Lawsuits, Fines And Jail Time: A Plant Manager’s Guide To Stormwater Permits

In this blog, plant managers get the inside scoop on why stormwater permit compliance matters and is the right business decision.

I don’t have time for stormwater permits!

Running a facility is time-consuming, but what about the pesky environmental regulations you have to follow, such as your industrial stormwater permit? You may be wondering what the purpose of a stormwater permit is for your facility and why you need to pay attention to it. Questioning the necessity of a stormwater permit is a common question, especially when making bank is the job of the day, and there are only 24 hours in a day to squeeze out dollars! However, from fines ($51,570/day in California) to multi-million dollar lawsuits to your company’s reputation being smeared on the front pages of the New York Times, unfortunately, you as the plant manager or facility manager need to make time. Below we lay out some common excuses and situations other companies have found themselves in with their stormwater program. Oh, if you are the environmental manager or EHS staff for a facility, this post should be shared with your facility staff and manager.

Why do we have to do this?

Heard this one before and usually, it comes down to “it is the law.” There are many reasons besides the threat of fines and lawsuits, such as “protect water quality” or “save the fishies” or “ don’t turn water toxic and make fish swim sideways.” If you are a facility that is on the list of SIC codes in the Clean Water Act, then you are subject to state or federal (only for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Idaho, and New Mexico) stormwater regulations. Your permit may be called the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) or Industrial Stormwater General Permit (IGP or ISGP), but the result is usually the same. You are legally required to collect samples of your stormwater discharges (aka water quality samples), conduct routine inspections or “observations” (often quarterly or monthly), prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and site map, and submit annual reports. The frequency, specifics, and naming may vary, but facilities that need to follow stormwater regulations have to do the aforementioned “tasks.”

 There is no money!

Excuse #3, right behind “I have no time!” and “This doesn’t apply to me, right?” is that we are just darn broke. The widget maker and sale spinner both broke down, Johnny is out on medical, and Mary needs a new truck and……… Yup, we all have that hand reaching into our pocket looking for more. The cold hard truth is that you have to find the money. Fortunately, there are some piggy-bank saving opportunities out there. #1 Fire your consultant (hint: use Mapistry to Do-It-Yourself –  case study with $$$ returns) or building your own treatment system (hint: ask Mapistry –  case study with somewhere between $$$$$ and $$$$$$ returns). Flip over the couch cushions to get a  system in place to ensure compliance and make your life as the plant manager easier, or it is only going to get worse (e.g., cost you more moola).


But, this is the way we always did it.

Yup, the old way may have been opening up the crankcase and empty it into the nearest storm drain. Ew! I hope not. However, times have changed a lot in environmental compliance, and unfortunately, that excuse does not carry much any weight these days with inspectors, environmental groups or hell, your staff. One of the  most significant trends we have seen as we grey (gracefully, I hope) is that more and more protecting the water we drink, the streams our kids play in, and the fish we land (okay maybe fib about) are critically important to employees. Sorry, it is time to accept that “the way we always did it” no longer is acceptable.


Okay, what do I need to do?

If you want to reduce your risk to litigation, complying with your stormwater permit, and being an environmentalist (GASP!),  let’s talk. If not quite ready to talk, I suggest you get a system in place to ensure permit compliance (e.g., complete inspections and reports on time, accurately) and make darn sure your employees are well  trained! The first step is to join Mapistry’s free webinar as we break down the multi-million dollar reasons your stormwater permit matters, what you could be doing to the nearby rivers and ocean, and why complying with a stormwater permit is the right business decision. We will go into the permit basics, recent lawsuits, and some best practices to follow to avoid getting sued or your facility shut down (or you  going to jail).

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