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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Water Quality - NPDES FAQs

Water Quality

NPDES Program FAQs

Click the question to locate an explanation.

General FAQs

  1. How do NPDES permits protect water?
  2. Is it legal to have wastewater coming out of a pipe into my local receiving water (e.g., lake, stream, river, wetland)?
  3. Typically, how long are NPDES permits effective?
  4. Can the general public participate in NPDES permitting decisions?
  5. How can I make a request for a public hearing?
  6. How can I check on the status of a given permit or find a list of NPDES permit holders?
  7. Where can I mail correspondence to the NPDES Unit?
  8. Where can I find the rules that govern North Carolina's NPDES program?

Getting A Permit

  1. Do I need an NPDES permit?
  2. What application form do I need?
  3. How do I apply for a new NPDES permit?
  4. What are the timelines for obtaining a new permit?
  5. Where can I find a list of fees for given permit actions? (e.g. permit renewal, new permit)?
  6. How do I know whom to contact about my permit?
  7. How do I renew my existing permit?
  8. Under what circumstances do I need to modify my permit?
  9. How do I request a modification to my permit?
  10. What if a permit modification also requires construction at the facility?
  11. What if I no longer need a NPDES permit?

Complying With A Permit

  1. How are the conditions in NPDES permits enforced by North Carolina and the EPA?
  2. Where can I find compliance monitoring forms/instructions to print out?
  3. How can I find information on Wastewater Treatment Plant annual reports?
  4. What are civil penalties?
  5. What do I need to do when assessed a civil penalty?
  6. What is Injunctive Relief?
  7. Where can I find data about non compliance of individual permitted facilities?
  8. What is statutory Moratorium?
  9. What is the "80/90%" rule?
  10. What is a Special Order by Consent (SOC), and how can one be obtained?
  11. Where can I get an application to request an SOC?
  12. Where can I find a list of facilities under water quality special orders?
  13. Can the public participate in the SOC process as in the permitting process?
  14. What is 67(b)?
 

General FAQs

1. How do NPDES permits protect water?

An NPDES permit will specify an acceptable level of a pollutant in a discharge (for example, a certain level of bacteria) in order to protect water quality. Conservative methods are used to calculate the acceptable level, based on the assimilative capacity and designated uses of the receiving stream. The Permittee may choose which technologies to use to achieve that level. NPDES permits ensure that both North Carolina's mandatory standards for clean water and federal minimum requirements are met.

2. Is it legal to have wastewater coming out of a pipe into my local receiving water (e.g., lake, stream, river, wetland)?

Yes, as long as the wastewater is discharged is covered by and in compliance with an NPDES permit; there are enough controls in place to make sure the discharge is safe and that humans and aquatic life are being protected. To find out if a discharge is covered by an NPDES permit, you may call your regional office or the NC Division of Water Resourses Central Office (919-807-6300).

3. Typically, how long are NPDES permits effective?

The Clean Water Act limits the length of NPDES permits to five years. Therefore, NPDES permits in North Carolina are usually renewed (and expire) on a 5-year basinwide schedule. If the facility submits a timely renewal application, the facility may continue to operate under its existing permit until a new permit is issued, even after the permit’s expiration date.

4. Can the general public participate in NPDES permitting decisions?

Yes. The NPDES administrative procedures require that the public be notified and allowed to comment on NPDES permit applications. In North Carolina, this is accomplished by posting a public notice in the newspaper of the county in which the discharge is located. Typically, the major daily newspaper of that county is the one selected for notice. The public then has 30 days to review the draft permit, make comments, and/or request a public hearing.

5. How can I make a request for a public hearing?

When a permit is under review, anyone may request a public hearing for it by writing to the Director of the Division of Water Resources. Such a request can be sent to the Director at the following address:

NC Division of Water Resources
1617 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

It is up to the discretion of the Director as to whether a public hearing will be held. If a hearing is held, interested parties may provide comments to the hearing officer. The hearing officer makes recommendations to the Director, who makes the final permit decision.

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6. How can I check on the status of a given permit or find a list of NPDES permit holders?

Go to the List of Active Permits for all individual NPDES permits (permits beginning with NC00). The Excel version of this file can be sorted by county.

For the status of any permit (including NPDES individual or general permits), you may navigate the Reports section of the Division of Water Resources's database, BIMS, which lets you search for all permits by region.

