5 Changes for the Upcoming ADEM Construction General Permit

April 19, 2016

As of April 1, 2016 ADEM has issued a new NPDES General Permit for Construction Activity that will be in effect for the next 5 years.  As in past permits this generally applies to construction sites that will disturb 1 acre or more of land.  As we reviewed the draft permit and then the final permit, we identified five major changes that have potential to impact site design and construction for projects within the State of Alabama.  These changes and their potential effects are presented below.

 5 Changes to Note for the Upcoming ADEM Construction General Permit

1) Notice of Intents (NOIs) for permit coverage are required to be submitted electronically.  This was optional in the current permit.  Permittees will be required to register through ADEM’s eNOI system and electronically sign the NOI.  Payment of permit review fees will also be made through the website.  Payment by check will no longer be accepted by ADEM.

2) Requirement to provide a minimum 25 foot natural riparian buffer zone adjacent to all surface waters at the construction site.  This requirement applies to waters of the State which generally means surface waters such as streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. This requirement could impact the site layout and design for a proposed project in order to comply.  The new permit does offer alternatives, however, to comply with this requirement such as the combination of a smaller natural buffer combined with additional erosion and sediment controls.   Also, additional effort will be required to locate and mark the buffers prior to construction activities.

3) Requirement to Conduct a Pre-Construction Observations Inspection.  This is a new requirement that calls for the Qualified Credentialed Professional (i.e. Engineer) to conduct a comprehensive inspection of the entire proposed construction site as well as all proposed outfalls, receiving waters and stream banks to determine if there are pre-existing areas of concern.  Documentation and photographs of the pre-construction inspection covering the areas listed above are to be maintained and made available to ADEM upon request.  Two items to note based on this new requirement:  a) there may be an increased cost due to the Qualified Credentialed Professional performing the pre-construction inspection and b) the project construction cost may increase due to a higher prioritization of erosion and sediment control implementation and maintenance resulting from the documented pre-construction conditions.

4) Requirements for Use of Polymers, Flocculants or Other Treatment Chemicals at a Site.  The use of these products are now explicitly allowed in the permit provided that they are only to be applied where the treated stormwater is directed to a sediment control prior to discharge.  Additionally, the Construction Best Management Practices Plan (CBMPP) must include a listing of all products to be used at the site, including the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and the dosage(s) to be used as well as the location these products will be used.  Polymers and Flocculants are an effective measure to remove suspended sediments (specifically fine clay particles) when used appropriately.  Although these products have not been prohibited by ADEM, the inclusion in the permit may increase the acceptance and use of these products.  The additional items to include in the CBMPP when using polymers or flocculants may require some additional effort by the Engineer, but this should be minimal.

5) Removal of the Turbidity Monitoring Requirement.  In 2009 the EPA released “The Construction and Development Effluent Guidelines and Standards” which included numeric turbidity limitation and monitoring requirements.  These requirements were incorporated into the current Construction General Permit.  EPA later stayed and, in 2014, withdrew the numeric turbidity limitation and monitoring requirements due to problems with the data used to develop these limitations.  Since the EPA withdrew these requirements, ADEM followed suit and removed the turbidity monitoring requirement in the new permit.  Turbidity monitoring applied to priority construction sites with 10 or more acres of land disturbance.  Monitoring occurred during monthly compliance inspections or following a qualifying rain event.  With this requirement removed, the cost to perform compliance inspections for sites that would have previously met the turbidity monitoring criteria should decrease.

Many of these changes have already been implemented in other states so for those who are involved in projects in other states, you may be familiar with these requirements.  If you have questions regarding the new ADEM General Permit and how it may affect costs and procedures for future projects, please contact William Thomas, Senior Environmental Project Manager with our Environmental Department at 205.313.1150.