Water Quality Permits
The people of Washington State are supported in their goal for clean water by many state laws and regulations, including the state's Water Pollution Control Act (Chapter 90.48 RCW), which explains that Washington State's policy is to ". . . maintain the highest possible standards to insure the purity of all waters of the state consistent with public health and public enjoyment . . . the propagation and protection of wildlife, birds, game, fish and other aquatic life, and the industrial development of the state." Ecology is also delegated by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program from the Clean Water Act.
In general, the discharge of any wastewater, except domestic wastewater going to a municipal treatment plant, requires a wastewater discharge permit. This includes stormwater from industrial and construction sites and some municipal sites. Discharges to surface waters require a NPDES individual permit or coverage under a general NPDES permit. Discharges to ground and industrial discharges to a municipal treatment plant require a State wastewater permit.
Construction of any wastewater treatment facility other than an on-site sewage system below 100,000 gallons/day needs Ecology approval (Chapter 90.48 RCW and 173-240 WAC). Because these same facilities may or may not require an individual wastewater discharge permit, the project should be discussed with Ecology as project planning begins.
Other permits or authorizations are required for public water systems regulated by Department of Health, on-site sewage systems below 100,000 gpd, reclamation and reuse of treated wastewater, underground injection, construction that impacts surface water, laboratory analysis of material if the data goes to Ecology or Department of Health for drinking water systems, and operating a wastewater treatment plant.
- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation General Permit (CAFO)(Animal Feeding Operations NPDES and Statewide Discharge Permits): Operating a concentrated animal feeding operation that discharges or proposes to discharge to State or Federal Waters (surface or ground).
- Drinking Water Operating Permit: Operating a public water system that has 15 or more services or serves more than 25 people a day for more than 60 days a year.
- Laboratory Accreditation: Submittal of data from analysis of environmental, wastewater or drinking water samples.
- Large On-Site Sewage System Operating Permit (From 3,500 to 100,000 gallons per day): Installation and operation of LOSS to treat residential-strength sewage through septic tanks or other treatment processes and dispersal through drainfields when there is a peak daily flow, at any common point, between 3,500 and 100,000 gallons per day.
- NPDES Aquatic Mosquito Control Permit: See "What is the purpose of this permit."
To find out the specific activities that trigger this permit, go to the Aquatic Mosquito Control General Permit website and click on "Fact Sheet."
- NPDES Aquatic Noxious Weed Control General Permit: See "What is the purpose of this permit."
To find out the specific activities that trigger this permit, go to the Aquatic Noxious Weed Permit website and click on "Fact Sheet."
- NPDES Aquatic Plant and Algae Management Permit: See "What is the purpose of this permit."
To find out the specific activities that trigger this permit, go to the Aquatic Plant and Algae Management Permit website and click on "Fact Sheet."
- NPDES Boatyard General Permit: Operating a boatyard with a discharge of pressure wash water to a sanitary sewer or discharge of stormwater to surface waters are activities which require coverage under this permit. A boatyard is a commercial business engaged in the construction, repair and maintenance of small vessels, 85% of which are 65 feet or less in length, or revenues from which constitute more than 85% of gross receipts. Services typically provided include, but are not limited to: pressure washing hulls, painting and coating, engine and propulsion system repair and replacement, hull repair, joinery, bilge cleaning, fuel and lubrication system repair and replacement, welding and grinding of hull, buffing and waxing, marine sanitation device (MSD) repair and replacement, and other activities necessary to maintain a vessel. This includes mobile facilities. Pollutant control is through implementation of best management practices (BMPs) or treatment.
- NPDES Construction Stormwater General Permit: The permit is required if clearing, grading or excavating activities disturb an area of 1 acre or more and will discharge stormwater to surface waters of the state or a conveyance system that drains to surface waters of the state. The permit is also required if clearing, grading or excavating activities disturb an area smaller than 1 acre if it is part of a "larger common plan of development or sale" that will disturb 1 acre or more and discharge stormwater to surface waters of the state or a conveyance system that drains to surface waters of the state.
"Surface waters of the state" are broadly defined by state law and includes storm drains, ditches, wetlands, creeks, rivers, lakes and marine waters to obtain permit coverage.
