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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Water Quality - NPDES Permit Process

Water Quality

NPDES Permitting Processes

General Information
General Permits
Applying for a New NPDES Permit
Renewing an NPDES Permit
Permit Modifications
Rescinding a Permit
Permitting Process

To access a list of active permits, please visit our home page, where you can download the list as an Excel spreadsheet.

View the most current version of the NPDES Standard Conditions (boilerplate).
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General Information

Any person that discharges or proposes to discharge waste to the surface waters of the state must obtain a NPDES permit prior to the initiation of such discharge. NPDES permits are distinguished between individual and general. General permits are issued for a given state-wide activity such as the discharge of wastewaters associated with sand dredging or non-contact cooling. Individual permits are permits developed and issued on a case-by-case basis for activities not covered by general permits. These permits can be readily identified by their prefix. Individual NPDES permits have the prefix NC while general NPDES permits have the prefix NCG.

Individual permits are categorized as minor or major permits. Discharges from treatment systems treating domestic waste with a design flow greater than 1.0 MGD or with a pre-treatment program are classified as major discharges. Industrial and commercial discharges are classified based on several factors including flow, waste characteristics and water quality and health impacts.

The following activities do not require a NPDES permit, North Carolina Administrative Code T15A 2H .0106(f) designates the following as deemed permitted discharges:

  • Filter backwash and draining associated with swimming pools;
  • Filter backwash from raw water intake screening devices;
  • Condensate from residential or commercial air conditioning units;
  • Individual non-commercial vehicle washing operations;
  • Flushing and hydrostatic testing associated with utility distribution systems;
  • Discharges associated with emergency removal and treatment activities for spilled oil authorized by the federal or state on-scene coordinator when such removals are undertaken to minimize overall environmental damage due to an oil spill;
  • Groundwaters generated by well construction or other construction activities;
  • Landscape irrigation, foundation or footing drains, or water from crawl space pumps;
  • Street washwater; and
  • Flows from fire fighting.

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General Permits

General wastewater permits currently exist for the following activities:

  • Non-contact cooling water discharges;
  • Petroleum-based groundwater remediation;
  • Sand dredging;
  • Seafood packaging; and
  • Domestic discharges from single family residences.

 

To obtain a Certificate of Coverage under a general permit a Notice of Intent should be submitted to the NPDES Unit. See the Permit Applications section for more information on general permits and to download the Notice of Intent.

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Applying for a New NPDES Permit

To apply for a new NPDES permit for a proposed facility, an application package including the following requirements should be submitted to the NPDES Unit:

 

After obtaining an NPDES permit for a new discharge an Authorization to Construct (ATC) permit must be also obtained. ATC permits are issued by the Infrastructure Finanace Section. An ATC permit cannot be processed until an NPDES permit has been issued for the subject discharge.

Application

See the Permit Applications or FAQ sections for more information and copies of the applications. The owner of the proposed facility must sign the completed application(s). If you are an Authorized Representative of the owner, you may sign the application. Status of an Authorized Representative must be confirmed by the owner in writing.

Fee

The fee for a new application is the same as the annual fee paid by existing facilities and can be found in the Fee Schedule section of the web site. If the proposed facility will have a design flow greater than or equal to 1-MGD, then the fee for major facilities applies. If the proposed facility will have a design flow less than 1-MGD, then the fee for minor facilities applies.

Evaluation of Alternatives

An evaluation of alternatives to discharge is required of all new or expanding facilities. The Engineering Alternatives Analysis (EAA) guidance is available in the Permit Applications section of the site. Applications that do not contain a thorough EAA will be returned.

In addition, you may wish to consult the relevant basin plan for your proposed discharge. If the receiving stream is impaired from its stated uses, this may prevent the issuance of a new NPDES permit. Management strategies which may affect the EAA are delineated in the basin plan.

If the proposed discharge facility is publicly owned, or if public monies will be used to construct and/or operate the facility, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) will apply. Contact the Local Government Assistance Unit at 807-6434, to discuss SEPA requirements prior to the submission of any permit application.

