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California now requires storm water permits for certain business licenses: Here's what you need to know

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Commentary

Colleen Hunt is a senior scientist and project manager of the Russian River Watershed Association (RRWA). Hunt is a certified professional in municipal stormwater management and works on developing solution-based management to complex storm water quality regulatory requirements. She brings 20 years’ experience to the RRWA, providing technical support on projects developed to promote clean water, habitat restoration and watershed enhancement to Sonoma and Mendocino counties’ Russian River.

In the 1990s the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified storm water runoff from industrial land use properties as a source of pollution in surface water, including rivers, creeks, and lakes.

In most urban settings, storm water runoff is conveyed through a storm drain system that is connected directly to surface water. Storm water is most commonly not treated prior to entering a storm drain and surface water, so any pollution in the runoff has the potential to end up in our water supply. This includes water that provides uses such as drinking water, recreation, and aquatic habitat.

In an effort to reduce the amount of pollution entering surface waters, the state of California requires industries with an identified potential of discharging pollutants in storm water runoff to obtain and implement an industrial storm water permit.

A new state law, effective Jan. 1, requires applicable businesses to provide proof of coverage under the industrial storm water permit in order to obtain or renew their business license with a city or county. This means that anyone required to have an industrial storm water permit who does not have coverage when applying for a business license will only be able to be issued a temporary license until coverage is obtained.

The temporary license provides a 90-day grace period to obtain the permit. Failure to obtain permit coverage within that grace period will result in revoking the temporary license and prohibiting operations until a business license and a permit are obtained.

The industrial storm water permit includes requirements to meet water quality standards by implementing best management practices (BMPs) as a mechanism to reduce pollutant sources. Example BMPs can include a combination of control measures such as proper storage and disposal of chemicals, staff training, filtration systems, or diversion of flows to the sanitary sewer.

Does your business need a permit?

Permit requirements are based primarily on the standard industrial classification (SIC) system. This is a coding system used by government agencies to group industries based on common characteristics. Regulated industries include:

• Feedlots of a specific size (SIC Code 0211-0272)

• Mining & oil and gas operations (SIC Codes 10XX-14XX)

• Manufacturing (SIC Codes 20XX-39XX and 4221-4225)

• Transportation (SIC Codes 40XX-45XX, {except 4221-4225} and 5171)

• Hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal (often SIC Code 4911)

• Steam electric power generating (SIC Code 4911)

• Sewage treatment (1 million gallons a day or more) (SIC Code 4952)

• Landfills, land application sites, and open dumps (SIC Code 4953)

• Recycling (SIC Codes 5015 and 5093)

The State Water Resources Control Board has developed resources to assist businesses with making the determination of whether permit coverage is needed.

This includes a Frequently Asked Questions document which provides guidance on how to determine SIC Codes, whether an SIC Code needs a permit, and how to apply for permit coverage.

Commentary

Colleen Hunt is a senior scientist and project manager of the Russian River Watershed Association (RRWA). Hunt is a certified professional in municipal stormwater management and works on developing solution-based management to complex storm water quality regulatory requirements. She brings 20 years’ experience to the RRWA, providing technical support on projects developed to promote clean water, habitat restoration and watershed enhancement to Sonoma and Mendocino counties’ Russian River.

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