SC Regulation R.61-9, Water Pollution Control Permits, allows the Bureau to issue " General Permits " to cover specific geographical areas and either storm water or other categories of "point source discharge" provided the sources all:
- involve the same or substantially similar types of operations;
- discharge the same types of wastes or engage in the same types of sludge use or disposal;
- require the same effluent limitations, operating conditions, or standards for sewage sludge or disposal;
- require the same or similar monitoring; and
- in the opinion of the Bureau are more appropriately controlled under a general permit.
General NPDES permits are administratively processed for issuance just like an individual permit. Also, they may be modified, revoked and reissued, or terminated.
The application process for coverage under a General Permit is usually simpler than the individual permit application process as it normally consists of a Notice of Intent (NOI) to be covered by a General Permit. Issued general permits contain the specific information that must be included in the NOI and how General Permit coverage is to be granted. General Permit coverage may be granted:
- by a waiting period after receipt of an NOI;
- on a specific date given in the permit; or
- by notification of the Bureau.
When an individual application is received for either a new NPDES permit or renewal of an existing NPDES permit, the Bureau screens the application to determine whether or not the discharge can be covered under one of the issued General Permits. If General Permit coverage is appropriate, the applicant is notified in writing that General Permit coverage is granted. If General Permit coverage is not appropriate, the application is processed for consideration of issuance of an individual permit.
Any facility or activity that is eligible for coverage under an NPDES General Permit may be required by the Bureau to obtain an individual NPDES permit. Also, an NPDES applicant, any interested person, affected State, Interstate agency, or the EPA may request the Bureau to require an individual permit in lieu of granting General Permit coverage. An individual permit will be issued where justified.
A facility's obligations under NPDES General Permit coverage are similar to individual NPDES permit obligations. General Permits contain the:
- effluent limitations for the pollutants of concern;
- pollutant monitoring frequencies;
- reporting requirements;
- operating conditions;
- requirements to implement a Best Management Practices Plan; and
- Administrative requirements
Typically, the types and characteristics of discharges authorized by General Permits are not of much a concern and, therefore, are more appropriately covered by General Permits. Hence, the application requirements, the pollutant monitoring frequencies, and reporting requirements of NPDES General Permits are usually not as stringent as those requirements of individual permits. If operating conditions change at a facility that is covered by a General Permit, the permittee is required to notify the Bureau. The Bureau may then require an individual permit, if appropriate.
Facilities with NPDES General Permit coverage are subject to enforcement actions for violations of the General Permit conditions. The enforcement actions may include notices of violations, show cause conferences, and consent or administrative orders both of which may include penalties.
EPA's delegation of the NPDES Permit Program to SC in 1975 did not include the authority to issue NPDES General Permits. The Bureau applied for and received NPDES general permit authority from the EPA in 1992. Since then, the Bureau has issued 12 statewide NPDES General Permits. These general permits can be divided into two types:
There is an annual operating fee of $100 for coverage under all non-stormwater NPDES General Permits. For coverage under the stormwater construction NPDES general permit, there is a one time application fee of $125. For coverage under the stormwater industrial NPDES general permit, there is an annual operating fee of $75.
For new discharges, the fee must accompany the NOI and there is no proration of the fee. Thereafter, except for Storm Water construction NPDES General Permit coverage, the Department will annually bill permittees who have coverage on July 1st of each year. Failure to remit payment can result in termination of coverage and a prohibition on issuance of any environmental permits by DHEC until the matter is resolved.