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Are you ready for the next level? Probably not, unfortunately ūüôĀ

Within the next few months the 2016-2017 reporting year will be wrapping up in California, and for the first time facilities will begin to enter ERA Level 2 status. There has never been a¬†Level 2 status¬†as part of the Industrial General Permit (IGP) for stormwater discharges, so most companies do not¬†really know what to expect. For many facilities this idea of Level 2 is frightening, and most Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioners (QISPs) have not begun to ready themselves¬†for the massive amount of work it is going to take to prepare the Level 2 ERA Actions Plan and Technical Report required. No, closing your eyes and pretending the monsters¬†under your bed¬†in your industrial stormwater program do not exist is not going to work! When we asked facilities if they have begun to prepare for Level 2 the answer we generally get is something to the effect of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there“. This is a¬†major mistake¬†that many will make, and could be the difference between¬†remaining in Level 2 or¬†getting back to baseline. Below is a timeline of the deadlines for facilities entering Level 2 in¬†the 2017-2018 reporting year.

2017-2018 Level 2 Deadlines

  • July 1, 2017 – Facilities will enter into Level 2 in SMARTS
  • January 1, 2018 – Certify and submit in SMARTS a Level 2 ERA Action Plan prepared by a QISP
  • January 1, 2019 – Certify and submit in SMARTS a Level 2 ERA Technical Report prepared by a QISP and BMPs implemented

Documents Needed

The ERA Level 2 Action Plan will need to address the drainage areas where Level 2 NAL stormwater exceedances are occurring, what advanced BMPs have been chosen to be implemented as part of Level 2, and which of the three types of demonstration(s) have been selected for the Level 2 ERA Technical Report.

Next step is the ERA Level 2 Technical Report, which will need one or more of the following demonstrations; Industrial Activity BMPs Demonstration (need a professional engineer (PE) for all hydrologic calculations for treatment BMPs), Non-industrial Pollutant Source Demonstration, and/or Natural Background Pollutant Source Demonstration. BMPs need to be implemented by the time the Technical Report is submitted.


Determining Your Fate (Before You Knew What Level 2 Was)

Here at Mapistry we have been preparing for Level 2 since the first rain events of this reporting year. Did your facility already have your fate decided during the first storm event? I hope not. However, one may ask, how could you know that facilities were going to go into Level 2 after the first samples? Well, if a site was already in Level 1 for TSS, has multiple sample points and two discharge locations exceeded the instantaneous NALs for TSS in the first event, they automatically jump into Level 2 for TSS in the 2017-2018 reporting year. Another scenario is that a facility is in Level 1 for a metal with a very low annual NAL (e.g. copper, which is 0.0332 mg/L) and their first event they have an extremely high result (e.g. 20 mg/L), it is practically impossible for them to average below the annual NAL no matter how many stormwater samples they take.

Level 1 Limbo

Not all facilities’ fates were so predetermined, in fact, many facilities’ averages were teetering¬†on the border of annual NAL exceedances. Now that rainy season is coming to an end, those companies whose trends¬†were hard to determine before, are beginning¬†to see¬†if they will end up in Level 2, go back into baseline or remain in the Level 1 limbo.

What is Level 1 limbo you ask? This is when a facility has not been able to collect the required four Qualifying Storm Events (QSEs) to drop back into baseline status but has not exceeded either the instantaneous or annual NAL exceedances. For these sites they will need to continue collecting stormwater samples until they are able to collect four consecutive QSEs below NALs, samples can be from multiple reporting years as long as they are successive.

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BMPs in Level 2

Many are not aware of the fact that Level 2 requires more structural best management practices (BMPs) than Level 1. Structural (advanced)BMPs are things such as permanent covers, filters, bioswales, and stormwater treatment systems. Any treatment control BMPs must meet design storm standards outline in the IGP (Section X.H.6) and require the assistance of a PE for all hydrologic calculations.

All of these factors require time and money, this is why it is so important to begin planning for Level 2 sooner than later. Facilities will need to figure out what kind of¬†advanced BMPs¬†will be needed based on the parameters they are exceeding and how high the levels of those parameters are. Once BMPs have been selected assessing for the cost of these BMPs and creating a budget¬†for them will be essential, especially¬†for smaller sites that do not have limitless funds for stormwater compliance. In addition, cash flow is always a concern for companies, so understanding where that extra $50K, $100K, or $1M¬†for advanced BMPs is coming from is key to business operations…..if you don’t like shelling out a Brinks truck for stormwater BMPs,¬†you should talk to us.

Steps for Level 2

Are you starting to feel the pressure and want to begin to prepare? Here are some steps to begin formulating your plan for Level 2.

  • Find a¬†great QISP¬†that is¬†knowledgeable¬†about stormwater and what¬†BMPs¬†will work best to target your facilities specific pollutants
  • Have your QISP conduct an evaluation of your site to start planning for Level 2
  • Find a¬†great PE¬†to¬†join your team for all treatment control BMPs
  • Obtain quotes for the chosen BMP(s) – your QISP/PE can help here
  • Figure out a budget and timeline for these advanced BMPs

If Non-industrial or Natural Background Pollutant Sources Demonstrations are chosen, begin investigating the outside sources of pollution and putting together a plan of how you will demonstrate alternate sources are causing the NAL exceedances (i.e. aerial deposition, run-on, offsite/natural soil contamination, etc.)

Understanding ERA Level 2 Exceedances

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