EPA Issues New Rule Targeting Construction Site Water Pollution

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Construction Site Water PollutionBeginning February 1, 2010, an estimated 82,000 construction sites must comply with the EPA’s new regulation governing construction site discharge. The new regulation outlines stricter measures to reduce water pollution and the EPA expects compliance with the rule to reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants discharged from construction sites by 4 billion pounds per year.

by Jessalyn Dingwell, Green Economy Post

Beginning February 1, 2010, an estimated 82,000 construction sites must comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new regulation governing construction site discharge: Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Construction and Development Point Source Category.

The regulation followed an assessment of how the nation’s waterways have improved since the inception of the Clean Water Act in 1972.  The study found that while water quality improved substantially in that time, water pollution from constructions sites remains one of the key sources of water contamination. Construction activities such as clearing, excavating, and grading significantly disturb soil and sediment. Without proper management, contaminants wash off construction sites during storms and pollute nearby bodies of water. The new regulation outlines stricter measures to reduce water pollution and the EPA expects compliance with the rule to reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants discharged from construction sites by 4 billion pounds per year.

Strict Numeric Turbidity Limits Phased in Over 4 Years

The regulation is significant as it is the first time the EPA has imposed national monitoring requirements and enforceable numeric limitations on construction site storm water discharges. Specifically, the daily average cannot exceed 280 NTU (nephelometric turbidity units). NTUs are the standard testing unit used to determine the amount of particulates in water samples. There is an exception to this limit for those days that rainfall exceeds a 2 year, 24-hour storm event.

These requirements will apply to sites disturbing at least 10 acres of land. The construction industry has plenty of lead time to prepare as these numeric limitations and monitoring requirements will be phased on over a period of four years, “to allow permitting authorities adequate time to develop monitoring requirements and to allow the regulated community time to prepare for the compliance with the numeric effluent limitation.”

Pollution and Contaminant Reduction Measures Apply February 1st

Smaller sites (those that disturb at least one acre of land) are exempt from the numeric and monitoring requirements. These smaller sites are required to adhere to the regulation’s “best management practices” (BMPs) to ensure that soil disturbed during construction activity does not pollute nearby water bodies. These include controlling storm water volume and velocity, minimizing the amount of exposed soils, minimizing disturbance of steep slopes, providing and maintaining natural buffers, minimizing soil compaction, stabilizing soils immediately after construction activity, minimizing discharge from dewatering activities, using vehicle and wheel washing, using sedimentation ponds and prohibiting specific discharges.  All sites that disturb at least one acre of land must comply with the BMPs beginning February 1, 2010.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) played a large role in pushing for stricter requirements governing construction site runoff. Jon Devine, a senior attorney for the water program at NRDC stated:

“This rule will help make the construction industry clean up its act when it comes to America’s waterways. This is an important step forward in reducing dirty runoff from construction sites, which is a major cause of pollution to our rivers and streams. For the first time, builders across the country will have to take steps to keep dirty soil and sediment from entering waterways in compliance with enforceable, measurable and objective standards.”

Further Information:

For technical information concerning this rule, contact Mr. Jesse W. Pritts at 202–566–1038 (pritts.jesse@epa.gov).

For economic information contact Mr. Todd Doley at 202–566–1160 (doley.todd@epa.gov)

For information regarding environmental benefits,contact Ms. Ashley Allen at 202–566–

1012 (allen.ashley@epa.gov).

© 2010, Jessalyn Dingwell. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Jessalyn Dingwell (13 Articles)

Jessalyn Dingwell is an attorney and Green Building aficionado living in Washington, DC. A daring high school science fair project involving solar energy, an incredible amount of copper tubing, and a precarious rooftop fueled her lifelong curiosity and passion for renewable energy sources and building energy-efficiency. Jessalyn serves on several committees at the Women's Council on Energy and the Environment and frequently contributes to the Council's Water Committee programming. Prior to law school, she spent several years at the Corporate Executive Board providing marketing best practices to Fortune 500 companies in the US, then managing the European team based in London. Feel free to contact her at: jessalyn@greeneconomypost.com.