If you wish to see a list of permits that have gone to public notice and are available for public comment, please visit the Documents section and download the "List of Permits to Public Notice," available in Excel or Adobe format.

7. Where can I mail correspondence to the NPDES Unit?

All correspondence is routed through the DENR Mail Service Center in Raleigh. Mail to the NPDES Unit should be sent to the following address:

NC DENR / DWR / Water Quality Permiting Section / Wastewater Branch
1617 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

8. Where can I find the rules that govern North Carolina's NPDES program?

These are available electronically on our Surface Water Protection Section site.

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Getting A Permit

1. Do I need an NPDES permit?

It depends on where your facility discharges wastewater, and the type(s) of wastewater discharged. If your facility discharges from a point source into the waters of the United States, you need an NPDES permit unless the activity is "deemed permitted." If your facility discharges wastewater into a municipal sanitary sewer system, you do not need an NPDES permit, but you should ask the municipality about its permit requirements. If your facility discharges wastewater into a municipal storm sewer system, you may need a permit depending on the type(s) of wastewater discharged. Domestic wastewater, industrial process wastewater, municipal wastewater, groundwater remediation water and certain kinds of industrial stormwater and cooling water are all permitted through the North Carolina NPDES program. If you need additional information, please call a member of the NPDES Unit staff.

2. What application form do I need?

If you are applying for a stormwater permit, please visit the Stormwater Permits site. If you are applying for an individual or general NPDES permit, please visit our Application/Forms section.

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3. How do I apply for a new NPDES permit?

In addition to completing the appropriate application (see above), you will need to submit the following items:

An Engineering Alternatives Analysis (EAA) to evaluate all possible discharge options other than direct discharge (e.g. spray irrigation, connection to a municipal sewer system). An EAA including flow justification is required for all new and expanding dischargers. EAA guidance is available in the Application/Forms section.

In some cases, the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) may apply, and a SEPA Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared to study all possible negative effects on the environment. If SEPA applies, an NPDES permit cannot be prepared until the SEPA documentation passes through the State Clearinghouse. Please contact the Local Government Assistance Unit if you are unsure about whether SEPA applies to you.

Verify the flow of the receiving stream. The receiving stream must have positive flow during summer drought conditions. Check with the North Carolina USGS if you do not have this information.

You may also wish to consult the basin plan for the proposed river basin of discharge and/or the North Carolina 303(d) list to check for any policies that may affect the proposed discharge.

4. What are the timelines for obtaining a new permit?

Permits for new or expanding discharges take anywhere from 6 months to several years, depending on the complexity of the proposed discharge and the completeness of the submittal.

5. Where can I find a list of fees for given permit actions? (e.g. permit renewal, new permit)?

A complete fee schedule is listed in our Fees section.

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6. How do I know whom to contact about my permit?

The permit prefix indicates the type of permit held:

NC00 indicates an individual NPDES wastewater permit; contact the NPDES Unit
NCG00 indicates a general NPDES wastewater permit; contact the NPDES Unit
NCS00 indicates an NPDES stormwater permit; contact the Stormwater Unit
WQ00 indicates a Non-Discharge permit; contact the PERCS Unit
WQCS00 indicates a sewer collection system permit; contact the PERCS Unit

7. How do I renew my existing permit?

Submit the appropriate application form for your facility to our section along with any additional information required by the form. The Permittee should also request any desired changes to the permit with the permit renewal application. Permits are generally drafted within 30-60 days of expiration and placed at Public Notice. Once the comment period is over, the permit can be finalized. Generally, renewal of NPDES Permits takes about six months.

8. Under what circumstances do I need to modify my permit?

If you plan to change the method of wastewater treatment, the existing treatment system's capacity or the composition of wastewater(s) being discharged, a major permit modification is required. Other permit modifications may be made to change monitoring requirements, facility name and/or ownership.

If conditions at your permitted facility change such that any portion of the issued permit is no longer accurate, contact the NPDES Unit to determine what modifications to the permit may be necessary.

9. How do I request a modification to my permit?

For name/ownership changes, submit a name/ownership change form, along with appropriate legal documentation. For other changes to permit requirements, submit written requests detailing the change and any supporting documentation. Expansions of flow must be handled in the same manner as new discharges.

