Special Topics in Environmental Management

How to Obtain the No Exposure Exclusion from Stormwater Permitting

Under the conditional no-exposure exclusion, operators of industrial facilities in any of the 11 categories of "stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity" have the opportunity to certify to a condition of "no exposure" if their industrial materials and operations are not exposed to stormwater.

The no-exposure exclusion does not apply to construction activities, which are addressed under the construction component of the NPDES Stormwater Program.

6 Steps to Obtaining the No Exposure Exclusion

(These steps should be repeated for each individual facility or site.)

Step 1: Determine if your industrial activity meets the definition of a “stormwater discharge associated with industrial activity,” as defined in Phase I of the NPDES Stormwater program. If so, proceed to Step 2. If not, stop here.

  • If your facility is defined as an “industrial activity” under the Phase I Program (including a “light industry” defined at Category (xi)), you need to either apply for a stormwater permit or submit a no exposure certification, in order to be in compliance with the NPDES stormwater regulations.
  • Construction activities are ineligible for the exclusion.


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Step 2: Determine if your regulated industrial activity meets the definition of no exposure and qualifies for the exclusion from permitting. If it does, proceed to Step 3. If not, stop here and obtain industrial stormwater permit coverage.

  • Using personnel familiar with the site and its operations, inspect or scrutinize all appropriate areas of the site to ascertain the site’s exposure condition as per this guidance.
  • As of June 2000, the conditional no exposure exclusion option is only available for facilities in areas where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority. Some states that have been delegated permitting authority have established a no exposure certification program. Contact your applicable regulatory authority to determine permitting exemption options. In all other areas, facility operators will not be able to apply until their permitting authority makes the option available.

Step 3: Complete and submit the No Exposure Certification Form to your NPDES permitting authority.

  • Be aware that even if you certify no exposure, your NPDES permitting authority can still require you to apply for an individual or general permit if it has determined that your discharge is contributing to the violation of, or interfering with the attainment or maintenance of, water quality standards, including designated uses.
  • To maintain your exclusion from permitting, a certification must be completed and submitted to your permitting authority once every 5 years. This can only be done if the condition of no exposure continues to exist at the facility.

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  • You must submit a copy of your completed certification form to the operator of your Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System2 (MS4) if they so request or require. An MS4 operator could be the Department of Public Works, Sewer Commission, City Engineering Department, etc.
  • If you need to contact your local MS4 operator (e.g., if you are unsure about certification submittal requirements) and they are unknown to you, it may be useful to check the telephone book, especially under the local government listings.

Step 5: When requested, allow your NPDES permitting authority or, if discharging into an MS4, the MS4 operator, to inspect your facility. The permitting authority may make any inspection reports publicly available upon request.

Step 6: Maintain a condition of no exposure.

  • The no exposure exclusion is conditional and not a blanket exemption. Therefore, if onsite changes occur which cause exposure of industrial activities or materials to stormwater, you must then immediately comply with all the requirements of the NPDES Stormwater Program, including obtaining a stormwater discharge permit.
  • Failure to maintain the condition of no exposure or obtain coverage under an NPDES permit can lead to the unauthorized discharge of pollutants to waters of the United States, resulting in penalties under the CWA.

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