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Indiana Department of Environmental Management

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Chapter 6: Table of Contents

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Chapter 6 - Section VI: Permitting Areas - Water Permits

  Wastewater Construction General NPDES Individual NPDES Individual Drink. Water Wetlands
Notify Adjacent Property Owners within 10 days of application Not required Not required Not required Not required
Public Notice Notice of decision Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notice Method Letter Local newspaper Local newspaper Local newspaper Local newspaper
Public Comment None None Yes Yes Yes
Comment Length Not applicable Not applicable 30 days 30 days 21 days
Public Meeting None None None None Upon request
Process Length 90 days 150 days 180 – 270 days Varies 90 days

All permitting decisions regarding water quality in Indiana are made by IDEM’s Office of Water Quality (OWQ). OWQ’s decision making process is based on state and federal law and on rules adopted by the Water Pollution Control Board. IDEM’s Office of Water Quality issues permits for constructing wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, treating and discharging wastewater, treating drinking water and activities that may impact wetlands or waters of the state.

Wastewater (NPDES) Permitting

The wastewater permitting program is generally referred to as the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits program. The NPDES permits program is a federal program that IDEM implements. Although IDEM creates the permits under this program, U.S. EPA Region 5 has the right to review and comment on all draft permits for major wastewater dischargers. If U.S. EPA objects to any provision in a permit, IDEM cannot issue the permit until the objection is resolved.

Programs which have significant industrial contributions must still operate within limitations. For these facilities IDEM permits discharges of process wastewater to municipal wastewater treatment plants through the Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment permits program. Additionally, IDEM regulates discharges from combined sewer overflow outfalls by requiring the development of long-term control plans in order to reduce the frequency of overflow events and meet water quality standards.

The purpose of the NPDES permit is to control the point source discharge of pollutants into the waters of the state to maintain the quality of the water in accordance with the standards contained in 327 IAC 2 [PDF].

The majority of NPDES permits have existed since 1974, meaning most NPDES permit writing is for permit renewals. Approximately 10 percent of each year's workload is attributed to new permits, modifications and requests for estimated limits. NPDES permits are designed to be re-issued every five years, but may be administratively extended. If the permittee filed a timely and complete renewal application by the regulatory due date, the permit extension will be extended indefinitely and in full force.

There are several different types of permits issued in the NPDES permitting program. They are as follows:

  • Municipal, a semi-public or state sanitary-type discharger
    • Major Municipals - Any municipally-owned facility designed to handle primarily domestic wastewater with a designed flow of 1 million gallons per day or greater. Typical examples are cities, towns or regional sewer districts.
    • Minor Municipals - Any municipally-owned facility designed to handle primarily domestic wastewater with a designed flow of less than 1 million gallons per day. Typical examples are cities, towns or regional sewer districts.
    • Semipublics - Any facility which treats primarily domestic-type wastewater and is not owned by municipal, state or federal government and not an individual industrial site. Typical examples would include mobile home parks, schools or restaurants.
    • State Owned - A facility owned or managed by a state agency such as state parks or prisons.
    • Federal - A facility owned by a federal agency such as a military-owned installation, national park, federal penitentiary, etc.
  • Industrial, wastewater generated in producing a product
    • Majors - A point source discharger which is annually designated as a major discharger. This designation comes through an agreement between the IDEM commissioner and U.S. EPA. Classification of a discharger as a major generally involves consideration of several factors relating to their impact on the environment, such as the:
      1. Nature and quantity of pollutants discharged;
      2. Current clarity, and ability to absorb pollution without affecting the quality the receiving waters;
      3. Presence of toxic pollutants in the discharge; and,
      4. Compliance history of the discharger.
    • Minors - Any dischargers that are not designated in the major category.
    • Generals - The general permit rule provides a streamlined NPDES permitting process for certain categories of industrial point source discharges. This process operates under the requirements of the appropriate general permit rule rather than the requirements of an individual permit for a single discharge. The general permit rules and industrial activities they regulate include:
      • Coal mining, coal processing, and reclamation activities;
      • Non-contact cooling water;
      • Petroleum products terminals;
      • Ground water petroleum remediation systems;
      • Hydrostatic testing of commercial pipelines; and,
      • Sand, gravel, dimension stone or crushed stone operations.
    • Cooling Water – When water is used to remove heat from a product or process, the water may or may not come in contact with the product.
    • Public Water Supply – During the production of drinking water, wastewater is generated from the process of removing pollutants, especially from ground or surface water.
    • Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment (IWP) – Processed wastewater generated by industries also contribute to the overall wastewater received by a wastewater treatment plant, even though the water has gone through a pretreatment process.
  • Wet Weather
    • Storm Water-related – Wastewater is produced as a result of precipitation coming into contact with a substance that dissolves or becomes suspended in the water.
    • Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) – Wastewater that is discharged from combined storm and sanitary sewers due to precipitation events providing more water than the combined system can process.

