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National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

The State of Indiana's efforts to control the direct discharge of pollutants to waters of the State were inaugurated by the passage of the Stream Pollution Control Law of 1943. The vehicle currently used to control direct discharges to waters of the State is the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permit Program. This was made possible by the passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (also referred to as the Clean Water Act). These permits place limits on the amount of pollutants that may be discharged to waters of the State by each discharger. These limits are set at levels protective of both the aquatic life in the waters which receive the discharge and protective of human health.

The State of Indiana was granted primacy from U.S. EPA to issue these permits on January 1, 1975 through implementation of a memorandum of agreement. From 1975 to 1986 the State managed the NPDES program through the Stream Pollution Control Board with staff provided by the Indiana State Board of Health (ISBH), Division of Water Pollution Control. On April 1, 1986, the Department of Environmental Management came into existence and responsibility of the NPDES program was transferred to the Office of Water Quality (OWQ).

The only significant difference between the two programs is that under the Stream Pollution Control Board the permits were issued by the Technical Secretary; IDEM issues permits through the Commissioner who has delegated the authority to an Assistant Commissioner. Existing staff were transferred from ISBH to IDEM at this time and on June 1, 1986, the IDEM employees were moved from 1330 West Michigan to 105 South Meridian with a satellite office for field personnel located at Bradbury Street. (Currently, field staff are housed at a satellite office located on Shadeland Avenue). The responsibilities at IDEM were increased at this time with the inclusion of semi-public wastewater permits and public water supply permits. Prior to IDEM, semi-publics were handled by ISBH Division of Sanitary Engineering and Public Water Supply by ISBH Water Supply Division.

U.S. EPA, Region 5, has oversight authority for the NPDES permits program. Under terms of the memorandum of agreement, Region 5 has the right to comment on all draft Major discharger permits.

In addition to the NPDES permitting program, OWQ's Permitting Branch operates a pretreatment program which serves an oversight role for municipalities that operate their own municipal pretreatment programs. Further, the NPDES program permits discharges of process wastewater to municipal sewage treatment plants by Industrial Waste Pretreatment (IWP) permits program. Additionally, the Permitting Branch regulates storm water discharges and discharges from combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls in its Wet Weather Section. Land Application of waste treatment plant sludge is no longer a part of the Office of Water Quality. It is now a part of the Office of Land Quality.

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 in accordance with the standards contained in 327 IAC 2. The NPDES permit requirements must ensure that, at a minimum, any new or existing point source must comply with technology-based treatment requirements that are contained in 327 IAC 5-5-2. According to 327 IAC 5-2-2, "Any discharge of pollutants into waters of the State as a point source discharge, except for exclusions made in 327 IAC 5-2-4, is prohibited unless in conformity with a valid NPDES permit obtained prior to discharge." This is the most basic principle of the NPDES permit program.

The majority of NPDES permits have existed since 1974. This means that most of the permit writing is for permit renewals. Approximately 10% 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 are administratively extended in full force and effect indefinitely if the permittee applied for a renewal before the current permit expires.

