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The NPDES Section of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issues discharge permits under delegation of a federal program known as the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit program. The NPDES program regulates the direct discharge of wastewater to surface waters. The authority to issue NPDES permits rests either with a state or with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The NPDES Section of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issues discharge or operation permits under delegation of the federal program known as the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit program. The NPDES program is a federal program that regulates the direct discharge of wastewater to surface waters. The authority to issue NPDES permits in a given state rests either with the state's environmental agency or with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). States can gain approval to administer the NPDES program by demonstrating that their state program meets all federal requirements. Iowa was delegated authority to administer the NPDES program by the EPA in 1978.
Under Iowa's NPDES program, all facilities that discharge pollutants from any point source into waters of the United States or waters of the state are required to obtain an NPDES or operation permit. The permits require compliance with all federal standards and may require additional controls based on local conditions.
The term pollutant is defined very broadly and includes any type of industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water. Pollutants can enter waters from a variety of pathways including agricultural, domestic, and industrial sources. For regulatory purposes, these sources are generally categorized as either point sources or non-point sources. Typical point source discharges include discharges from publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), discharges from industrial facilities, and discharges associated with urban runoff. While provisions of the NPDES Program do address certain specific types of agricultural activities, the majority of agricultural facilities are defined as non-point sources and are exempt from NPDES regulation.
Pollutant contributions may come from both direct and indirect sources. Direct sources discharge wastewater directly into the receiving water body, whereas indirect sources discharge wastewater to a POTW, which in turn discharges into the receiving waterbody.
Because POTWs are direct dischargers, they must obtain and comply with a NPDES permit. If the concentration of pollutants leaving the POTW is too high, or if the POTW discharges endanger public health or the environment, the facility violates its permit and can be fined and/or forced to upgrade its operation. A POTW may have trouble meeting its NPDES permit conditions if the amounts of pollutants in the wastewater flowing into the treatment plant (the influent wastewater) are too high. One way to reduce the amounts of pollutants in the influent wastewater is to require pretreatment. Thus, the conditions of a POTW's discharge permit might dictate the need for pretreatment.
Industries that are direct dischargers to surface waters must also obtain and comply with a NPDES permit. Industries that are not direct dischargers, but who discharge wastewater to a municipal sewer system, may be required to have a treatment agreement. The NPDES Section reviews treatment agreements for conformance to federal and state pretreatment requirements. Some larger cities have accepted responsibility for administering local pretreatment programs that regulate industrial discharges in their community.
To read more about wastewater, please view the following article from the Iowa Conservationist: Down the Drain: What Happens to Our Wastewater? (*.pdf file)
An NPDES permit is typically a license for a facility to discharge a specified amount of a pollutant into a receiving water under certain conditions. The permit limits the amount of pollutants a wastewater treatment plant may discharge. The two basic types of NPDES permits issued are individual and general permits.
An individual permit is a permit specifically tailored to an individual facility. Once a facility submits the appropriate application(s), IDNR develops a permit for that particular facility based on the information contained in the permit application and issues the permit to the facility for a specific time period (generally five years) with a requirement that the facility reapply prior to the expiration date.
A general permit covers multiple facilities within a specific category. General permits offer a cost-effective option because of the large number of facilities that can be covered under a single permit. General permits may be written to cover categories of point sources having common elements, such as:
By issuing general permits, the DNR can allocate resources in a more efficient manner to provide more timely permit coverage. For example, a large number of facilities that have certain elements in common may be covered under a general permit without expending the time and money necessary to issue an individual permit to each of these facilities. In addition, using a general permit ensures consistency of permit conditions for similar facilities. For more information on Iowa’s general NPDES permits, see the NPDES General Permits page.
All NPDES permits, at a minimum, consist of five general sections:
The NPDES permitting process begins when the operator of the facility (permittee) submits an application. After receiving the application and making a decision to proceed with the permit, the permit writer reviews the application for completeness and accuracy. When the application is complete, the permit writer begins to develop the draft permit and the justification for the permit conditions (referred to as the permit rationale).
The first major step in the development process is deriving technology-based effluent limits based on federal standards. Following this step, the permit writer derives effluent limits that are protective of state water quality standards (i.e., water quality-based effluent limits). The permit writer then compares the technology-based effluent limits with the water quality-based effluent limits and applies the more stringent limits in the permit. The decision-making process for deriving limits is documented in the permit rationale. A permit may have limits that are technology-based for some parameters and water quality-based for others.