If you have any questions about the permitting process, call a member of the NPDES Program.

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Renewing an NPDES Permit

NPDES permits are valid for 5 years and are renewed on a basinwide cycle, all the permits in a basin are renewed at the same time. Renewal of an existing NPDES permit must be requested and accompanied by a complete application 180 days prior to expiration of the existing permit. This allows sufficient time for initial review, permit development, internal review, and the public comment period. If the new permit is not issued before the existing permit expiration date, the old permit remains valid until the issuance of the new permit.

Existing facilities with NPDES permits do not pay a permit renewal fee; the cost of renewal is included in a facility's annual fee (see Fee Schedule).

Permittees must submit a complete application form. See the Permit Applications section for the appropriate application. It is recommended that these applications be reviewed well in advance of the due date, as there are monitoring requirements associated with them. Call a member of the NPDES Unit if you have any questions regarding application requirements.

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Permit Modifications

Minor Permit Modification

Minor permit modifications are defined in 40 CFR 122.63 (e.g. change in monitoring frequency, name/ownership change) and are generally processed in a shorter timeframe. There is no fee for minor permit modifications.

To apply for a name or ownership change, you should fill out the form and submit proof of ownership change (such as a deed or other legal contract).

Major Permit Modifications

Major modifications to NPDES permits include, but are not limited to: changes to compliance schedules, increases in flow or pollutant loads, changes to permit limits, corrections of technical mistakes, or material and substantial alterations to the permitted facility or on-site activity.

There are processing fees associated with major permit modifications. Permit applicants must submit a fee equivalent to the corresponding annual fee, which is non-refundable if the permit modification request is denied.

Permit modifications must be accompanied by a complete permit application. The permit application forms and the current permit fee schedule are included in the Fee Schedule section.

An expansion of a treatment system is a major permit modification and requires an Engineering Alternative Analysis. The Engineering Alternatives Analysis (EAA) guidance is available in the Permit Applications section. Applications that do not contain a thorough EAA will be returned. After obtaining an NPDES permit for an expansion an Authorization to Construct (ATC) permit must be also obtained. ATC permits are issued by the Infrastructure Finance Section. An ATC permit cannot be processed until an NPDES permit has been issued for the subject discharge.

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Rescinding an NPDES Permit

If you no longer require a discharge permit, you should apply for rescission. In order to rescind an NPDES permit the facility owner (or authorized representative) should send a letter including the permit number, name and address of the facility, and reason for the rescission request to the NPDES Permitting and Compliance Program.

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Permitting Process

The permitting process described below is similar for new permits, permit renewals and major permit modifications.

A permit writer will review the permit application for completeness. If the application package is complete, an acknowledgment letter is sent to the applicant. For permit renewals if the application is not complete the permit writer will contact the permittee to request the missing information. For new permits or permit expansions, if the application does not contain all the required information and forms it will be returned to the applicant.

After the application package is complete, it is reviewed by a staff member, and a draft permit is developed. In the development of a draft permit, the permit writer will prepare a fact sheet summarizing the permitting strategies and limits development. The appropriate Regional Office will review and comment on the draft permit.

The draft permit is then sent to public notice in a local newspaper. A comment period of 30 days follows the Public Notice. Major permits are also reviewed by EPA and in some instances by other state agencies like the Department of Environmental Health or the Fish and Wildlife Service. If no significant comments are received by the Division, the permit writer finalizes the permit and issues it 45 days after the public notice is published in the local newspaper.

If the public presents a strong opposition to the issuance of a permit during the 30 day comment period, a public hearing may be warranted. The public hearing process involves an additional 30 day public hearing notice and a 60 day period after the public hearing for the hearing officer to make a recommendation to the Director. The Director then has 30 days to evaluate the hearing officer recommendation and deny or issue the permit with modifications.

An adjudication process is available for permittees upon written request within 30 days after receiving the permit.

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