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Continuing Planning Process

Section 303(e) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires that each state establish and maintain a continuing planning process (CPP) consistent with the Act. EPA reviews the state’s CPP from time to time.

In accordance with the South Carolina Pollution Control Act (SCPCA), the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) abates, controls, and prevents pollution of all bodies of surface and underground water, natural or artificial, public or private, inland or coastal, fresh or salt, which are wholly or partially within or bordering South Carolina or within its jurisdiction. DHEC’s goal is to maintain and improve all surface waters to a level that provides for the survival and reproduction of a balanced community of plants and animals, recreation in and on the water, and, where appropriate, drinking water after conventional treatment, shellfish harvesting, and industrial and agricultural uses.It is also DHEC’s goal to maintain or restore groundwater quality so it is suitable as a drinking water source without any treatment.

This CPP explains South Carolina’s approach to implementing federal and state laws and regulations on water quality.It describes processes for developing and updating water quality management program elements, purpose, and implementation and public participation requirements.

This page and its links will be updated as the CPP is revised.

Elements of the CPP

According to the CWA and regulation 40 CFR part 130.5, states must include nine specific items in the CPP. These elements are described below along with links to the sites containing the processes and plans.

1. The process for developing effluent limitations and schedules of compliance at least as stringent as those required by section 301(b)(1) and (2), 306 and 307, and at least as stringent as any requirements contained in applicable water quality standards in effect under authority of section 303 of the CWA.

These sections of the CWA refer to limits placed on pollutants that are discharged to water from industries and publicly owned wastewater treatment works (POTWs). All facilities that discharge pollutants from any point source to waters of the United States must obtain a permit through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). These permits state the limits placed on discharges, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements.Any permit limit must be stringent enough to ensure that the discharge will not cause a violation of the water quality standards.The Bureau of Water’s (Bureau) processes for developing effluent limits and issuing NPDES permits are described in detail in the following two web sites:

NPDES Permit Program Detailed Permit Process
Wasteload Allocation Process

2.The process for incorporating elements of any areawide waste treatment plans under section 208, and applicable basin plans under section 209 of the Act.

South Carolina has six separate areawide wastewater treatment plans as described in the 208 Water Quality Management Plan (208 Plan) produced by DHEC. This document describes how agencies are authorized to administer wastewater issues. It also provides an inventory of the POTWs in the area of the state where DHEC provides specific areawide water quality management functions. DHEC will not issue an NPDES or wastewater construction permit unless it has been certified by the applicable areawide water quality management agency that the permit will be consistent with the applicable plan.

Water quality issues that cross political boundaries are best addressed in basin planning. South Carolina has been divided into major watersheds. Descriptions of the status of South Carolina’s watersheds and planning activities affecting them are contained in the watershed water quality management reports:
Pee Dee

3. The process for developing total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) and individual water quality based effluent limitations in accordance with section 303(d) of the Act.

Section 303(d) requires states to identify waters that are impaired in spite of effluent limitations. For these water bodies, a TMDL must be developed for the pollutant(s) causing the water quality violation. The TMDL includes both nonpoint sources (load) and point sources (wasteload) of pollutants in the calculations used to determine how much of the pollutant can be assimilated by the receiving body of water. The TMDL must also include a margin of safety. TMDLs are developed by the Bureau, approved by EPA and then implemented by reissuing or modifying permits, and through voluntary pollution reduction measures. For a complete description of the process, refer to the following links:

TMDL Development and Implementation
South Carolina’s Approved TMDLs  

4. The process for updating and maintaining Water Quality Management (WQM) plans, including schedules for revision.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control was designated by Governor Edwards in 1976 as the State Planning Agency and as such is responsible for Areawide Water Quality Management Planning in South Carolina pursuant to Section 208 of the CWA.Five Councils of Governments (COGs) were designated by the Governor to provide specific areawide water quality management planning functions in areas of the state within their jurisdictions.These COGs are Appalachian, Central Midlands, Waccamaw Regional, Lowcountry, and Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester.DHEC provides specific areawide water quality management planning functions for those counties not serviced by the named COGs.

The 208 Water Quality Management Plan prepared by DHEC is updated on an as needed basis. The process for updating or amending the plan is described within it. As the state planning agency, DHEC reviews and where applicable certifies, approves, and submits Water Quality Management Plans and updates prepared by other areawide planning agencies to EPA for approval.  

