The Phase 4 permit brings forth a set of changes, raising numerous questions, especially regarding its impact on existing sites and water sampling requirements. In this article, we aim to address these concerns, providing clarity on who the Phase 4 permit affects, differences in water sampling requirements, the roles of Qualified SWPPP Developers (QSDs) and Qualified SWPPP Practitioners (QSPs), and the altered precipitation triggering system.

4 Facts You Need to Know About the New Phase 4 Permit

Who Does the Phase 4 Permit Affect?

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “How does the Phase 4 permit affect my existing site, especially with the upcoming rainy season?” The good news is that there are no immediate changes for existing sites. If you received your WDID number before September 1, 2023, your existing permit will remain unchanged. So, no major alterations for you – that’s the positive side.

Now, let’s delve into some specifics. Existing sites grandfathered into the old permit will retain that status for two more years until September 1, 2025. However, if you decide to increase your project disturbed acreage to a COI after September 1, 2023, that new area will fall under the new Phase 4 permit.

Another aspect to consider is changes in ownership. If you’re selling or purchasing a property with an existing WDID number, transferring those ID numbers is no longer allowed. In such cases, you’ll need to re-file under the new Phase 4 permit for any property transactions.

As of now, if your WDID number was issued after September 1, 2023, your project will fall under the new Phase 4 permit. Therefore, any new projects moving forward will be subject to the new regulations. 

It’s worth noting that you could potentially have a job site with two phases, each under a different permit. This might be a bit confusing, especially for General Contractors managing multiple projects, but we’re here to help navigate through the process. Feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll guide you on which permit applies to your specific situation.

As we move forward, we understand that questions may arise. We’ll be here to assist, especially during the early stages of implementing these new regulations. The transition may be a learning process for all of us, given that these regulations were formulated in an office and not in the field. Expect some adjustments as we test these rules in the real world. 

For those concerned about fines or inspections in the initial stages, we don’t anticipate significant issues. The water board is likely to provide some grace period as we all adapt to these new changes. So, take a breath and rest assured, we’re here to support you through this transition period.

In conclusion, you have a two-year grace period, and it’s crucial to stay informed and be proactive. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out.

What are the Differences in Water Sampling Requirements?

Let’s dive into the changes regarding water sampling requirements in the new Phase 4 permit. Some things remain consistent, like the risk levels. For Risk Level 1, there’s no need to sample during rain events, only during an illicit discharge. However, for Risk Levels 2 and 3, sampling is required during both rain events and illicit discharges.

The pH range (6.5 to 8.5) and turbidity range (less than 250) remain unchanged, which is good news. We expected these parameters to become more stringent, but they stayed the same.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit more complex. With the previous Phase 3 permit, we were directed to take a minimum of three water samples during an event, and we could average those samples to ensure compliance with turbidity and pH limits. If the average exceeded the numeric action limit, an appropriate action was needed, but it could be handled internally.

In the new Phase 4 permit, the game has changed. We still take three water samples, but now, averaging is no longer allowed. If there’s an exceedance of the numeric action limit (NAL), reporting is mandatory. This triggers a site visit from both the QSD and QSP. The negative effects of these exceedances are not entirely known yet, but they will need to be reported. It’s not about fines necessarily, but about ensuring necessary repairs are made, and documentation is thorough.

To clarify, in the previous permit, you could average three samples. Now, if any one sample exceeds the limit, reporting is necessary. The QSD and QSP will conduct a site visit to inspect, understand the cause, approve repairs, and sign off on the resolution.

This means General Contractors have a bit less control, emphasizing the importance of having robust DMRs (Discharge Monitoring Reports) in place, ensuring they are functioning properly and regularly maintained. Especially with unpredictable weather patterns, such as the heavy rainfall experienced last year, being proactive in minimizing exceedances becomes crucial. It’s a collective effort to pay closer attention this year and in the future, considering the expected rainfall and potential impacts on construction.

What is the Difference between a QSD and QSP?

Let’s break down the distinctions between a Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) and a Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP). Note the acronym within an acronym –  SWPPP stands for Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

A QSD, or Qualified SWPPP Developer, is the individual responsible for putting together the initial site plan. This collaboration typically occurs early in the project, and the QSD works closely with the property owner to secure the necessary permits. Prior to the permit update to phase 4, the QSD’s involvement rarely extended beyond this point; they didn’t visit the site during the project’s duration.

The QSP, or Qualified SWPPP Practitioner, plays a very hands-on role. This individual comes out on a weekly basis to inspect all Best Management Practices (BMPs) on your site, ensuring their correct installation. BMPs include measures like silt fences and erosion control, crucial for water quality protection. The QSP is the eyes and feet on the ground for the QSD, responsible for reporting and ensuring compliance.

In the past, under the Phase 3 permit, the QSD’s role was quite limited. However, with the new Phase 4 permit, QSDs now need to visit the site, along with the QSP, after any exceedance.

One more point to note is that the services of a QSD must be retained throughout the entire project until state-approved termination. The termination process might take months, adding a new layer of accountability.

The QSD has specific responsibilities, including entering relevant personnel details into the plan and visiting the construction site within 30 days of the start, or within 30 days of taking responsibility for the site. Additionally, he or she must visit each site at least twice per year – once between August and October and once between January and March, along with more immediate visits if a new Numeric Action Level is breached.

Summarizing QSD visit requirements:

  • Within 30 days of project start
  • Within 30 days if assuming responsibility for the site
  • Within 14 days of an exceedance
  • At least once between the months of August and October
  • At least once between the months of January and March

This increased interaction among QSDs, QSPs, GCs, and owners is a notable change under the Phase 4 permit. While it may mean additional expenses, the upside is greater involvement in the project throughout its lifecycle, allowing for prompt responses to changes or exceedances. 

As for the certification process, obtaining a QSD certification can be challenging, especially for those not holding specific engineering, hydrology, or geology certifications. The test is rigorous, requiring a combination of training, testing, and years of field service. While difficult, it’s achievable with dedication and effort.

In conclusion, understanding the roles of QSDs and QSPs is crucial for navigating the new Phase 4 permit requirements. As always, we’re here to provide support and guidance through these changes. If you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out.

What are the Precipitation Triggers?

In the old Phase 3 regional permit, any event that produced, as measured at the site, half an inch or more of precipitation within a 48-hour period triggered certain actions. 

Under the new permit, this system is undergoing a significant shift. Precipitation triggering is no longer based on a specific measured rainfall, but is now governed by predicted precipitation. A qualifying event is now identified as any weather pattern forecasted with a 50% or greater probability of precipitation and a quantitative precipitation forecast of 0.5 inches or more within a 24-hour period. The event starts when 0.5 inches is forecasted and extends through subsequent 24-hour periods with a forecast of 0.25 inches or more.

In simpler terms, instead of relying on on-site gauges to determine when to start taking water samples, the new regulation involves using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s forecast. This shift introduces a bit of trial and error, as we navigate through this updated approach. It’s anticipated that sampling frequency may increase, as the trigger is no longer actual rain on the job site but is now based on forecasts for a broader area. Keep in mind that NOAA’s weather stations are often located at major airports, offering a more generalized perspective.

We’ve historically used NOAA for rain event action plans, but the change now is that we’ll be relying on NOAA for forecasts instead of on-site measurements. It’s essential to monitor these rules closely, recognizing that they may undergo changes as we adapt to this new system.

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