some additional required components. For example, before you know which BMPs will be most effective at your site, you'll need to know what your potential sources of pollution are. Meaning, what do you have on site that could be carried away by stormwater? Is there dust from an industrial process? Do you have stockpiles of materials that get rained on? Your plan also wants to know who will be involved in the stormwater program. You're required to keep detailed information on when, how, and where people involved in the program get training. It's not just a good idea, stormwater training is a required part of virtually every permit in the country. And you can get in trouble if you don't do it. There's some other information crammed in there too, which isn't overly complicated, but shouldn't be taken lightly either.
Just be aware, stormwater permits are controlled by the states, so some types of NPDES stormwater permits might require something different in your stormwater plan. Maybe it's an engineered site plan, or specific BMPs that must be implemented and followed for discharging into an impaired waterway.
Where can I learn more about MY stormwater pollution prevention plan?
Where's the best place to figure out what you need in your plan? Your permit! It will outline the requirements you'll need to meet at your location. They can vary wildly, depending on your industry, where you're discharging to, your state, etc. It's always a great idea to read your permit, understand your plan, and make sure there's no grey area. Whenever we work with a client on stormwater services, and we do it a lot all over the U.S., the first place we turn to is the permit covering their operation or location. You should too.
So what is a SWPPP? It's one of the most common components of your environmental program, regardless of who you are, what you do, and where you're located. Understanding what it really is, it's purpose, and what it's meant to do is key to operating a facility that stays free from trouble.
To learn more about stormwater permits and stormwater plans, and how they impact your location, operation, or facility, click here to contact us to send us an email, or give us a call at 609-693-8301 and let's talk.