Proposed Updates to Pennsylvania General Permit (PAG-13) for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewers (MS4s) are pointing toward an increase in the number of municipalities requiring individual permits.
Current PAG-13 regulations require individual permits for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) municipalities discharging to “Special Protection” waters (that is, high quality or exceptional value waters). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) proposed PAG-13 updates in May 2015; public comments submitted through August are now being reviewed. The proposed regulations will require individual permits for MS4 municipalities that have been assigned Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) waste load allocations (WLA’s) approved by EPA for sediment and/or nutrients. The proposed regulations also require pollutant reduction plans for MS4 municipalities with nutrient, sediment, PCB, and bacteria water quality impairments that do not yet have a TMDL.
PADEP published an MS4 Requirements Table that lists MS4 municipalities, water bodies with TMDLs, and where individual permits are required. Overall, more MS4 communities will be required to submit individual permits under the propose rule. Municipalities are encouraged to review the MS4 Requirements Table and identify any errors made regarding where they discharge stormwater.
Key differences between the individual and general permit programs are as follows:
• The individual permits cost more; there is an initial permit application fee plus an annual fee.
• There is more flexibility in the individual permit program. Municipalities have the option to propose alternative Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) that are at least as protective as the Appendix A MCM requirements defined by PADEP.
• Currently the Appendix A MCM requirements for individual and general permits are similar. The key difference is that the individual permit has anti-degradation requirements for special protection waters under MCMs 4 and 5.
• The proposed regulations require that municipalities with sediment and/or nutrient waste load allocations submit a TMDL plan as part of their individual permit. The TMDL Plan should be designed to achieve pollutant reductions that align with the municipalities waste load allocation requirements. PADEP provided draft Guidelines for how to create TMDL plans.
• Municipalities that discharge to impaired water bodies that do not yet have a TMDL can still apply for the general permit. But the newly proposed regulations require that these MS4 municipalities develop Pollutant Reduction Plans for sediment, nutrient, PCB, and bacteria impaired water bodies. See the Appendices in Proposed PAG-13 for pollutant reduction plan requirements.
In summary, the proposed PADEP regulations will require more municipalities to apply for individual MS4 permits. Individual permits allow for more flexibility, but have higher costs. Municipalities should consider the new requirements for sediment and/or nutrient TMDL plans (for individual permits) and pollutant reduction plans (for general permits), and explore ways to collaborate with other municipalities on the development of more cost effective sub basin or watershed scale plans.