How are wastewater facility construction permits issued and how can you participate in the permitting process?

  • What:
    • Verifies that a wastewater facility construction project will be completed properly and in an environmentally-protective manner.
  • Applicant Responsibilities:
    • Notify adjoining property owners/occupants within ten days of application.
  • IDEM Responsibilities:
    • Not Applicable.
  • Public Notice:
    • Notification is provided when the decision is complete.
  • Public Comment Period:
    • None.
  • Public Meeting:
    • None.
  • Other Important Considerations:
    • IDEM has 90 days to complete the review.

IDEM has 90 days to complete the review of a wastewater facility construction permit application. A facility construction permit is required for:

  • Some construction of sewer main extensions.
  • Sewer line lift stations – wastewater collection systems usually rely on gravity flow. To facilitate the flow, sewer lines may be designed to flow to intermittent low points called "lift stations." Pumps in these areas "lift" the sewage to a higher elevation where it again flows by the force of gravity to the next low point.
  • New municipal wastewater treatment plants, or modifications to existing facilities.
  • New industrial wastewater treatment or pretreatment plants.
  • Modifications to some existing industrial wastewater pretreatment plants that discharge to publicly owned treatment works.

The only public notification associated with permitting decisions on wastewater facility construction occurs at the end of the process. There is no public notice and no public comment period prior to the permit being issued.

Applicants seeking a permit to construct a sewer or wastewater treatment facility must include a list of any parties who might be affected by the permitting decision. This list of affected parties should also include the names and addresses of adjoining property owners, local county health department officials and elected county and city or town officials.

All applicants for permits involving previously undeveloped property are required to notify adjoining property owners and occupants within ten days of their application submission for wastewater treatment facilities. It is IDEM’s responsibility to notify local county health department officials and county and local officials of the application. No other notifications are required until the permit is issued.

When IDEM issues a wastewater facility construction permit, it must again provide notice to local officials, county health officials and affected parties submitted as part of the permit application. The notification provided by IDEM when the permit is issued includes information about filing an appeal.

How are permits issued to facilities that may discharge storm water or wastewater, and how can you participate in the permitting process?

Overview of the NPDES Permit

The federal Clean Water Act requires all people or facilities that discharge pollutants from a point source, such as a channel or pipe, into a particular body of water have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Protected areas include surface streams, lakes and storm sewers that are not connected to a publicly owned treatment works. NPDES permits regulate the discharges of storm water and various types of wastewater by limiting the amount of pollution that can be in water discharged by a facility.

IDEM issues these permits to industrial facilities, municipalities, federal and state owned facilities, mobile home parks, drinking water treatment facilities, coal mines, quarries, construction sites, and other point source dischargers. These discharges may require treatment in order to meet the terms and conditions of the NPDES permit.

Industrial facilities which discharge into sewer systems connected to publicly owned treatment works may be required to obtain an industrial wastewater pretreatment permit depending upon the types of wastewater discharged.

General NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permits
  • What:
    • Regulates specific types of activity that produce wastewater, allowing similar entities to operate under the same rules.
  • Applicant Responsibilities:
    • Submit a notice of intent letter.
  • IDEM Responsibilities:
    • Not applicable.
  • Public Notice:
    • Applicant publishes a notice in a local newspaper.
  • Public Comment:
    • Period None.
  • Public Meeting:
    • None.
  • Other Important Considerations:
    • IDEM has 150 days to complete the review.
    • The general permit, if approved, is active on the 15th of the next month.
    • Rule 5 or Rule 6 approvals become effective as soon as the application is received.

The purpose of the general permit rule program is to provide a streamlined process for certain point source discharges. Facilities operate and discharge under the requirements of the applicable NPDES general permit rule rather than the requirements of an individual permit. The following are some of the activities eligible for a general permit:

  • Coal mining, coal processing, and reclamation activities;
  • Noncontact cooling water;
  • Groundwater petroleum remediation systems; and,
  • Hydrostatic testing of commercial pipelines.

In order to operate under a NPDES general permit rule, an applicant must submit a notice of intent letter to IDEM. Applicants then publish a notice in a local newspaper to identify themselves, the location of the proposed project, the stream receiving the discharge and to describe the proposed activity and permit type.

There is no formal 30 day comment period for general permits, since the rule establishing the general permit has already been adopted. Although IDEM does not solicit public comment for general permits, that does not mean people cannot comment. IDEM will consider any useful information it may receive.

IDEM has 150 days to make a permitting decision regarding a new general NPDES permit. IDEM issues letters notifying applicants of general permit coverage on about the 15th of each month. Notification is sent to all interested agencies and parties. The monthly list of general permit approvals is also posted on the IDEM Web site.

Those who feel they are potentially affected by the issuance of the general permit may appeal in writing.

Individual NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permits
  • What:
    • Regulates facilities that produce wastewater.
  • Applicant Responsibilities:
    • Application submission.
  • IDEM Responsibilities:
    • Sends notice of decision to all potentially affected parties, interested parties.
  • Public Notice:
    • Published in local newspaper.
  • Public Comment:
    • Period 30 days.
  • Public Meeting:
    • None.
  • Other Important Considerations:
    • IDEM has 180 days to issue a new minor individual NPDES permit and 270 days to issue a new major individual NPDES permit.
    • There is no time frame for modifications.
    • When a timely and complete renewal application is filed, IDEM is required by statute to issue the renewal.

Any discharge activity not eligible for a NPDES general permit or permit-by-rule requires an individual NPDES permit, which presents greater opportunities for public participation. IDEM has 180 days to issue a new minor individual NPDES permit, and 270 days to issue a new major individual NPDES permit. Whether a permit is minor or major depends on the amount of the discharge or the pollutants in the discharge. There are no statutory time frames for IDEM to process modifications to NPDES permits.

Facilities seeking an individual NPDES discharge permit are required to submit an application including a list of affected parties and local area officials and must notify adjoining property owners. IDEM then notifies local county and city officials of the receipt of the application.

Once IDEM has prepared a draft permit, a public notice is published in the local newspaper. The notice describes information about the permit and states that the public may submit comments during the next 30 calendar days. If IDEM anticipates significant public interest in a particular permit application, the agency may automatically schedule a public meeting or a public hearing during the public comment period.

When a timely and complete NPDES renewal application is filed, IDEM is required by statute to issue the renewal by the expiration date of the current permit.

NPDES Permit Process

Generally, a NPDES permit is developed in the following manner:

  1. IDEM reviews application. All pollutants known or believed to be present in the effluent or wastewater are identified. IDEM reviews all existing information in the application and the appropriate effluent limits are developed.
  2. Permit is drafted. The permit is drafted with the effluent limits. Both technology-based and water quality-based effluent limits are evaluated and the most strict and protective are used in the permit. The permit may contain a time schedule for the permittee to achieve compliance, if a limit was not included in previous permits or is now stricter.
  3. Public Notice and potential Public Hearing. Prior to being issued, the draft permit is placed on public notice for 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.
  4. IDEM responds to comments. IDEM must respond to all oral and written comments received during the official public notice comment period when the final permit is issued. If permit conditions are significantly changed in response to comments, the permit may be placed on public notice for another 30 day period. There is no limit on the number of times that a permit may be public.
  5. Permit conditions finalized and permit issued. Any affected party may appeal the permit within 18 days of permit issuance. If adjudication and a stay are not requested within 18 days, the permit becomes effective. The permit is effective for five years, and may be renewed prior to the existing permit’s expiration date. When a timely and complete renewal occurs, the existing permit is automatically extended.

