Fact Sheet: Getting a National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit
What is the purpose of this permit?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.
There is no application fee for a NPDES permit, but
DHEC does assess yearly operational fees.
How much will it cost to get an NPDES permit?
- A general NPDES permit costs $75-$100 each year.
- An individual NPDES permit costs from $530 to a couple of thousand dollars yearly, depending on the design flow, the volume of discharge, number of discharge pipes, and other factors.
Where can I get the application form(s) for this permit?You can download permit application forms from our website at www.scdhec.gov/environment/admin/htm/EQC_forms.asp#Water. 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.
What, if anything, do I need to include with
my application form(s)?
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
What factors will come into play in DHEC’s
decision about whether to grant my
business/facility a permit?
This is a tough question to answer with without
knowing project details. General NPDES permits take
much less time than individual NPDES permits.
How long will it take to review and approve
- For general NPDES permits, we usually complete
our staff review process within a couple of weeks
once we receive the completed paperwork and
documentation that allow us to grant coverage
to your business under the general permit.
Of course, if you fail to submit all required
documentation at the beginning of the process,
the review/approval process will take longer.
- For individual NPDES permits, our goal is to complete our staff review and approval process (which includes an EPA review and a public notice process) within 180 working days or less once we receive all the completed paperwork and documentation. Typically, though, individual permits take longer than 180 working days because applicants frequently need to provide additional information to DHEC. If you’re applying for an individual permit, plan on at least 320 calendar days to obtain a permit decision from DHEC. As with the general permit, if you fail to submit all required documentation at the beginning of the application process, approvals can take longer.
Mail your application to:
Where do I submit my application?
- DHEC Bureau of Water
Water Facilities Permitting Division
Columbia, South Carolina 29201
How long is my permit valid?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 at http://www.scdhec.gov/administration/appeal-procedure-notice.htm. Be aware that third
parties also have the right to file an appeal and
challenge DHEC’s permit decision.
What is the appeal process for being turned
down for a permit or having my permit
Mail your application to:
Who can I contact if I have questions about this permit or the application process?
- Municipal/domestic systems:
Call Mike Montebello at (803) 898-4228 or
email him at Mike.Montebello@dhec.sc.gov.
- Industry systems:
Call Crystal Rippy at (803) 898-3964 or
email her at Crystal.Rippy@dhec.sc.gov.
Where does the legal authority for this permit come from?The authority for NPDES permits stems from federal and state laws. Our state environmental laws are
written to be consistent with at least the standards set by federal laws.
DHEC’s fee structure is authorized by a separate law.
- Federal Clean Water Act
- S.C. Pollution Control Act
- S.C. Environmental Protection Fund Act