What is a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)?

When new construction goes up, developers have a duty to protect the surrounding environment from pollution. Environmental safety has become an increasing priority—if not for developers, then at the very least for government organizations regulating their construction projects.

There are many ways developers can help protect the environment, one of which involves creating and abiding by a storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP). In fact, states and municipalities often require an SWPPP, especially if the developer is applying for special permits.

Keep reading to learn what an SWPPP is, why you need it and how to create one.

What’s an SWPPP?

An SWPPP outlines procedures designed to limit potential pollutants and stormwater runoff on a construction site. The goal behind SWPPPs is to reduce construction’s adverse effects on the surrounding environment. An SWPPP helps protect groundwater quality, both during construction and daily operations of the completed development.

Effective SWPPPs consist of several components. The developer must include a detailed site map that illustrates discharge points and storm water flow patterns on the site. An SWPPP should also list on-site activities that could potentially pollute storm water. 

Developers must identify Best Management Practices (BMPs) designed to reduce pollution and mitigate storm water runoff. Lastly, the SWPPP should include a timeline for scheduled maintenance and inspections of these pollutant mitigation efforts.

Why your site needs an SWPPP

There are several reasons why a developer should include an SWPPP in their site plan. First and foremost, SWPPPs prevent construction sites from polluting ground water supply and naturally-occurring bodies of water. A well-crafted SWPPP can improve local water quality and protect the wildlife that depends on it. Pollutant mitigation efforts also keep the soil healthy, which promotes adequate growing conditions for local plant species.

Aside from their environmental impacts, SWPPPs are essential for complying with federal, state, and local regulations. A well-crafted SWPPP can protect a developer from incurring fines or lawsuits for violating environmental standards. A lawsuit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can cost a developer millions of dollars, result in negative news coverage and delay the start of a development.

A developer also needs an SWPPP if they’re applying for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. NPDES permits legally allow sites to discharge certain pollutants into neighboring bodies of water. However, NPDES permits still restrict the types and amount of chemicals that can enter these waterways. An SWPPP proves the developer is taking appropriate measures to reduce pollutants on and off the site.

Items to include in your SWPPP

Having an SWPPP in general isn’t enough. SWPPPs that are outdated or missing certain parts can still result in hefty fines. An SWPPP must contain all the necessary components in order to comply with environmental regulations and avoid a potential lawsuit.

Here’s a look at those components in greater detail:

  • Storm water management systems: Contractors must install systems throughout the site that properly contain and direct the flow of storm water. The developer might choose to incorporate swales, retention ponds or other forms of storm water management.
  • Storm water runoff controls: The site plan also needs to include structures and methods that limit storm water runoff. This will reduce the number of pollutants that get carried off the site and into neighboring bodies of water. Limiting runoff will also help protect exposed soils on the site. These methods might include silt fences, sediment traps, subsurface drains or others.
  • Potential pollutant reduction: A developer also needs to identify how they’re going to reduce on-site pollution levels during and after the construction process. The SWPPP must include plans for monitoring the proper use and storage of chemicals. Plans should include the proper disposal of construction debris as well.
  • Inspections and maintenance: The developer must specify when and how often a subcontractor will inspect pollutant mitigation efforts on the site. In some states and localities, these inspections might have to occur at a certain frequency. The SWPPP should also have a timeline for scheduled, recurring maintenance of these pollutant mitigation efforts.
  • SWPPP reviews and updates: A developer should review their SWPPP at least once a year to determine if any changes are necessary. Many factors could require a developer to update their SWPPP. For example, they’ll need to adjust the SWPPP if the site starts using new chemicals or gets rid of existing ones. The same applies when there’s a change in contractors or employees who carry out the SWPPP’s procedures.

Site development involves juggling numerous processes, documents and approvals. With everything going on, a developer could easily overlook a step like writing their SWPPP. However, an SWPPP is crucial for avoiding lawsuits and pushing the project plan forward. And, of course, SWPPPs ensure developers do their part to mitigate construction’s impact on the environment.

For help developing an airtight SWPPP, reach out to the professionals at Sandbox Development Consultants today.