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Storm water is rain and snow melt that runs off the land and enters streams, rivers and lakes. Runoff from outdoor activities or material storage areas can contain pollutants that can degrade water quality and threaten human health. Proper storm water management minimizes these threats. Many businesses are subject to Ohio EPA’s storm water permitting program based on their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code, including manufacturing, transportation, recycling businesses, wineries, compost/mulch sites, concrete producers, scrapyards and woodworking/lumber operations.

Regulated businesses must either apply for an industrial storm water discharge permit or submit a no-exposure certification (NOEC). This article will help you understand the NOEC and changes you can make that may make you eligible for the NOEC.

Step 1: Determine if your facility has the potential to discharge to a surface water.

If your facility’s runoff drains into a separate storm sewer system, including ditches or swales, privately or publicly owned, or directly to a surface water (for example, streams, wetlands, lakes) go to Step 2. The term “potential” includes facilities that may only discharge during large storm events (for example, 100 yr.) or that may have a pipe or overflow that is intended for use in emergencies or during maintenance. Discharges to a combined sewer system, which is where the water goes to a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW), are exempt from this rule. You may need to contact your local sewer authority for help with this determination.

Step 2: Verify your operations are subject to Ohio’s storm water rules.

If your primary SIC code is on Ohio EPA’s Industrial Subsectors list, your operations are subject to Ohio’s storm water program permitting and you must either apply for a permit or submit an NOEC.

Step 3: Carefully review the no-exposure certification checklist.

If you are interested in pursuing a NOEC, you must be able to certify that no storm water comes into contact with any industrial materials, manufacturing processes and material load-in/load-out or storage at your facility. To do this, use the checklist to carefully review your facility and all operations, including material deliveries and shipment, waste management, unused legacy materials stored onsite and operations that occur infrequently. For example, are bulk materials (not in a sealed container) unloaded or loaded outdoors? Are there quick-connect pipes on the outside of your building? Is there a truck loading area under an elevated hopper that is not enclosed? Do you have a fueling area? These areas can disqualify your facility from the NOEC.

Step 4: Can facility modifications make your facility compliant?

If you don’t currently qualify for the NOEC, can you change your operations or add controls to make your facility eligible for the exemption? Often small changes can allow a facility to qualify. For example:

  • Can unused legacy materials be removed?
  • Can an unenclosed area be enclosed?
  • Can exposed areas be roofed?

Step 5: Operational changes can affect your no exposure certification.

When introducing processes or procedures at your facility, please remember to reevaluate to see if the changes will cause industrial materials or activities to be exposed to storm water. If conditions change and you can no longer claim the no exposure exemption, you will need to submit the appropriate permit application for storm water discharge.

U.S. EPA’s No Exposure Certification fact sheet and No Exposure Certification guidance document are helpful resources to help you determine if you can quality for the exemption.

If, after these steps, your operations still do not qualify for a no exposure exemption, you must obtain coverage under either the Multisector General Industrial Storm Water Permit (MGISWP) or apply for an individual storm water permit. Applications are submitted electronically and both permits require you to develop a site-specific Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). Ohio EPA’s storm water program webpage has helpful information on developing your SWPPP. To apply for an individual NPDES storm water permit, you will need to complete Forms 1, 2F and the antidegradation addendum at Ohio EPA’s Individual Wastewater Discharge Permit Applications webpage. If you need more help, contact Ohio EPA’s Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention at (800) 329-7518 for free confidential technical assistance.

Fast Facts

  • Qualifying for an industrial storm water NOEC can save your business money.
  • If your business has specific SIC codes that fall under the storm water permitting program, you need a permit or a NOEC.
  • Don’t forget to evaluate all outdoor activities, including infrequent operations like bulk material delivery or shipment and legacy materials.
  • Small changes, such as roofing or enclosing some outdoor areas might make your facility eligible for the NOEC.
  • Operational changes can invalidate your NOEC. If practices change, make sure to re-evaluate whether you still qualify for a no exposure exemption.