• DEQ Targets Backlog of Expired NPDES Permits
  • September 2, 2003
  • Law Firm: Perkins Coie LLP - Seattle Office
  • The percentage of expired National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits in Oregon is one of the highest in the country. The NPDES permit system regulates industrial and municipal discharges of pollutants to surface waters.

    In Oregon, these permits are issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The EPA initiated a special review of Oregon's NPDES program early in 2003, and in response the DEQ is refocusing its staff resources to significantly reduce the state's backlog of expired permits. If your permit has expired and you have applied for renewal (which may have been several years ago) you can expect to be contacted by the DEQ.

    Careful attention to NPDES permitting is required. There are many new considerations for renewing NPDES permits. For example, water quality standards that drive Oregon's NPDES permit limits have undergone significant revisions to address:

    • EPA's recommended criteria for 167 toxic pollutants (2002)

    • EPA's Water Temperature Guidance of 2003 that sets temperature criteria for discharges into waters used by salmon, steelhead, and bull trout

    • The required triennial review of state water quality standards to ensure that the criteria are protective of designated uses of the receiving waters, including imperiled fisheries protected by the Endangered Species Act

    And in a separate rule-making proposal due out the fall of 2003, the DEQ is proposing revisions to the turbidity criteria of the water quality standards.

    Renewing NPDES permits can result in serious consequences for dischargers holding expired permits. No doubt the permit renewals will be scrutinized using updated water quality standards and dischargers may face tougher discharge requirements. The best approach to renewing your NPDES permit is to understand the implications of the new requirements before submitting your renewal application and to thoroughly address these requirements in your initial renewal application.