What is Pretreatment?

Wastewater discharged by industry often contains a variety of toxic or otherwise harmful substances that can pose serious health hazards. Because sewage treatment systems cannot treat them, industrial wastes can damage the sewers and interfere with the operation of treatment plants. Industrial plants often remove pollutants from their wastewater before discharging them into the municipal sewage treatment system. This practice is known as pretreatment.

There are currently 46 pretreatment cities in Indiana [DOC] that run local pretreatment programs. An industry discharging process wastewater to one of these cities’ publicly owned treatment works (POTW) must apply for a discharge permit through that local program. Each program does its own permitting, inspecting, sampling and enforcement. IDEM oversees each city’s program by performing occasional audits.

All industrial users that must pre-treat wastewater and are not located in a pretreatment city must apply to IDEM for an Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment (IWP) permit.

Wet Weather Program

  • Storm Water:
    • Regulates pollutants, including sediment, which can be found in water run-off from storms. Applies to soil erosion and the introduction of materials harmful to the environment.
      • Construction/land disturbance water permitting
      • Industrial storm water permitting
      • Municipal separate storm sewer systems
  • Combined Sewer Overflows:
    • Overflows from sewer systems with combined wastewater and storm water systems.

Wet Weather consists of two areas:

  • The storm water program manages the permitting of large municipal storm water dischargers, storm water associated with industrial activity (Rule 6), storm water associated with construction activity (Rule 5), and storm water associated with municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) (Rule 13).
  • The combined sewer overflow program augments the NPDES Municipal permitting program by implementing a strategy for the maintenance and management of combined sewer collection systems. The primary objective of this group is to ensure the minimization of impacts to waters of the state from combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

Storm water run-off is a natural part of the distribution and movement of water between the earth's atmosphere, land, and water bodies. Storm water run-off includes rainfall, snowmelt, and other forms of precipitation that falls to the earth's surface. When precipitation reaches the earth's surface it can either be absorbed into the natural landscape, known as infiltration, or move across the ground to another point, known as run-off. Infiltration and run-off is heavily influenced by land use. Typically, forested landscape will have far less run-off than an urban landscape.

The emphasis of IDEM is storm water permits is the protection of water quality.

Storm Water Permitting

  • Construction/Land Disturbance Storm Water Permitting
    • IDEM administers a general permit program that specializes in construction activities that disturb one or more acres of land. These permits are applicable to many projects including residential, commercial, industrial, public, and special land uses.
    • 327 IAC 15-5 is designed to reduce pollutants, especially sediment, which come from soil erosion and other activities associated with construction or land disturbing activities.
  • Industrial Storm Water Permitting
    • IDEM administers a general permit program that targets storm water run-off associated with industrial activities. Specific industrial facilities that are exposed to storm water fall under the requirements of this rule. Facility managers are required to submit a notice of intent and implement a storm water pollution prevention plan to address the point source discharge of pollutants associated with storm water run-off from their facility.
  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems
    • The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems rule (MS4) was written to regulate most MS4 entities, such as cities, towns, universities, colleges, correctional facilities, hospitals, conservancy districts, homeowner's associations and military bases. The program helps these entities form a storm water management plan to protect local waters from contaminated storm water.

