The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program is authorized by Section 402 of the Clean Water Act. NPDES permits are issued by the State of Indiana through the implementation of a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of the NPDES permit is to control the point source discharge of pollutants into the waters of the State such that the quality of the water of the State is maintained.
The following definitions are contained in Title 327 of the Indiana Administrative Code, Article 5, Rule 1, Section 2:
- Point Source:
- any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including, but not limited to, any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, landfill leachate collection system, vessel, or other floating craft from which pollutants are or may be discharged.
- includes, but is not necessarily limited to: dredged spoil, incinerator residue, filter backwash, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, solid wastes, toxic wastes, hazardous substances, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt, and other industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water.
- Waters of the State:
- such accumulations of water, surface and underground, natural and artificial, public and private, or parts thereof, which are wholly or partially within, flow through, or border upon this state. The term does not include any private pond, any off-stream pond, reservoir, or facility built for reduction or control of pollution or cooling of water prior to discharge unless the discharge therefrom causes, or threatens to cause water pollution.
- If a facility discharges pollutants from any point source into waters of the state of Indiana, then the operator of that facility must apply for a NPDES permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). The Industrial Permits Section issues permits covering discharges from all industries. Discharges from sewage treatment facilities are covered by the Municipal NPDES Permit Section while industrial facilities discharging wastewater into non- pretreatment program municipal sewage treatment systems are covered by the Pretreatment Section.
Overview of the NPDES Permit
The NPDES permit controls point source discharges of pollutants into the Waters of the State through the establishment of effluent limitations and operating requirements. Generally, a NPDES permit is developed in the following manner:
- Identification of all pollutants known or believed to be present in the effluent. Review of all existing information in the application and the IDEM files such as effluent quality data, current permit conditions, inspections, construction permits, and compliance status.
- Determining applicability of EPA technology-based effluent guidelines for a discharger and the limits based on the guidelines. If EPA guidelines don't exist, development of effluent limits based on best professional judgement of the technology representing the best available treatment.
- Determining water quality-based effluent limits for pollutants required by EPA guidelines as well as any additional pollutants believed to be present in the effluent. Water quality- based effluent limits take into account characteristics of the receiving stream such as the low flow value and hardness of the stream at the point of discharge.
- The permit is drafted with the effluent limits based on either the technology-based limits or water quality-based effluent limits, whichever are more stringent.
- The permit may contain a time schedule for the permittee to achieve compliance with effluent limits that were either not included in the previous permit or are more stringent than the effluent limits in the previous permit. This schedule of compliance is included in the permit only if it is determined that the permittee is unable to meet the limits at the time of permit issuance. If the permit applicant is a new facility or an existing facility that is recommencing its discharge, they are not allowed a schedule of compliance.
Prior to issuance, the permit is placed on public notice for a minimum of 30 days to receive comments from the public and the permittee. During the public notice period, any interested party, including the permittee, may request that a public hearing be held to allow those in attendance to present oral and written comments to the IDEM regarding conditions of the permit.
The IDEM must respond to all oral and written comments prior to or in conjunction with the issuance of the final permit. If permit conditions are significantly changed in response to the comments, the permit may be placed on public notice for another 30-day period with the opportunity for a public hearing. There is no limit on the number of times that a permit may need to be public noticed prior to issuance.
After permit conditions are finalized, the permit is issued. Any affected party may request an adjudication of the permit including a stay of any contested permit condition within 8 days of permit issuance. If adjudication is not requested within 8 days, the permit becomes effective. The permit can be effective for no more than five years unless the permittee applies for a renewal of their NPDES permit prior to the expiration date of their existing permit in which case the existing permit is automatically extended until the effective date of a new permit.
NPDES General Permit Rule Program
The NPDES general permit rule program, Title 327 IAC 15, became effective on September 30, 1992. The purpose of the general permit rule program is to provide a streamlined NPDES permitting process for certain classes or categories of industrial point source discharges. Coverage under a NPDES general permit rule is unique in that a facility operates and discharges under the requirements of the applicable general permit rule rather than the requirements of an individual permit. 327 IAC 15-1 through 15-4 establishes the basic requirements for all NPDES general permit rules. The following is a list of the general permit rules and the industrial activities they regulate:
- 327 IAC 15-7 - Coal mining, coal processing, and reclamation activities
- 327 IAC 15-8 - Noncontact cooling water
- 327 IAC 15-9 - Petroleum products terminals
- 327 IAC 15-10 - Groundwater petroleum remediation systems
- 327 IAC 15-11 - Hydrostatic testing of commercial pipelines
- 327 IAC 15-12 - Sand, gravel, dimension stone or crushed stone operations
In order to obtain coverage under a NPDES general permit rule, an applicant must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) letter for the applicable general permit rule. The NOI letter* must contain the information required by 327 IAC 15-3 and the appropriate general permit rule. In order to simplify this process, the Industrial Permits Section of the IDEM has developed a NOI letter checklist that identifies the required information for a particular general permit rule. In order to obtain an NOI checklist for any of the above categories, click on the appropriate general permit rule.
*An application fee of fifty dollars ($50) and a Potentially Affected Persons form (available on the IDEM Forms page) must accompany the NOI letter.