Stormwater Permitting: NPDES E-Reporting Rule

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting

Overview

EPA has published the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule, which will modernize Clean Water Act reporting for municipalities, industries and other facilities. Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the rule on September 24, 2015 and it was published in the Federal Register on October 22, 2015. The rule replaces most paper-based NPDES reporting requirements with electronic reporting.

Specifically, the rule requires regulated entities to report information electronically, instead of filing written paper reports. These reports include:

  • Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs)*,
  • Notices of Intent to discharge (NOIs) under a general permit*,
  • Notices of Termination (NOTs) of coverage under a general permit*,
  • No Exposure Certifications (NOEs) under a stormwater general permit*,
  • Low Erosivity Waivers and Other Waivers from Stormwater Controls (LEWs),
  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Annual Program Reports,
  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program Reports*,
  • Biosolids/Sewage Sludge Annual Program Reports,
  • Pretreatment Program Annual Reports,
  • Sewer Overflow/Bypass Event Reports, and
  • Clean Water Act (CWA) 316(b) Annual Reports.

*Reports currently applicable to NC DEMLR’s Stormwater Permitting Program

The rule does not change what information is required. It only changes the method by which information is provided (i.e., electronic rather than paper-based).

The rule also requires states and other regulatory authorities to share data electronically with EPA. The data that these regulatory authorities will share with EPA includes the data they receive from regulated entities, along with the compliance monitoring (e.g., inspection), violation determination, and enforcement action data they generate themselves.

Benefits of Electronic Reporting

The final NPDES Electronic Reporting Rule moves EPA and states into the 21st Century by taking advantage of advances in information technology, expands EPA efforts to provide meaningful data to the public, and supports the EPA-wide effort to move from paper to electronic reporting. EPA anticipates the rule will save time and resources for permittees, states, tribes, territories, and the U.S. Government while increasing data accuracy, improving compliance, and supporting the goal of providing better protection of the nation’s waters. The rule will help provide greater clarity on who is and who is not in compliance and enhances transparency by providing a timelier, more complete, more accurate, and nationally-consistent set of data about the NPDES program. It will provide EPA and states the ability to strategically address the most serious water pollution problems while using limited resources efficiently.

Electronic Reporting Tools

Regulated entities and state and federal regulators will use existing, available information technology to submit, share, and manage the required data. EPA is working with states, tribes, territories, and third-party software vendors to develop and have in place all of the necessary electronic reporting tools. Recognizing that many states, tribes, and territories have their own electronic data systems and reporting tools for managing NPDES data, the electronic reporting rule provides flexibility on the specific data systems and reporting tools to be used.

EPA has developed electronic reporting tools for NPDES data and is making them available to states. EPA’s tools are web-based and require only a computer, an Internet browser (e.g., Microsoft Internet Explorer), and high-speed access to the Internet (i.e., DSL, fiber optic). These tools communicate securely, requiring passwords and known responses to security questions. They are designed to provide electronic submittals with the same level of legal dependability as paper submittals. States have the option of using EPA’s tools directly, installing and hosting their own version of EPA’s tools, or developing their own tools. Information on the state’s and EPA’s electronic reporting tools is provided below:

  • NC DWR’s Electronic Discharge Monitoring Report (eDMR) System: eDMR is an electronic reporting tool that can be used by NPDES-regulated wastewater treatment facilities to submit DMRs electronically to the state through a secure internet application.  This system will be expanded to allow permittees in the Stormwater Program to electronically submit DMR data; however, eDMR is not yet ready to accept stormwater permit data.  Permittees will be notified about the status and necessary actions.  Also at this time, eDMR is not compliant with the electronic signature component of EPA’s electronic reporting requirements.  As a result, eDMR users are required to complete their eDMR submission by printing, signing, and submitting signed copies of the eDMR to NC DWR.  The state will update eDMR participants when full compliance with EPA’s electronic reporting requirements has been achieved.
     
  • EPA’s NPDES Electronic Reporting Tool (NeT): NeT is a tool suite developed by EPA to facilitate electronic submittal of data by the regulated community directly to EPA and its partners. It uses commercial "off-the-shelf" software and can support diverse forms and data submission formats. 

At this time, the state is in the process of determining the specific method that will be employed to electronically report the other NPDES reports.  Electronic reporting tools being investigated include using EPA’s tools directly, installing and hosting a version of EPA’s tools, or developing a custom-built system. The tools that are used will communicate securely and provide the electronic submittals with the same level of legal dependability as paper submittals.

Electronic Reporting Schedule

EPA is phasing in the requirements of the rule over a five-year period. The two phases of the rule, and their key milestones, are:

  • Phase 1 – Starting on December 21, 2016, regulated entities that currently submit DMRs to NC DWR Central Files (including Stormwater Program permittees) are to begin submitting these reports electronically, instead of on paper. Also at the same time, states and other regulatory authorities will begin sharing their compliance monitoring (e.g., inspection), violation determination, and enforcement action data electronically. Additionally, these regulatory authorities will submit an implementation plan for meeting the Phase 2 data requirements for EPA to review.  UPDATE:  NC DEQ continues to work toward an eDMR System that accepts NPDES Stormwater Program DMR data and will update permittees as soon as possible in light of the approaching federal deadline.  The Program also continues to incorporate Electronic Reporting Requirements into permits under development.  Those efforts began in April 2014 and have evolved as key milestones drew nearer.
     
  • Phase 2 – Starting on December 21, 2020, regulated entities that currently submit certain other NPDES reports will begin submitting these reports electronically, instead of on paper. Reports covered in the second phase include:
    • Notices of Intent to discharge (NOIs) under a general permit,
    • Notices of Termination (NOTs) of coverage under a general permit,
    • No Exposure Certifications (NOEs) under a stormwater general permit,
    • Low Erosivity Waivers and Other Waivers from Stormwater Controls (LEWs),
    • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Annual Program Reports,
    • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program Reports,
    • Pretreatment Program Annual Reports,
    • Sewer Overflow/Bypass Event Reports, and
    • Clean Water Act (CWA) 316(b) Annual Reports.

Electronic Reporting Waivers

The rule provides flexibility to grant temporary waivers from electronic reporting. A permittee may be granted a temporary waiver from the NPDES electronic reporting requirements if the reporting facility:

  1. Is physically located in a geographic area (i.e., zip code or census tract) that is identified as under-served for broadband internet access in the most recent National Broadband Map from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); or
  2. Demonstrates that such electronic reporting of the monitoring data and reports would pose an unreasonable burden or expense to the NPDES-permitted facility.

To obtain an electronic reporting waiver, a permittee must first submit an application for a temporary electronic reporting waiver to DEMLR's Stormwater Program.  

Download a Stormwater Program Application for Temporary Electronic Reporting Waiver.  

The submission of an electronic reporting waiver application does not guarantee the waiver request will be granted.  If you have questions, or to check the status of your application, contact Bethany Georgoulias at 919-807-6372 or via email at bethany.georgoulias@ncdenr.gov.

Approved waivers from electronic reporting are temporary and will have an expiration date.  The permittee may re-apply for a new waiver if the conditions above are met.  Re-application should be submitted to the DEMLR's Stormwater Program no later than sixty (60) days prior to the waiver’s expiration.  Approved electronic reporting waivers are not transferrable.  Only permittees with an approved reporting waiver request may submit monitoring data and reports on paper to the DEQ for the period that the approved reporting waiver is effective.

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