Phase II Permitting
How far have we come in eight years?
EPA’s publication of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II final rule in the Federal Register back in December 1999 was a wake-up call for many smaller cities around the US. Permit coverage wouldn’t become mandatory for more than three years, on March 10, 2003, but the permit requirements were new territory for some, and they began working to figure out how to meet them—what to do, who to hire, and how to pay for it.
Although many smaller cities already had well-developed stormwater programs in place, for some soon-to-be Phase II cities “stormwater” had meant little more than flood control. Many of them had very little in the way of water-quality measures and didn’t have a dedicated stormwater department; the services they provided were often performed by the public works, engineering, roads, or some other department.
Larger cities and larger industries had been dealing with stringent stormwater requirements for nearly a decade when the final Phase II rule was published; the NPDES Phase I rule, issued in 1990, covered municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in cities with populations of more than 100,000.
The Phase II permit applies to cities with between 50,000 and 100,000 people, as well as to urbanized areas—sometimes involving several different jurisdictions—with a population density of at least 1,000 per square mile. Not only cities, but also entities like military bases, Native American lands, university campuses, and others that met the criteria could be covered by a Phase II permit.
The Phase II permit didn’t set numerical requirements for water quality, but instead was structured around six minimum control measures:
- Public education and outreach
- Public participation and involvement
- Illicit discharge detection and elimination
- Construction-site runoff control
- Post-construction runoff control
- Pollution prevention and good housekeeping
The first round of Phase II permits were issued, for most cities, in 2003 or earlier (with the exception of those in areas where the Phase II rule came under a legal challenge, or who were simply late in getting permit coverage). Most permittees are now well into their second five-year permit cycle.
In this issue of Stormwater, we talk to several municipal stormwater managers around the country, as well as others involved with Phase II programs, to see how their programs are doing—what they’ve accomplished easily, what the challenges have been, and, in the case of those who’ve undergone EPA audits of their programs, what feedback they’ve received from the agency. They also talk about how they’re funding their activities and share advice for other Phase II programs.
Author's Bio: Janice Kaspersen is the editor of Erosion Control magazine and Stormwater magazine.
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