Variances, Site-specific Limits and Alternate Mixing Zone Requests

The effluent limits of an individual NPDES discharge permit limit the amount of pollutants that are permitted in wastewater when it is discharged into the lakes and streams of the state. If the wastewater, after a process, has pollutant levels that are too high, then treatment is required. Permits require that pollutant levels are reduced:

  • To levels that ensure no harm will occur to humans, wildlife, or aquatic life in the receiving stream. Protective levels take into account dry weather periods of low water flow, or low lake levels, or
  • To levels reached using the best available, economically feasible treatment technologies, whichever of these levels is the most protective.

If the applicant believes the discharge limits required in the draft permit are too difficult to meet technologically or financially, then the NPDES regulations provide mechanisms for the applicant to seek less stringent limits. A public notice is also required if the applicant is required by IDEM to submit an Antidegradation demonstration (see below). Generally this public notice allows for a 30 day comment period. During this special comment period, if a public meeting is requested, IDEM is required to hold a public meeting. The rules only require a minimum ten day advanced notice of such meeting.

A variance request can be submitted at any time during the application period beginning on the date an application is submitted and ending 90 days following the effective date of the new, renewed, or modified NPDES permit. IDEM is required to public notice the receipt of a complete variance request. Additionally, IDEM places preliminary findings on public notice and accepts comments for 30 days.

Antidegradation

There are specific Antidegradation implementation procedures which have been developed for facilities located in the Great Lakes basins and works to prevent deterioration in quality of water resources.(Please note that as of March 2009, IDEM is in the process of developing statewide Antidegradation implementation procedures.)

Combined Sewer Overflows

What is the combined sewer overflow program?

A combined sewer system is a wastewater collection system that conveys sanitary wastewater and storm water through a single pipe. Until the 1960s, many communities in Indiana and throughout the country constructed combined sewers. These systems were viewed as a cost-effective means of providing sewer service and improved drainage.

Combined sewer systems typically were designed to carry all the wastewater flow during dry weather conditions and as much storm water flow as possible during and following wet weather events. When excessive amounts of storm water enter a combined sewer system the system overflows into adjacent streams through overflow structures designed specifically for this purpose. These overflows were intended to prevent the excess flow from overwhelming the wastewater treatment plant or backing up in the collection system and possibly into homes. However, the resulting combined sewer overflows discharge untreated wastewater or sewage directly into lakes or streams.

The Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) program ensures CSO communities work toward state and federal requirements for eliminating or minimizing the impacts of CSOs to surface water. CSO communities are required to develop and implement long-term control plans that attain the goals of the Clean Water Act. The long-term control plan process must be done with extensive public education and input. The long-term control plan could require implementation schedules up to 20 years, with the goal of meeting water quality standards.

What opportunities for public participation exist within the combined sewer overflow program?

There are two distinct opportunities in the combined sewer overflow (CSO) program for either public notification or public involvement. It is the responsibility of the CSO community to ensure public notice and public involvement requirements are met. The first of these opportunities is found in the Public Notification Rule. This rule requires the CSO community to provide notification and education of potential health impacts resulting from a combined sewer overflow discharge.

The second opportunity is found in the development of the long term control plan itself. The U.S. EPA requires the long-term control plan to be developed with input from the public. Some communities chose to use a formal citizen advisory committee with ample opportunity for public involvement in the selection of CSO control remedies.

What is the public notice procedure when there has been an upset at a wastewater treatment plant?
  • What:
    • When a facility is not operating as designed, and the level of discharged pollutants exceed permitted limitations.
  • Notice Requirements:
    • Notification of IDEM required:
      • 2 hours: Danger to human or animal life
      • 24 hours: No danger to human or animal life
    • Notification of local media required:
      • 48 hours Threat to human health or aquatic animals

An upset at a publicly owned treatment works occurs when the facility is not operating as designed. Specifically, the levels of discharged pollutants from the facility exceed the limitations established by the facility's NPDES permit. Whenever such upsets occur, the facility is required to notify IDEM emergency response personnel within two hours if the upset poses a threat to human or animal life or within 24 hours if the upset is not likely to pose such a threat. In turn, IDEM will notify appropriate state and local government agencies. When notified of any upset resulting in a discharge that may be a threat to human health or aquatic animals, IDEM also will inform area news media within 48 hours after receiving notification.