In addition to these permit triggers, Ecology reserves the right to require permit coverage at a construction site of any size, if Ecology believes that the site may be a significant contributor of pollutants to waters of the State of Washington or reasonably expects the site to cause a violation of water quality standards.
For more information, please go to the construction stormwater homepage.
- NPDES Fresh Fruit Packing General Permit: New or existing fresh fruit packing facility which receives, packs, stores and/or ships either hard or soft fruit and discharges wastewater.
- NPDES General Permit Coverage: Ecology issues general permits for point source discharges of pollutants into surface waters that belong to a category of discharger for which Ecology has developed a general NPDES permit.
- NPDES Individual Permit: Any discharge of wastewater and/or stormwater into surface waters through a conveyance system for which Ecology has not developed a general permit requires an individual NPDES permit.
- NPDES Industrial Stormwater General Permit Coverage: Industrial Facilities: Public or private operation of an industrial facility with a stormwater discharge to surface waters or a storm sewer.
- NPDES Irrigation System Aquatic Weed Control General Permit: See "What is the purpose of this permit."
To find out the specific activities that trigger this permit, go to the Irrigation System Aquatic Weed Control General Permit website and click on "Fact Sheet."
- NPDES Municipal Stormwater General Permit: Generally this permit is required of all municipalities within U.S. Census Bureau-defined urban areas and for designated cities with a population over 10,000 located outside of urban areas. Urbanized areas are population centers with greater than 50,000 people and densities of at least 1,000 people per square mile, with surrounding areas having densities of at least 500 people per square mile. The urbanized areas in this permit are based on the 2000 population census. The Washington State Department of Transportation is also required to have coverage within permitted municipalities.
Other public entities (such as ports, prison complexes, parks and drainage districts, and universities) that own or operate a storm sewer system and are located within a permitted municipality may require coverage. Ecology uses the term Secondary Permittees to refer to these entities. The MS4s of Secondary Permittees are publicly owned or operated and serve more than 1,000 people on an average day. For ports, schools, colleges and universities the population figures include commuters as well as residents.
- NPDES Sand & Gravel General Permit for Portable Facilities: The Department of Ecology (Ecology) requires a permit whenever a portable facility:
- Operates at a location that does not have permit coverage for the activity the portable will be performing.
- Operates at a location that does not have active operating status.
- Produces crushed rock or washed gravel for forest management if a discernable, confined, and discrete conveyance discharges pollutants to surface waters of the state.
- NPDES Sand & Gravel Permit for Non-Portable Facilities: The discharge of wastewater, including process water, stormwater or mine dewatering water from industrial activities.
- On-Site Sewage Disposal Permit (More than 100,000 gallons per day): Large On-site Sewage Systems with a design flow exceeding 100,000 gallons per day, systems whose discharge includes industrial/commercial process wastewater or stormwater, systems that discharge to the land surface (such as wetlands or infiltration lagoons without a drainfield) and systems that discharge to surface water (including those that discharge to ground, where groundwater is in hydraulic continuity with surface water).
- On-Site Sewage System Permit (Less than 3,500 gallons per day): A permit or approval is needed before the installation, repair, modification, connection to, or expansion of an on-site sewage system with a peak daily flow of less than 3,500 gallons of residential-strength sewage.
- State Wastewater Discharge Permit: A discharge of wastewater to the ground or a discharge of industrial process wastewater to a privately or publicly owned wastewater treatment plant.
- Underground Injection Control Registration: Applicants who have installed or are planning to install an Underground Injection Control (UIC) well are required to register. New wells need to be registered before use. Existing UIC wells that have not been registered with Ecology need to register as well (if on Tribal land register with EPA Region 10).
- Waste Discharge Permit - Reclaimed Water: Producing water reclaimed according to provisions of the State Reclaimed Water Use Act.
- Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification: Required for being the operator in responsible charge of a domestic wastewater treatment plant or the lead operator of each shift at a domestic wastewater treatment plant.
- Water System Construction and Operation Approval: Providing water through pipes or other conveyances to one or more commercial connections or two or more residential service connections where people have access to use the water. A system with four or fewer connections all of which serve residences on the same farm is excluded.
- Waterworks Operator Certification: Operating a waterworks, or a portion of waterworks, including any treatment facilities or distribution systems.