When we talk about NPDES permits, we're really talking about a family of permits. One branch is designed to deal with stormwater runoff. A second branch - the subject of this fact sheet - focuses on discharges from city (domestic) and industrial wastewater treatment systems.
Essentially, all NPDES permits allow discharges within acceptable limits. The limits are designed to protect streams and lakes. NPDES permits allow businesses to discharge a range of waste pollutants into rivers, streams, and lakes in ways that minimize the potential for harm to fish and other aquatic life and to humans who use the water for drinking, fishing, recreation and other purposes. Scientists working for the federal and state government have determined acceptable limits for potentially harmful substances that may be discharged through chemical waste, sewage, cooling water, and other forms of pollution generated by businesses and municipalities.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) administers NPDES permits within South Carolina. DHEC has been authorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage the NPDES permitting process to satisfy both state and federal laws.
Manufacturing operations, car washes, auto salvage yards, wastewater treatment plants, utility companies, mining operations, petroleum storage facilities, aquaculture operations, and hydrostatic testing operations are just a few of the businesses that need NPDES permits to operate.
There are two sub-categories of NPDES permits:
There is no application fee for a NPDES permit, but DHEC does assess yearly operational fees.
You can download permit application forms from our website. Depending on the characteristics of waste your business will discharge and other factors, you may need to complete more than one form as part of your application packet. To make sure you complete all the necessarily forms first time around, we urge you to speak to a DHEC permitting expert by phone or in person in the earliest stages of your planning process. Generally, applications for industries are quite different from those for municipal (domestic) dischargers.
Each situation is different. Some applicants will need to submit an engineering report. Some will need to submit an 'alternatives analysis' demonstrating that discharging pollutants into surface water is the only option realistically available (part of an anti-degradation analysis). We strongly urge you to discuss your specific situation with a DHEC permitting expert early in your planning process to determine exactly what you'll need to submit.
There are so many variables that can affect whether or not DHEC will grant an individual NPDES permit that two similar industries may apply for the same permit but get different outcomes depending on the discharge location. Each pplicant for an individual permit must undergo a case-specific review. Factors affecting the timing of the permit process that may come into play include public sentiment/concerns about your activity, the existing quality of the water in the river, lake or stream that will be affected, the impact your activity could have on endangered species, coastal zone rules (if you are in one of the 8 coastal counties), and EPA opinions, among other things.
This is a tough question to answer with without knowing project details. General NPDES permits take much less time than individual NPDES permits.
Meeting with a DHEC permitting expert early in your planning process will pay off big by helping you avoid delays.
Mail your application to:
An NPDES permit is good for 5 years. As for renewals, as long as you file a complete application to renew your permit at least 180 days in advance of the expiration date, state law allows you to continue operations without disruption.
For information on the permit appeals process, visit our website. Be aware that third parties also have the right to file an appeal and challenge DHEC's permit decision.
Mail your application to:
The authority for NPDES permits stems from federal and state laws. Our state environmental laws arewritten to be consistent with at least the standards set by federal laws.
DHEC's fee structure is authorized by a separate law.