There are many reasons why construction activities are regulated by the Federal and State water authorities. Storm water runoff from a construction site can have a serious impact on local water quality. When storm water flows over a site it can pick up all types of pollutants, such as chemicals, debris and sediment which then flows into the storm sewer system or directly to the closest body of water. This polluted water is hazardous to our watershed ecosystems, as well as to the vegetation growing in and around the water.

In Texas, dischargers with projects disturbing one or more acre, or even less than one acre if the project is part of a common plan of development, are required to obtain coverage under the General permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Construction activity is defined below.

Construction Activity

  • Soil Disturbing Activities
    • Clearing
    • Grading
    • Excavating
    • Demolition
    • Road Building
    • Erosion Control Installation
  • Construction of:
    • Land Development Sites
    • Residences
    • Linear Construction
    • Commercial sites / Retail Sites
    • Demolition of existing sites
  • Large Construction Sites
    • Disturb 5 or more acres of land
    • SW3P required
    • TCEQ Notice of Intent (NOI) required
    • TCEQ Notice of Termination (NOT) required
  • Small Construction Sites
    • Disturb at least 1 acre but less than 5 acres
    • SW3P Required
    • TCEQ Small Construction Site Notice (CSN) required
  • Common Plan of Development
    • A construction activity that is completed in separate stages, separate phases or in combination with other construction activity

Most states are authorized to implement the Stormwater NPDES permitting program; however, the EPA remains the permitting authority in a few locations.

The Construction General permit requires that you have developed and implemented a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SW3P) for your construction project if 1 acre or more, prior to construction beginning. The SW3P should contain site maps showing the perimeter, buildings, lots, roadways, storm water collection and discharge points, general topography and drainage patterns. The maps will also need to show the location of the nearest receiving body of water. The SW3P must list Best Management Practices (BMP’s) that will be used to protect runoff from the project. Also the SW3P must contain an inspection program to ensure BMPs are installed correctly, are performing as intended and are in good repair.

The process follows this breakdown:

The 8 Step Process – The following steps are recommended to determine your project status.

  1. Determine the size of your site (include all offsite spoils or staging areas.) If your site is one acre or more, you will need a Storm Water pollution Prevention Plan. If your site is 5 acres or greater then you are also required to submit a Notice of Intent. (Note: Some 1-5 acre sites may require a Notice of Intent due to a common plan of development.)
  2. Develop a Storm Water Pollution Protection Plan (SW3P). Implement the SW3P and update as work progresses.
  3. Submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) prior to beginning construction.
  4. Post a copy of the Construction Site Notice (CSN) near the entrance to the site.
  5. Complete the site inspections at least once every 7 days OR at least once every 14 days AND after a rain event of 1/2" or more. (Some local agencies may require more stringent inspection frequencies; such as weekly AND post rain inspections. They may also require inspectors certified by an approved training program (ie., CESSWI, CPESC)
  6. Maintain your erosion controls and correct problems within 7 days; document actions taken.
  7. Terminate your permit coverage by submitting a Notice of Termination (NOT) within 30 days. (At least 70% density stabilization is required to terminate coverage.)
  8. Maintain copies of all records associated with the storm water permit, SW3Ps and inspections for at least 3 years after your NOT is filed.

So you can see that this a complicated business. And highly important to get it right, as the local, state and federal agencies can and do assess fines and penalties for storm water violations. Yet another reason why it is so important to have an established, reputable firm complete your SW3P and inspections.