Drinking Water

How are permits issued for the construction of drinking water facilities, and how can you participate in the permitting process?

  • General Permits:
    • Water Main Extensions
      • Applicant must notify IDEM at least 30 days before construction.
  • Individual Permits:
    • Individual Construction Permits
      • Applicant must publish a notice in a local newspaper.
      • 30 day comment period.
      • Notice of decision will be sent to interested parties.
General Permits

The drinking water construction permit program has a general permit-by-rule that allows water main extensions to be constructed. It requires that the applicant notify IDEM at least 30 days before the beginning of construction. There is no public notice or public participation process associated with the water main extension permit-by-rule, as the opportunity for public comment occurred during the development and adoption of the rule.

Individual Permits

IDEM’s Drinking Water Branch issues individual construction permits for water mains, wells, pumps, chemical additions, and storage facilities, including complete water treatment plants. The application for a drinking water construction permit requires the applicant to provide potentially impacted parties.

If there are ten or more potentially impacted parties a notice may be published in a local newspaper of general circulation. The notice must describe the proposed project and location and allow a 30 day public comment period. IDEM will respond to any comments when the permit decision is issued.

If there are fewer than ten potentially impacted parties, those individuals may instead be notified by IDEM when it issues a decision regarding the permit. That notice of decision includes information on where to view the pending permit and how to appeal IDEM's decision.

Public Notice Regarding Certification of Demonstration of Capacity

Some new drinking water systems must obtain a certification of demonstration of capacity prior to submitting an application for a drinking water construction permit. To obtain this certification, the proposed new system must demonstrate to IDEM that it has the financial, technical, and managerial capacity to construct, maintain, and operate a public drinking water system that meets national Safe Drinking Water Act standards. This requires the proposed new public water supply system to submit a Water System Management Plan to IDEM.

A public notice regarding the decision will be published in a local newspaper. The newspaper notice provides information about the system and the decision. The notice will also advise how to appeal IDEM’s decision to issue or deny the certification.

How do you identify public and non-public water supplies?

A public water system is responsible for providing safe, clean, and chemically satisfactory water for human consumption, delivered through pipes or other constructed conveyances. Public water systems serve at least 15 service connections or regularly serve at least 25 individuals at least 60 days out of a year.

A public water system is either a community water system, which includes cities, towns, private water companies and mobile home parks or a non-community water system, which are campgrounds, churches, restaurants, highway rest areas and other facilities which supply water for human consumption themselves rather than connecting to another public water supplier.

A facility that serves water from a well or surface water source and has at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents is considered a Community public water supply. Examples of community water systems are municipal systems, mobile home parks, nursing homes, homeowners associations, or detention facilities.

The Drinking Water Branch of the IDEM Office of Water Quality (OWQ) regulates public water systems.

Will you be notified if the drinking water you obtain from a public water supplier does not meet Safe Drinking Water Act Standards?

  • Notification Avenues:
    • Annual Customer Confidence Report.
    • Public notice that safe drinking water standards have been exceeded.

Despite the work of public water systems to protect drinking water, problems can occur. As water suppliers test their water, they may discover certain contaminant levels are higher than the standards set by U.S. EPA or the state. These higher contamination levels could be due to a change in local water conditions, heavy rainstorms or an accidental spill of a hazardous substance. Water suppliers may also fail to take one or a series of their required samples.

Even when there are no violations of drinking water standards, community system [PDF] water suppliers are required to distribute an annual consumer confidence report [PDF] to all their customers. The report lists any contaminants detected during the year, and is a way for citizens to learn about the quality of the water they consume.

Whenever a problem with drinking water quality does occur, people who drink the water need to know what happened and what they should to do. Any time a water supplier fails to meet all U.S. EPA and state standards they must inform residents that drink the water. The type of public notice that must be provided by a public water supplier varies.

