The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects a flash flood of stormwater permit applications for newly regulated construction sites, and the agency's new regional administrator in Atlanta wants to make sure the eight states in his region responsible for enforcing the program are ready.
Beginning in March 2003, construction sites of 1 acre or more will need National Pollution Discharge Elimination System stormwater permits (ENR 10/15/01 p. 40). Smaller sites that are a significant source of pollution also are affected. State regulators in Florida expect permit applications to triple. Alabama expects 20,000 additional applications, a four-fold increase. "The burden on states will be tremendous," says Jimmy Palmer, EPA Region 4 administrator, who took office in January. He fears unprepared states will hand their NPDES permit programs back to the federal government to administer and enforce.
Alabama expects to triple its staff to issue the new permits, and make follow-up inspections. "Are we ready? No. Are we going to be ready? No," says Steve Jenkins, who heads Alabama Dept. of Environmental Management's field operations. "If we don't get additional staff we simply won't tackle the program."
The problem in Alabama is funding. The legislature must pass a bill allowing the agency to keep its fees to pay for additional manpower. But some businesses fear with the new law that the state will cut off its financial support and expect the regulated community to support the entire permitting and enforcement program. Permit fees for small sites in Alabama have not yet been set. Florida expects to double its permit fee to $300 to fund the new rules. Its program is self-funded, and outsourced to environmental firm SAIC, San Diego.
Associated General Contractors attorney Leah Wood says the group is worried about implementation of the stormwater rules, but it has taken a back seat to new Effluent Limit Guidelines, which EPA expects to propose in April. Once final, those rules would be incorporated into the stormwater program for contractors. "They are considering very scary things, such as requiring contractors to meet numeric pollution limits," says Wood. "That's very difficult for nonpoint sources."