Following the development of effluent limits, the permit writer develops appropriate monitoring and reporting conditions, facility-specific special conditions, and includes standard conditions that are the same for all permits. After the draft permit is complete, IDNR provides an opportunity for public participation in the permit process. A public notice announces the permit and interested parties may submit comments regarding the draft permit. Based on the comments, the permitting authority then develops the final permit, with careful attention to documenting the process and decisions for the administrative record, and issues the final permit to the facility.
Individual NPDES Permits - Wastewater Permit Information Exchange
To proceed to WWPIE, please use the following link: Wastewater Permit Information Exchange (WWPIE)
WWPIE has three main functions:
In WWPIE, you may search for active individual NPDES permits by proceeding to the search page. The facility pages in WWPIE provide basic information on permits, permit delay reasons (if applicable), and links to the permit documents. General Permits Nos. 1 - 7 are not included in WWPIE and facilities covered by these permits will not appear in the search. Only final and draft individual NPDES permits are included in WWPIE. Expired, closed, or revoked permits are not searchable.
Persons interested in NPDES permitting in Iowa can register, save searches, and comment on draft NPDES permits in WWPIE. When an individual NPDES permit is drafted, there is a 45-day public notice period in which comments can be submitted on the draft permit. WWPIE allows for the submittal of electronic comments during the public notice period. In addition, registered users can opt to receive email notifications when individual permits are drafted or finalized in a specific search area, so users can be notified of new draft permits or can track permit issuance. Please view the WWPIE User Manual or the FAQ document in WWPIE for more information on registering, saving searches, commenting, and receiving notifications in WWPIE.
Permittees or their designees can register and submit new or renewal applications for individual NPDES permits in WWPIE. Permittees will receive a permit application letter in the mail that will contain information on submitting a renewal application via paper or in WWPIE. Entities interested in applying for a permit for a new discharger can register and submit a new permit notification form on WWPIE. Please view the WWPIE User Manual or the FAQ document in WWPIE for more information on registering as an applicant or signatory, completing permit applications, and submitting permit applications in WWPIE.
For questions on WWPIE, please refer to the WWPIE User Manual or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
General Permits 1, 2, and 3 - Online Storm Water General Permits Database
If you wish to search for discharges authorized under the storm water General Permits, #1 for Industrial Activity, #2 for Construction Activities, and #3 for Asphalt Plants, Concrete Batch Plants, Rock Crushing Plants and Construction Sand and Gravel Facilities, please go to the Online Storm Water Permit Database.
If you wish to apply for coverage under General Permit #1, #2, or #3 online, please go to the Online Storm Water General Permit Application webpage.
For questions on the Online Storm Water Database, please call 515-725-8417 or 515-725-8415, or email Joe Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on Other Individual or General Permits (Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7)
If you wish to obtain information on an individual permit not included in WWPIE (a pending permit for a new discharger or a closed, revoked, or expired permit), please contact a permit writer listed on the NPDES Staff Roster. If you wish to see a list of the active individual permits in Iowa, please refer to the Current NPDES Permits page.
There is currently no listing of the discharges authorized under General Permits #4, #5, #6, and #7 on the Iowa DNR website. For more information on these general permits, please see the NPDES General Permits page.
An online database is being developed for General Permit #5 (Mining and Quarries), for proposed General Permit #8 (Hydrostatic Testing, Ballasting, and Water Lines) and for proposed General Permit #9 (Dewatering and Residential Geothermal). This page will contain information on the new database when it is available.
Proposed General Permits for Hydrostatic Testing and Dewatering:
The NPDES Section has proposed two new general permits. General Permit #8 will be for Hydrostatic Testing, Tank Ballasting, and Water Lines and General Permit #9 will be for Dewatering Activities and Residential Geothermal Discharges. For more information and drafts of the general permits, please refer to the NPDES General Permit #8 and the NPDES General Permit #9 webpages.
General Permit #6 Renewal:
The NPDES General Permit for Well Construction and Well Service Discharges (also known as GP6) will expire on February 28, 2020. Iowa DNR proposes to initiate rulemaking to renew the permit for a third 5 year term.
A stakeholder meeting regarding the renewal of GP6 is scheduled for 3:00 PM on Thursday, May 24, 2018 at the Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319.
For more information on the stakeholder meeting and the submission of written comments on the proposed general permit, please see the General Permit #6 webpage.
For more information on how a community or entity may qualify as disadvantaged, please see the Rural Community Sewers page.