Pat Quinn, Governor
Does My Business Need A Water Pollution Control Permit
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit regulates wastewater. There are two types of wastewater discharge controlled by NPDES permits - process and storm water. An NPDES permit may be required at one business for either type of wastewater or for both. You should determine whether you need an NPDES permit either for process wastewater or for storm water. You are required to obtain these permits prior to any discharge. The requirements for each one are discussed separately in the Steps below.
Step 1: Does my business discharge a wastewater requiring an NPDES permit?
Wastewater: almost any discharge of water that is generated from any process industry, manufacturing, trade, or business. The definition also includes any solid, liquid or gaseous waste; and all other substances whose discharge would cause water pollution or a violation of the effluent or water quality standards of the State. Toilet and hand washing waste is also defined as a wastewater.
If your business does not have a wastewater discharge as described above, you are not required to obtain an NPDES permit.
If your business does have a wastewater discharge as described above, you should proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Is a permit required if my business has ONLY toilet and hand washing wastewater?
If the only wastewater your business discharges is toilet and hand washing wastewater and the discharge of toilet and hand washing wastewater is less than 1500 gallons per day, you are not required to obtain an NPDES permit. However, the Illinois Department of Public Health does regulate these discharges.
If the discharge from your business of toilet and hand washing wastewater is greater than 1500 gallons per day, you are required to obtain an NPDES permit.
Step 3: Does my business have a storm water discharge that requires an NPDES permit?
You need to go through Steps 4 and 5 to determine whether your business needs an NPDES permit for its storm water discharge. You will usually need to know the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code for your business to do this.
Step 4: Does my business have a SIC code for which NPDES storm water permits are required?
Storm water may also be considered a wastewater depending on the type of business in which you are engaged. The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code or type of operation your business is engaged in will determine whether or not the storm water that discharges from your property will be considered a wastewater.
A listing of categories for which storm water permits may be required is contained in Appendix 1.
Step 5: If my business has wastewater, does my business discharge it to the surface of the earth or to water on the surface of the earth?
This provision is very broad so that you can assume that any discharge that goes to surface water or the ground on your property, or that leaves your property, is included. However, wastewater that is applied to agricultural land for crop or soil benefit is not regulated by the NPDES program. The permits required for this type of activity are discussed later in this document.
Important Additional Information Concerning NPDES Permits
Step 6: Does my business need a Construction Site Storm Water Activity Permit if I'm constructing any building or related activity?
A general NPDES Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Construction Site Activities is required for any construction site that will result in the disturbance of soil of one or more acres total land area.
Disturbance of soil includes clearing, grading and excavation activities of 1 acre or more. Construction activities less than 1 acre must also obtain coverage if they are part of a larger common plan of development.
A Construction Site Permit must remain active until the construction site has been completely stabilized. "Stabilized" means that all soil disturbing activities at the site have been completed and a uniform perennial vegetative cover has been established on all unpaved areas; or equivalent permanent stabilization measures have been employed.
State Construction Permits
A water pollution control construction permit is required by state law for businesses with the potential to cause water pollution. This construction permit is required prior to constructing or modifying a facility. You can determine whether you need to obtain a construction permit by going through Steps 1 and 2 below.
Step 1: Will there be construction at my facility?
State construction permits are required if your business is constructing or modifying anything within one of the four categories listed below.
Construction is defined as the commencement of on-site fabrication, erection, or installation. The definition of modification is rather long and can be found in Appendix 2. You should look carefully at this definition because it includes such things as an increase in the amount of wastewater discharge even if the increase is not due to any other physical change in the facility.
If you are planning on constructing or modifying at your business, you should determine whether what you intend to construct or modify falls within one of the four categories listed below.
Category 1: Treatment Works
A treatment works is a device used for collecting, pumping, treating, or disposing of wastewaters, or for the recovery of byproducts from such wastewater.
A treatment works usually discharges wastewater to the surface of the earth or to water on the surface of the earth. However, a treatment works may also recycle wastewater for other uses and not have a discharge.
Category 2: Pretreatment Works
A pretreatment works is a device used for collecting, pumping treating or disposing of wastewater, or for the recovery of byproducts from such wastewater, before the wastewater in discharged into a publicly owned sanitary sewer system. The sanitary sewer system conveys the wastewater to a publicly owned treatment plant for further treatment.
