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SB 205: Regulating Storm Water Pollution in California

EH&S Compliance, EH&S News, Storm Water

Written by: Virginia McCormick, NES, Inc.

California facilities that discharge storm water from their properties must have specific permit coverage.


SB 205 Passed to Further Protect State Water Quality

Effective January 1, 2020, certain regulated California companies must demonstrate proof of enrollment in a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, if such a permit is required, in order to obtain a business license or renew an existing license. This comes as a result of the late 2019 passing of California Senate Bill 205 (SB 205), which requires that cities and counties confirm NPDES permit status before issuing a business license.

SB 205 only applies to those California businesses with Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to which the NPDES permit is applicable for industrial storm water discharges (excluding construction). This is also known as a storm water Industrial General Permit.

The passing of SB 205 was a collaborative effort between the California Coastkeeper Alliance and the State and Regional Water Boards. Listed as the organization’s top accomplishment from 2019, the California Coast Keeper Alliance references the passing of SB 205 as, “pivotal legislation, which levels the playing field for business.”

By requiring proof of NPDES permit enrollment, California may better mitigate the largest urban source of water pollution and more effectively protect the State’s water quality.


SB 205 was a collaborative effort between the CA Coastkeeper Alliance and State and Regional Water Boards.


SB 205: NPDES Permitting and Enrollment Verification

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is a permit program implemented by state governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Water Act. In California, the NPDES program is enforced through the State Water Board and the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards.

An NPDES permit is a federal permit that regulates point source discharges of pollutants into U.S. waters. The Clean Water Act prohibits the, “discharge of pollutants from point sources into waters of the United States” unless regulated by an NPDES permit.

According to EPA, the NPDES permit contains limits and provisions that ensure a business’s discharge does not adversely affect local water quality or people’s health. Overall, facilities with NPDES permits must, “maintain records, monitor pollutant discharges, and submit reports to an authorized state agency for compliance monitoring.”

SB 205 requires a person applying to a city or county for a new (or renewed) business license to demonstrate enrollment in an NPDES permit, if such a permit is required. Additionally, the city or county must then determine if the applicant is required to enroll in the NPDES permit (Industrial General Permit) and, if so, ensure such enrollment has occurred.


Without proper accountability via permitting, facilities may – knowingly or unknowingly – release harmful pollutants into California’s many protected waters.


What SB 205 Means for California Businesses

State and federal storm water regulations require a broad range of industrial facilities to obtain NPDES permits. They include manufacturing facilities, mining operations, disposal sites, recycling yards, transportation facilities, and many others.

Any facility with industrial activity listed under Attachment A of the Industrial General Permit that discharges storm water must obtain NPDES permit coverage. The nine categories of industrial facilities listed under Attachment A are:

If a California business lists one or more of the above nine categories as a primary activity, then the business owner/operator must submit all Permit Registration Documents (PRDs) for Notice of Intent (NOI), No Exposure Certification (NEC), or Notice of Non-Applicability (NONA) to obtain coverage under a general permit.

NOI is considered the “full permit” and is applicable for businesses that, “discharge storm water associated with industrial activity to waters of the United States [and] are required to meet all applicable requirements.” In contrast, NEC is applicable for businesses that maintain, “no exposure of industrial activities or materials to storm water … and are not required to comply with the SWPPP or monitoring requirements.” Similarly, NONA requires certification by a Professional Engineer and is only applicable for businesses that retain all of their water on-site and do not discharge storm water.

Once the PRDs have been submitted to the State Water Board, the documents will be processed and the business will be issued a receipt letter with a Waste Discharge Identification (WDID) Number, which ensures permit coverage under California’s implementation of the NPDES permitting program. However, NEC and NONA applications, if approved, would exempt the business from permit requirements.

Once a permit is obtained, the facility is required to perform monthly site inspections to evaluate best management practices and to identify non-storm water discharges. Additionally, the facility must collect storm water samples and compare pollutant concentrations to the permit limits.

For more information on storm water sampling and best management practices, see the September 2018 blog Storm Water Sampling & NES Compliance Groups, written by NES Senior Associate Industrial Hygienist Jason Wunschel.


Transportation facilities are one of the many types of facilities that are required to obtain NPDES permit coverage.


Additional Permit Documents Required to Satisfy SB 205 Reporting

If facility operations are categorized by a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code regulated by the Industrial General Permit, the business must review the permit documents to determine which type of permit coverage and documents are required.

After determining if a permit is needed, a business must provide to the city or county the name(s) and location(s) of all facilities operated, all corresponding primary SIC codes and one of the following for each facility operated by the business:

  • Storm water permit number or WDID
  • WDID application number
  • NONA identification number
  • NEC identification number

The city or county must then ensure that the business provides the required information. Accurate information allows the licensing agency to confirm that an industrial business has obtained the required storm water permit coverage. All permit registration documents are submitted electronically through the Storm Water Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS) Database.


Storm water runoff, which occurs when rainfall carries oil, grease, chemicals, road salts, and debris into our waterways, can be detrimental to the environment.


SMARTS and NES: Helping Make Sense of Storm Water Compliance

The State Water Board developed the SMARTS Database as a tool for tracking permitted facilities throughout the State and to simplify storm water reporting processes. Regional Water Quality Control Board inspectors are the primary enforcers of the Industrial General Permit. With the aid of the SMARTS Database, Regional Board inspectors identify and target specific groups of facilities for site visits.

At NES, we have over 30 years of experience tailoring our services to assist with navigating California’s environmental compliance and training regulations. Additionally, NES has served as the Technical Group Leader for the California Trucking Association Storm Water Compliance Group (CTACG), one of the largest storm water compliance groups in the State of California, since 1999.

We administer CTACG and the California Trucking Association Storm Water Program (CTASWP), providing members with a range of benefits. For more information on the benefits provided to CTA Compliance Group and CTA Storm Water Program members, click here.

NES also provides in-house storm water programs for facilities that are not members of the CTA. For more information, please contact our storm water compliance team at: or 916-353-2360 / 800-637-2384.


SMARTS Database



Senate Bill No. 205

State Water Resources Control Board: Industrial Stormwater Program

League of California Cities: California Water Board Issues New Guidance and FAQ on SB 205 Implementation

State Water Resources Control Board: SB 205 FAQ – Cities & Counties

State Water Resources Control Board: SB 205 FAQ – Industrial Businesses

Clean Water Act

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

California Coastkeeper Alliance: California’s Leadership Prioritizes Clean Water – But Fails to Hold Polluters Accountable

California Coastkeeper Alliance: Top 2019 Accomplishments

State Water Resources Control Board: Senate Bill 205 – Business License Requirements

U.S. EPA – Stormwater Discharges from Industrial Activities

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit Fact Sheet