Based on the degree of threat to public health, there are three levels, or "tiers," of notification:

  • Tier 1: Notify the public by local area radio, television or newspaper within 24 hours if the violation poses a potential immediate impact on human health.
  • Tier 2: Notify the public by local media, posting, or mail within 30 days if the violation does not pose an immediate risk to human health.
  • Tier 3: Notify the public by way of an annual water quality report within one year of violations that do not have a direct impact on human health. Notices must be given annually for as long as the violation exists. These notices may be incorporated into the annual consumer confidence report.

Communities with more than 20 percent non-English speaking residents must publish the notice in the appropriate language. Although IDEM may give public notice on behalf of the owner/operator, the owner/operator of the public water supply system remains legally responsible for providing public notice.

Water suppliers failing to provide public notice for violations may be subject to enforcement actions by IDEM. Such actions could provide additional public notice as well as opportunities for public comment or participation.

Wetlands

What is IDEM's role in regulating construction in a wetland, lake, river or stream, and what opportunities exist for public participation?

  • What:
    • Regulates activities in lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands to ensure the integrity of Indiana waters.
  • Applicant Responsibilities:
    • May need to obtain additional permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • IDEM Responsibilities:
    • Site visits may be required.
  • Public Notice:
    • Published in local newspaper.
  • Public Comment:
    • Period 21 days.
  • Public Meeting:
    • May be held upon request.
  • Other Important Considerations:
    • IDEM has 90 days to issue a decision.

IDEM regulates activities in lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands to ensure any activities maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of Indiana waters. Federal permits or licenses are required to conduct many of types of work including building and operating hydroelectric dams, discharging wastewater, altering flow paths and placing fill materials into wetlands and waterways.

When a project is planned in Indiana that will impact a wetland, stream, river, lake or other water of the U.S. IDEM must issue a Section 401 water quality certification (401 WQC). A 401 WQC is a required component of a federal permit and must be issued before a federal permit or license can be completed. Section 404 dredge and fill permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) make up the bulk of federal permits requiring 401 WQCs from IDEM.

The discharge of fill materials into Indiana wetlands or other water bodies such as streams, rivers and lakes are also regulated. Any person or company planning to discharge fill materials to these areas by filling, excavating, open-trench cutting or mechanical clearing must receive a 401 WQC authorization from IDEM. These entities must also apply for and receive a federal Section 404 dredge and fill permit from the USACE.

IDEM works closely with the USACE and coordinates the permit application processes as much as possible. IDEM recommends that any potential applicant first contact the USACE to begin the application process, investigate the impact of the project on waters of the U.S. and determine if a federal permit is required.

If the USACE determines a proposed project will require a Section 404 dredge and fill permit then the applicant must also apply for and obtain a 401 WQC from IDEM. The proposed activity will be reviewed by IDEM to determine if it will comply with Indiana law and state water quality standards.

Public notice for 401 WQC can take two different forms. If the project requires a Section 404 dredge and fill permit from the USACE, a joint public notice will be issued by the USACE. The joint public notice will include information points of contact for both the USACE Section 404 dredge and fill permit and the IDEM 401 WQC.

A project may not require an individual Section 404 dredge and fill permit. The USACE also authorizes certain activities under its "nationwide" and "regional" permits. Like IDEM general permits, the USACE’s nationwide and regional permits are designed to expedite the approval process for certain projects. The USACE does not post a public notice for nationwide and regional permits, although IDEM would place a public notice if an individual 401 WQC is required for the activities associated with the USACE nationwide or regional permit.

The standard comment period for a 401 WQC is 21 days. Like other permits, a public meeting or a public hearing may be requested by anyone.

IDEM typically schedules a site investigation with the applicant during the application review process and usually will issue a decision within 90 days of receiving a complete application. The 401 WQC, like all IDEM-issued environmental permits, may be appealed. Wetlands not regulated under the federal Clean Water Act are regulated under Indiana's State Isolated Wetlands law. Impacts to isolated wetlands require a State Isolated Wetland Permit from IDEM.