5. The process for assuring adequate authority for intergovernmental cooperation in the implementation of the state WQM program.

Enabling intergovernmental and interagency cooperation is important for several reasons. It allows for the sharing of information and expertise, helps to prevent the duplication of effort, and ensures consistency between state and federal programs. In the case of nonpoint source pollution, which does not remain within political boundaries, intergovernmental cooperation is essential. Interagency cooperation must also occur in order to streamline regulatory activities. Achieving consistency with federal programs involves cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, Federal Highway Administration, and the National Resource Conservation Service, among others. Please refer to the following web sites for more information on these and other cooperative practices.

Councils of Governments
Designated Management Agencies
Office of Coastal Resource Management
South Carolina’s Nonpoint Source Management Program
South Carolina Forestry Commission

6. The process for establishing and assuring adequate implementation of new or revised water quality standards.

The CWA and SCPCA require that the state classify its waters and develop water quality standards. Beneficial uses are designated for each water body and water quality standards are established that will protect the uses of the water. Some examples of beneficial uses are aquatic life support, fish consumption, shellfish harvesting, drinking water, primary contact (swimming), and secondary contact (boating). Water quality standards are reviewed and revised every three years as required by Section 303(c) of the CWA.

Water Classifications and Standards
Antidegradation Process for New and Expanding Discharges
Antidegradation Process for Other Activities

7. The process for assuring adequate controls over the disposition of all residual waste from any water treatment processing. Residual waste is the solid material, or sludge, remaining after wastewater sewage treatment. Disposal and use of sludge is regulated by the Bureau as part of the NPDES or land application permitting process.

8. The process for inventory and ranking in order of priority of needs for construction of waste treatment works required to meet the applicable requirements of sections 301 and 302 of the Act.

The CWA requires that states develop a method to determine which projects will be most likely to enhance water quality. These projects will be first in line for funding. Initially, publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities (POTWs) were the only projects considered. Now, however, NPS pollution is recognized as a major contributor to water quality problems, and projects to control it are considered and ranked as well. The states, along with EPA, have developed a framework used to rank these projects. South Carolina’s Integrated Priority Ranking System for Wastewater and Nonpoint Source Projects describes the process.

9. The process for determining the priority of permit issuance.

Permits are issued in the order in which the application packages are received and processed by the Bureau. NPDES permits are issued for a period of up to five years and all of the permits in a particular watershed are scheduled to expire at the same time. This system allows any water quality issues occurring in the basin to be addressed efficiently at the time of renewal by making any necessary modifications to the affected permits at the same time. The processes for permit issuance, and renewal are described in the following documents:

Permit renewal information
NPDES Permit Program Detailed Permit Process
Watershed management program

Other Continuing Planning Process Issues


The rate of stormwater runoff is increased in urban areas by the presence of impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, rooftops, and by the removal of vegetation during construction activities. Stormwater runoff transports silt and other pollutants to rivers, streams and lakes and can be a major contributor to water quality degradation. DHEC administers a Sediment, Erosion, and Stormwater Management Program to protect the state’s waters from the effects of stormwater runoff.


Groundwater may be contaminated by activities occurring on the land’s surface, by leakage from underground storage tanks and by saltwater intrusion into aquifers. Contaminated groundwater may make its way into wells, rivers, streams and lakes, polluting them in turn.An inventory of contaminated groundwater is maintained by the Bureau. Protecting groundwater from contamination is one of the responsibilities of the Bureau, and the programs and processes designed to accomplish this are described at

The quantity as well as the quality of groundwater present in an aquifer is also important and it must be monitored and regulated. In coastal areas, excessive withdrawals may cause salt water to enter the aquifer rendering it unfit for use. DHEC’s Groundwater Use and Reporting Program regulates capacity use of groundwater in affected areas.

Dredge and Fill

Dredging and discharging dredged materials are federally regulated activities. Section 401 of the CWA requires states to certify any federally permitted operations that have the potential to have an adverse effect on water quality. The certification process allows the state to assure that the project adheres to applicable effluent limits and water quality standards.

Source Water Protection

The Safe Drinking Water Act provides the authority to protect sources of drinking water. As a result of the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, source water protection has become a national priority. States are required to develop a plan for the assessment of source waters for all federally defined public groundwater and surface water systems.