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The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

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Pennsylvania NPDES Permit Program - General Information

The Federal Clean Water Act and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams law requires wastewater dischargers to have a permit establishing pollution limits, and specifying monitoring and reporting requirements. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits regulate household and industrial wastes that are collected in sewers and treated at municipal wastewater treatment plants. Permits also regulate industrial point sources and concentrated animal feeding operations that discharge into other wastewater collection systems, or that discharge directly into receiving waters. More than 200,000 sources are regulated by NPDES permits nationwide.

Permits regulate discharges with the goals of 1) protecting public health and aquatic life, and 2) assuring that every facility treats wastewater. To achieve these ends, permits include the following terms and conditions:

Site-specific discharge (or effluent) limits;

Standard and site-specific management, compliance monitoring and reporting requirements; and

When and if regulated facilities fail to comply with the provisions of their permits, they may be subject to enforcement actions. DEP and EPA use a variety of techniques to monitor permittees' compliance status, including on-site inspections and review of data submitted by permittees. Technical assistance is also available to facilities struggling with NPDES compliance.

The NPDES permit is generally valid for a period of five years. Applications for renewal of NPDES permits must be submitted at least 180 days prior to the expiration of the current facility permit. Applications for NPDES permits can be obtained from DEP regional offices or obtained electronically

If you are an owner, operator or local official affiliated with a treatment facility, you MUST become familiar with your facility NPDES permit. The NPDES permit has reporting and notification requirements including a requirement to file a monthly discharge monitoring report (DMR). Please refer to your permit for requirements specific to your site. The NPDES permit spells out in detail your duties and responsibilities for proper operation of a wastewater treatment system.



CONVENTIONAL POLLUTANTS are contained in the sanitary wastes of households, businesses, and industries. These pollutants include human wastes, ground-up food from sink disposals, and laundry and bath waters. Conventional pollutants include:

FECAL COLIFORM - These bacteria are found in the digestive tracts of humans and animals; their presence in water indicates the potential presence of pathogenic organisms.

OIL & GREASE - These organic substances may include hydrocarbons, fats, oils, waxes, and high-molecular fatty acids. Oil and grease may produce sludge solids that are difficult to process.

TOXIC POLLUTANTS are particularly harmful to animal or plant life. They are primarily grouped into organics (including pesticides, solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins) and metals (including lead, silver, mercury, copper, chromium, zinc, nickel, and cadmium).

NONCONVENTIONAL POLLUTANTS are any additional substances that are not conventional or toxic that may require regulation. These include nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.