Written by: Jason Wunschel, QISP, ToR, NES, Inc.
Keeping up with and implementing storm water best management practices can put you in control of storms on behalf of your facility.
Storm Water Best Management Practices
Facilities are required to implement and maintain seven categories of minimum storm water best management practices (BMPs) to protect storm water quality at their sites. The facility’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) describes how each BMP is being implemented at the facility. NES serves as Technical Group Leader for the California Trucking Association Storm Water Compliance Group (CTACG). For CTACG members, referencing Section K in the provided SWPPP template will present a list of the required minimum BMPs that must be implemented, as applicable. It is important that this section is carefully reviewed by the Pollution Prevention Team and is adjusted to be site-specific. Additional BMPs implemented above and beyond the minimum required should also be described.
Housekeeping is the first impression for inspectors when they visit your site. Outdoor industrial activity and storage areas should be inspected regularly to identify and correct housekeeping issues. The SWPPP should specifically describe how these activities are being completed at your site (e.g., the lot and parking areas are swept weekly by an outside contractor; drains are inspected as part of the daily walk-through).
Inspections of vehicles and equipment that are used outdoors and could potentially spill or leak pollutants should be conducted regularly. The maintenance schedule should be described in your SWPPP (e.g., chemical storage tanks are inspected monthly for damage; pre-trip inspections of fleet vehicles are performed and documented).
Spill & Leak Prevention and Response
Procedures and controls should be in place to minimize spills and leaks. These should be described in the SWPPP (e.g., spill kits are kept in the shop and fuel island; kits are inspected weekly and restocked as needed).
Material Handling & Waste Management
Outdoor material and waste handling equipment and containers that may be contaminated by contact with industrial materials or wastes should be inspected and cleaned. These practices need to be described in the SWPPP (e.g., hazardous waste is picked up every 3 months by a contracted company; the oil/water separator is serviced every 6 months).
Erosion & Sediment Controls
Perimeter and wind erosion controls should be implemented and maintained to prevent tracking. The SWPPP should describe what is in place to meet this BMP as it applies to your site (e.g., paved areas near the vehicle parking area are swept weekly).
Employee Training Program
On-site employees whose job tasks can impact storm water quality (e.g., shop mechanics, fuel station attendants) need to be trained on the facility’s BMPs. Training needs to be performed and documented annually at a minimum.
Quality Assurance & Recordkeeping
Procedures should be developed to ensure that there is agreement between what is written in the SWPPP and what is being implemented on-site. Paper and/or electronic storm water records must be kept for a minimum of five (5) years.
Storm water best management practices serve to protect the environment from potentially hazardous runoff.
SMARTS Database: Account & Risk Management
The State Water Board developed the Storm Water Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTS) Database as a tool for tracking permitted facilities throughout the state and to simplify storm water reporting processes. Since its required implementation in July 2015, facilities have used SMARTS to submit storm water sample results, Level 1 and 2 Reports, and Annual Report Questionnaires.
While SMARTS has accomplished its goal of simplifying reporting, many facilities have seen it used for third-party lawsuits and regulatory inspections. This public side of SMARTS can be highlighted in order to help facilities better understand and manage risk.
SMARTS as a Regulatory Tool
Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) inspectors are the primary enforcers of the Industrial General Permit. With the aid of the SMARTS Database, Regional Board inspectors are able to identify and target specific groups of facilities for site visits. While some Regional Boards are focusing on facilities that do not have permit coverage, referred to as non-filers, most inspectors are targeting sites with NAL exceedances in their storm water samples or those that have not submitted samples. SMARTS can identify the top polluters for a given area as well as which facilities are in ERA Level 1 and 2. The frequency of Regional Board inspections often depends on the geographic location and the overall health of the nearby waterbodies.
Public Side of SMARTS
Information and documents uploaded to the SMARTS Database are available to the Water Board and are also available to the public. With just a few clicks of a mouse, anyone can pull up the same details that regulators use for targeting facilities. This has led to a significant increase in the number and frequency of public groups targeting facilities for lawsuits.
The SMARTS login page has a link dedicated to publicly available information and includes general facility information, submitted sample results, Annual Reports, ERA Level 1 and 2 Reports, and copies of regulatory inspections. Facilities are urged to log into their SMARTS account to assess what information on their facility is being viewed by the public.
Methods for Reducing Risks
The first step in reducing risk for regulatory inspections and third-party lawsuits is understanding the facility’s potential exposure. By routinely navigating through SMARTS, facilities can identify outdated information, including SWPPPs and Site Maps, that can raise questions for regulators. Additionally, the uploaded information, such as sample results, should be carefully reviewed to identify errors that could erroneously place a facility into Level 1 or 2. Facilities can manage their risk by developing and implementing an effective Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program on-site. Remaining in baseline status is crucial in order to keep your site off the Water Board’s radar and out of potential litigation.
NES & Storm Water Compliance
At NES, we have over 30 years of experience tailoring our services to assist with navigating California’s environmental compliance and training regulations. We administer CTACG and the California Trucking Association Storm Water Program (CTASWP), providing members with a range of benefits. To learn more about these programs and their benefits, click here. You can also call us at 916-353-2360 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on storm water best management practices.