In 2015, a coalition of environmental groups filed a petition against the United States EPA stating, “[t]here are serious deficiencies in EPA’s industrial stormwater permit that, unless corrected, will allow polluters to continue to discharge unreasonably high levels of toxins, metals, and other pollutants into our waterways—and these deficiencies are illegal”.
In November of 2017, following the legal settlement agreement with the Waterkeeper Alliance, the EPA enlisted researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to form a research committee dedicated to helping draft the underlying science for the upcoming permit. And specifically, this research committee was instructed to commission a report to highlight weak points in the existing MSGP program and suggest methods to strengthen them.
The settlement agreement with the Waterkeeper Alliance also outlined the findings to inform the next revision of the MSGP. The study included a number of meetings, both internally and public forums to gain comments for various stakeholders, including industry representatives and tradegroups.
The settlement agreement outlined specific outages of the current permit, including:
- The lack of numeric effluent limits
- The commission of monitoring certain pollutants that are commonly discharged by industrial facilities
- The current permit grants polluters automatic coverage in 30 days whether or not the permit or Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) has been reviewed
- The permit also prevents the public from being able to comment or seek more information regarding a particular facility or application
To combat these outages, the research committee from the National Academy of Sciences was presented with the mandate to suggest improvements to the current MSGP and benchmark monitoring, to evaluate the feasibility of numeric retention standards (i.e. stormsize), and to identify the highest priority facilities for additional monitoring and the development of numeric effluent limits.