What is SWPPP (Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan) and Why You Need One

SWPPP is an abbreviated term for Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. These plans provide guidance and monitoring information for site-specific construction projects. Contractors typically use these guidance documents to prevent pollution during construction activities for projects. SWPPPs are meant to ensure the construction site is kept in order to avoid water pollution and detrimental environmental impacts, and they are susceptible to change based on the project’s needs.

Many initial questions come to mind when thinking of using a SWPPP and why they are necessary for construction. To help understand that, this article will touch on the many factors as to why SWPPPs are mandated and what is required.

The Purpose of a SWPPP

SWPPPs originated with the purpose of assisting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) preserve and improve water quality by regulating operations that can potentially discharge pollutants into water bodies. Stormwater is the runoff generated through precipitation from rain or snow melting that flows over land and impervious surfaces without percolating into the ground.  Stormwater mobilizes pollutants like oils and trash, which end up in sewer systems that lead to water bodies. You may be thinking, why is that important? Well, discharged water contains small amounts of pollutants that can potentially harm the environment and biological species within water bodies. Pollutants can cause health issues for humans that consume water from these places or enjoy the beach. These harmful factors include cancer, biological disorders, and more. These water bodies include lakes, streams, rivers, coastlines, and drainage facilities. Construction projects have multiple sources of sediment in addition to contaminants that can cause issues.

State Water Resource Control Board

The strategy of developing stormwater regulations is both a Federal and State requirement. California created SWPPP for construction projects in order to meet these requirements. A board called the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) sets statewide water quality protection policies within California. The board issues stormwater permits for discharging water based on construction activities. California’s SWRCB is heavily involved in establishing initiatives and programs to manage stormwater as a resource. One of the adopted programs is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) that addresses discharges that impact the quality of water bodies within the country. This type of permit allows for a process to manage stormwater properly and even use it as a resource. The NPDES program has three sources that it regulates. This includes municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4), construction activities, and industrial activities. MS4 is a conveyance system that is owned by the state or local government to convey stormwater and is combined with sewer. NPDES essentially is the determining factor for allowing construction activities to take place on construction sites and ensuring compliance and safety if the actions result in a discharge to the water bodies.

Construction General Permit

The construction stormwater program within the NPDES permitting process determines the need for the SWPPP. In order to obtain the construction general permit, a SWPPP must be prepared by a certified Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) or Qualified SWPPP practitioner (QSP). California licensed professional engineers, land surveyors, and geologists (CLPELSG) typically will self-certify these documents. The board is confident that CLPELSG members are qualified and proficient in erosion and sediment control practices to implement the protection of water bodies, so that members can register as QSDs within the SWQCB’s database.

The California Green Building Code sets the need for a SWPPP on construction projects. This code states that any project disturbing more than one acre of developed or undeveloped land is required to provide a SWPPP. In some cases, a SWPPP may be necessary for a project disturbing less than one acre. This occurs in special cases, for example, when the water runoff will impact an impaired water body or environmentally sensitive area (ESA). In most cases, the SWPPPs are only required for construction projects.

Details of the Plan

The SWPPP will aim to protect bodies of water from construction activities. This may include the following:

  • Implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP)
    • BMPs are engineered control devices used to reduce stormwater pollution on construction sites. BMPs are typically temporary for construction activities, but they can also be permanent.
    • Examples of BMPs used to minimize erosion and sedimentation include gravel bags, silt fencing, desiltation basins, and soil stabilization such as hydroseeding.
    • Examples of BMPs used to minimize waste from being mobilized through stormwater include concrete waste management, material waste management, construction site housekeeping/regulation.
  • Frequent site inspections and maintenance protocols for BMPs
    • BMPs are required to have weekly inspections by the certified QSD or QSP.
  • The lab sampling and analysis protocols or documentation

Compliance of the SWPPP is a function of the property owner. Anytime the SWPPP is not in compliance, the owner can be subject to regulation by both the SWQCB and local jurisdiction. This can result in fines per day of violation, which can add to astronomical amounts.

SWPPP Prepared

The SWPPP is a valuable environmental implementation that protects the country’s bodies of water from the pollutants and sediment that threaten them each time it rains or snows. Stormwater is welcomed, but it is the job of regulatory practices to ensure that the environment is protected. Developing and implementing a SWPPP is a process that only QSDs and QSPs are qualified to do based on the information provided above. This means that being proficient as a homeowner is a step in the right direction, but a professional team can become a necessity to have onboard to secure adequate permits. Design Everest has a team of professionals who possess the knowledge and qualifications to handle the SWPPP documents and process. Call (877) 959-5914 to get a free quote and consultation today.

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