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

  1. Municipal, Semi-Public or State (sanitary-type discharger):
    1. Major Municipals - A facility owned by a municipality with a design flow of 1 million gallons per day (mgd) or greater (Cities, Towns, Regional Sewer Districts)
    2. Minor Municipals - Any municipally owned facility with a design flow of less than 1 mgd (Cities, Towns, Regional Sewer Districts)
    3. Semipublics - Any facility not municipally, State or Federally owned (i.e.- mobile home parks, schools, restaurants, etc.)
    4. State Owned - A facility owned or managed by a State agency (State parks, prisons, etc.)
    5. Federal - A facility owned by a federal agency (military owned installation, national park, federal penitentiary, etc.)
  2. Industrial (Wastewater generated in producing a product):
    1. Majors - Any point source discharger which is designated as such annually by an agreement between the commissioner and EPA. Classification of a discharger as a major generally involves consideration of factors relating to the significance of the discharger's impact on the environment, such as:
      1. Nature and quantity of pollutants discharged;
      2. Character and assimilative capacity of the receiving waters;
      3. Presence of toxic pollutants in the discharge;
      4. Compliance history of the discharger
    2. Minors - All dischargers which are not designated as major dischargers.
    3. Generals - The purpose of the general permit rule is to provide a streamlined NPDES permitting process for certain classes or categories of industrial point source discharges under the requirements of the applicable general permit rule rather than the requirements of an individual permit specific to a single discharge. The following is a list of the general permit rules and the industrial activities they regulate:
      1. 327 IAC 15-7 Coal mining, coal processing, and reclamation activities
      2. ING250000 Once-through Noncontact cooling water
      3. ING340000 Petroleum products terminals
      4. ING080000 Groundwater petroleum remediation systems
      5. ING670000 Hydrostatic testing of commercial pipelines
      6. ING490000 Sand, gravel, dimension stone and crushed stone operations
      7. ING410000 Onsite Residential Sewage Discharging Disposal Systems
      8. ING420000 Temporary Wastewater Discharges
      9. ING870000 Pesticide Applications
    4. Cooling Water (Water which is used to remove heat from a product or process, the water may or may not come in contact with the product)
    5. Public Water Supply (Wastewater generated from the process of removing pollutants from ground or surface water for the purpose of producing drinking water)
    6. Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment (IWP) (Processed wastewater generated by Industries that contribute to the overall wastewater received by the plant) See 327 IAC 5-17 through 5-21 for more information.
  3. Wet Weather:
    1. Storm Water-related (Wastewater resulting from precipitation coming in contact with a substance which is either dissolved or suspended in the water)
    2. Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) (Wastewater discharged from combined storm and sanitary sewers due to precipitation events)

NPDES Permit Application Requirements

Some of the things an applicant must do to comply with IDEM's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System individual permit program include (but are not limited to):

  • Submit a complete application, including Identification of Potentially Affected Parties (form available on the IDEM Forms page) who may be affected by the issuance of the permit;
  • Pay an NPDES application fee as required by 327 IAC 5-3-17 or IC 13-18-20-12 (as applicable) or pay an application fee as required by 327 IAC 5-21-12 for an Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment permit.  For most permits the initial application fee is $100.
  • List contaminants anticipated to be found in the wastewater,
  • Record and report sampling data as required by the permit; and,
  • Pay an annual operation fee in accordance with 327 IAC 5-3-17 or 327 IAC 5-21-12, as applicable.

What to Expect

IDEM is allotted 270 days to review a new major individual NPDES permit application and 180 days to review an application for a new individual minor NPDES permit. Both major and minor draft permits are subject to a 30 day public notice period.

Changing Ownership / Transferring

An existing individual NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit may be transferred to a new owner. Under 327 IAC 5-2-6(c) [PDF], the current permittee (permit holder) must notify the IDEM Office of Water Quality (OWQ) at least 30 days in advance of the transfer. The current and new owners also must provide to OWQ a written agreement that lists the specific date for transferring responsibility for compliance with the conditions of the permit from the current permittee to the new owner (transferee). In addition, the transferee must certify his or her intent to continue operations without making any changes to the facility or its processes that would significantly change the nature or quantities of pollutants discharged. If all these conditions are met, IDEM may simply transfer the permit to the transferee, who may continue to operate the facility under the existing permit.

However, if a facility wishing to transfer a NPDES permit to a new owner fails to notify IDEM at least 30 days in advance of the transfer, then under 327 IAC 5-2-16(c)(1), IDEM may not simply transfer the permit, but must instead modify and reissue the permit. The reissuance of the permit, in turn, requires that the permit be placed on public notice for 30 days, and may not be issued to the new owner until the completion of that 30-day public notice process. Hence, any operation of the facility by the transferee prior to the reissuance of the permit would constitute operating without a permit and therefore, be subject to enforcement action.

If, on the other hand, the transferee does intend to make changes that will alter the nature or quantities of pollutants to be discharged, then he or she must first submit an application seeking to modify the newly transferred permit to allow for such changes. The transferee will not be allowed to make the changes until the permit has been modified, or revoked and reissued, to address the changes to the nature and quantity of the discharge.

If only the name, but not the operator or ownership, of a company is to be changed, send a letter with the new company name and contact person to:

Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Office of Water Quality
100 North Senate Avenue IGCN 1255
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2251

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