10. What if a permit modification also requires construction at the facility?

For modifications involving construction at a treatment plant, the permittee must first obtain an NPDES permit for the modification. Once this permit has been issued, the permittee may begin the Authorization to Construct (ATC) process. Construction may not begin until the permit has received an ATC permit. The Construction Grants and Loan Section issues ATC permits. Additional information is available from their website.

11. What if I no longer need a NPDES permit?

If your facility is not capable of discharging you should rescind the permit. Once you rescind the permit you will no longer be able to discharge waste. To request a rescission simply send a letter to the NPDES Permitting and Compliance Program containing the facility's name, permit number, and reason for request.

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Complying With A Permit

1. How are the conditions in NPDES permits enforced by North Carolina and the EPA?

There are various methods used to monitor NPDES permit conditions. The permit will require the facility to sample its discharges and notify the Compliance and Enforcement Unit and the EPA of these results. In addition, the permit will require the facility to report to the Division of Water Resources and EPA when the facility determines it is not in compliance with the requirements of a permit. Also, the Division's regional offices conduct periodic compliance inspections of all permitted facilities to determine if they are in compliance with the conditions imposed under their permits.

Federal laws provide EPA and authorized state regulatory agencies with various methods of taking enforcement actions against violators of permit requirements. For example, EPA and state regulatory agencies may issue administrative orders that require facilities to correct violations and/or that assess monetary penalties. The laws also allow EPA and state agencies to pursue civil and criminal actions that may include mandatory injunctions or penalties, as well as jail sentences for persons found willfully violating requirements and endangering the health and welfare of the public or environment.

2. Where can I find compliance monitoring forms/instructions to print out?

Monitoring forms and instructions for completing forms can be found in our Documents Section.

3. How can I find information on Wastewater Treatment Plant annual reports?

Wastewater Treatment Plant Annual Report Guidelines

4. What are civil penalties?

Civil penalties are fines assessed against a responsible party for violation(s) of environmental regulations. The assessment of a penalty is based on the specifics of each civil penalty case. The law requires consideration of specific assessment factors by the assessor for each case.

5. What do I need to do when assessed a civil penalty?

Once a civil penalty has been assessed, the responsible party has three options. These options are explained in detail in an assessment letter received by the responsible party. One of the three must be selected within thirty (30) days of receipt of the assessment letter.

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6. What is Injunctive Relief?

Injunctive relief is a court order to discontinue or prevent an existing or potential violation. This court order is often used if a responsible party demonstrates consistent non-compliance with regulations or if an imminent danger exists to health or the environment.

7. Where can I find data about non compliance of individual permitted facilities?

For reports on noncompliance, please see water quality enforcement actions.

8. What is statutory Moratorium ?

A sewer line moratorium may be imposed by two different scenarios. One involves implementation of 15A NCAC 2H .0223 (the "80/90%" rule) and the other involves implementing a statutory moratorium by G.S. 143-215.67. Any facility that operates under a Special Order by Consent (SOC) is essentially under a statutory moratorium.

9. What is the "80/90%" rule?

The “80/90 rule” comes from 15A NCAC 02H .0223. Its purpose is to ensure that treatment facilities do not exceed their hydraulic treatment capabilities, and it details what actions must be taken when treatment plants reach average flows of 80% and/or 90% of their permitted capacity.

10. What is a Special Order by Consent (SOC), and how can one be obtained?

A Special Order by Consent (SOC) is an agreement that a permit holder enters into with the Environmental Management Commission in order to achieve some stipulated actions designed to reduce, eliminate, or prevent water quality degradation. Limits set for particular parameters under an NPDES permit may be relaxed in an SOC, but only for a time determined to be reasonable for making necessary improvements to the facility.

11. Where can I get an application to request an SOC?

Application forms to obtain a new SOC or amend an existing SOC can be found in our Documents section.

12. Where can I find a list of facilities under water quality special orders?

The unit maintains a list of active SOCS.

13. Can the public participate in the SOC process as in the permitting process?

Yes, SOCs are written up and go to notice much like NPDES permits. The unit maintains a list of current draft SOCs at notice. Comments on draft SOCs may be submitted and public hearings may also be requested

14. What is 67(b)?

This refers to a portion of the statute that allows municipalities to accept additional flow while under an SOC. For more information, see G. S. 143-215.67. Acceptance of wastes to disposal system

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