Special Topics in Environmental Management

What’s Important When Developing a SWPPP for Your Construction Site

Because both EPA and the states issue such permits (your regulatory authority depends on whether EPA has delegated permitting authority to your state,) permit application requirements and conditions differ slightly from state to state. But across the country, one requirement is universal: if your site is covered under a construction general permit, a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) must be developed.

A SWPPP May Be Called Many Things

If your project is in a state that has been delegated permitting authority for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, the plan may be referred to as one of the following instead of "SWPPP":

  • Construction Best Practices Plan
  • Sediment and Stormwater Plan
  • Erosion, Sediment, and Pollution Prevention Plan
  • Construction Site Best Management Practices Plan
  • Erosion Control Plan and Best Management Practices
  • Best Management Practices Plan
  • Erosion and Sediment Control Plan

Regardless of the title used in your state, these documents—and the stormwater permits that require them—tend to have many common elements. You should thoroughly read and understand the SWPPP requirements in your general permit, many of which will mirror EPA’s 2012 Construction General Permit (2012 CGP).

SWPPP Objectives

When developing your SWPPP, keep in mind the following universal plan objectives:

1. Stabilize the site as soon as possible. Your goal should be to permanently or temporarily stabilize all bare soil areas as soon as possible. This can be achieved through vegetation that suits your climate and soil conditions, and additional stabilization such as mulches, matrices, blankets, and soil binders.

2. Protect slopes and channels. To accomplish this goal, implement practices that direct stormwater runoff around the tops of slopes. Such practices include the use of pipe slope drains or earthern berms. If possible, avoid disturbing natural channels and vegetation around natural channels.

3. Reduce impervious surfaces and promote infiltration. Reducing impervious surfaces will ultimately reduce the amount of runoff that comes from your site.

4. Watch your perimeter. Divert stormwater from your site by directing it around, through, or under the site. When runoff does result from your disturbed areas, have BMPs installed such as silt fences to capture sediment before it leaves the site.

5. Even if waters are not on your site, take precautions to protect them. Adjacent waters should be considered when devising a SWPPP, and additional controls implemented if there is a possibility of impairing such waters.

6. Practice good housekeeping. Provide proper waste and garbage containers, and store hazardous materials so that they are not exposed to stormwater.

7. Minimize exposure. Instead of clear-cutting an entire site at the beginning of construction, consider phased construction which is a practice through which only that land where construction will occur in the near future is cleared.

Here is a federal SWPPP template for the 2012 CGP. Again, state requirements may differ, but the general requirements of most SWPPPs are laid out in this tool.

Whenever you are creating and implementing a SWPPP, keep in mind that you are developing it for your use, but also for the review of your regulatory authority. Construction sites with permit coverage and related SWPPPs are subject to inspection. EPA recommend’s Minnesota’s Stormwater Construction Inspection Guide as an aid to help prepare for a site and SWPPP inspection in any state. Remember, it’s not enough to write a plan – you must implement it!

Do you have any tips for writing a successful SWPPP for a construction site?

Amanda Czepiel, J.D., is a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental law publications. Ms. Czepiel has over 6 years of experience as an attorney and writer in the field of environmental compliance resources and has published numerous articles on a variety of environmental law topics, including wastewater and NPDES permitting, brownfields and contaminated sites remediation, oil spill prevention, wetlands, and corporate sustainability. Before starting her career in publishing, Ms. Czepiel worked in hospitality consulting and for various non-profit organizations and government agencies in the environmental field. Ms. Czepiel received her law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

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