In addition to the exemption listed in Question 2 of this section, pretreatment works have an additional exemption which is fairly complicated and may require interpretation. This additional exemption is listed in Appendix 3. If you need assistance interpreting or understanding this exemption, you can obtain assistance from the Bureau of Water’s Permit Section at (217) 782-0610 or you may obtain assistance from an environmental professional of your choice.
Category 3: Wastewater Source
Wastewater source is any discharge of wastewater, usually to a publicly-owned sanitary sewer system. Wastewater discharges to agricultural land for crop or soil benefit are also considered wastewater sources. Some examples of wastewater sources would be:
Category 4: Sewer
A sewer is defined as a stationary means of transport intended to transport wastewater from your business to a publicly-owned sanitary sewer system.
The portion of the sewer which requires a construction permit is that portion which runs from the boundary of your building to the point of connection to the publicly-owned sanitary sewer system.
Step 2: Do you fall under the exemption for treatment works, pretreatment works, sewers, and wastewater sources?
This exemption can apply only to businesses that generate toilet and hand washing waste.
If you generate any wastewater that is not toilet and hand washing waste, this exemption does not apply to your business, and you must obtain a permit.
The exemption is as follows:
Construction permits are not required for any treatment works, pretreatment works, sewer or wastewater source designed and intended to serve a single building and eventually treat or discharge less than 1500 gallons per day of strictly toilet and hand washing waste (otherwise known as domestic waste).
If you fit under this exemption, then you are not required to obtain a state construction permit from the Bureau of Water.
State Operating Water Permits
State operating permits are required for the use or operation of most treatment works, pretreatment works, sewers or wastewater sources for which a construction permit is required. You should go through the two questions below to determine whether you need a state operating permit from the Bureau of Water.
Step 1: Does my business need a state operating permit?
In the section called State Construction Permits, you determined if your business required a state construction permit.
If you were required to obtain a state construction permit (other than for a sewer), you will be required to obtain a state operating permit, unless you fit under the exemptions listed in Question 2 below. Operating permits for sewers are generally issued with the construction permit.
If you have existing treatment works, pretreatment works, or wastewater sources, you are required to have a state operating permit unless you fall under one of the exemptions listed in Question 2 below.
If you do not need a state construction permit for your business, you do not need a state operating permit for your business unless you intend to use land application and/or spray irrigation of wastewater (including wastewater sludges) on agricultural land.
Important Additional Information
Step 2: Is my business exempt from the requirement for a state operating permit?
A state operating permit is not required for the following even if a state construction permit was required.
You should identify the publicly-owned treatment plant to which the discharge from your business flows. Once this is done, you should contact the Bureau of Water’s Permit Section at (217) 782-0610 to identify publicly-owned treatment plants that have approved pretreatment programs. This will tell you if the publicly-owned treatment plant to which your discharge flows has an approved pretreatment program.
If the wastewater discharge from your business flows to a publicly-owned treatment plant with an approved pretreatment program, then a state operating permit is not required.
If the wastewater discharge from your business does not flow to a publicly-owned treatment plant with an approved pretreatment program, then a state operating permit is required.*
* For certain pretreatment works or wastewater sources, there are some additional, somewhat technical, exemptions. The rule containing these exemptions is in Appendix 3 to this document. If you need assistance interpreting or understanding this exemption, you can obtain assistance from the Bureau of Water’s Permit Section at (217) 782-0610 or you may obtain assistance from an environmental professional of your choice.
Industries Which Require an NPDES Permit for their Storm Water Discharge
Definition of Modification
(This is taken from the definition in water regulations. See 35 Ill. Adm. Code 301.315 for the complete definition.)
Additional Permit Exemptions
Construction or operating permits are not required for those pretreatment works, and operating permits are not required for wastewater sources, discharging to a sewer tributary to a publicly owned treatment plant which will not:
(This is taken from the definition in water regulations. See 35 Ill. Adm. Code 309.202(c) and 309.204(d) for the complete definition.)
You may obtain additional copies of this document, by contacting Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Small Business Environmental Assistance Program or the Office of Small Business at the Illinois EPA or by contacting the appropriate permit section:
You may also obtain information or assistance from these sections by calling the above numbers.
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