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Getting A Permit
Complying With A Permit
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.
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 Quality Central Office (919-807-6300).
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.
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.
When a permit is under review, anyone may request a public hearing for it by writing to the Director of the Division of Water Quality. Such a request can be sent to the Director at the following address:
NC Division of Water Quality
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.
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 Quality'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.
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 / DWQ / SWPS / Point Source Branch
These are available electronically on our Surface Water Protection Section site.
Getting A 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.
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.
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.
A complete fee schedule is listed in our Fees section.
The permit prefix indicates the type of permit held:
NC00 indicates an individual NPDES wastewater permit; contact the NPDES Unit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Complying With A Permit
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 Quality 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.
Monitoring forms and instructions for completing forms can be found in our Documents Section.
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.
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.
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.
For reports on noncompliance, please see water quality enforcement actions.
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.
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.
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.
Application forms to obtain a new SOC or amend an existing SOC can be found in our Documents section.
The unit maintains a list of active SOCS.
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
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