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Waste Water Construction Permitting

Detailed Description of Permitting Process for Wastewater Treatment Systems


  1. General Information
    Upgrades (Not Expansions) of Wastewater Treatment Systems

    New or Expanding Wastewater Treatment Systems

  2. Permit Process Phases
    Preliminary Engineering Report Phase

    1. Submittal Package
    2. Administrative Processing
    3. Effluent Limitations Guidelines
    4. Wasteload Allocations for Surface Water Discharges
    5. Antidegradation Considerations
    6. Sludge Considerations
    7. Coordination with other DHEC Programs and other Entities
    8. Land Disposal Permits
    9. PER Approvals and Extensions

    Effluent Disposal Permit/NPDES or Land Application System (new and expanding facilities) Phase

    1. Draft Permit
    2. Coordination with Other Entities
    3. Public Notice of Intent to Issue
    4. Review of Comments and Public Hearing
    5. Staff's Final Determination
    6. Appeal of Staff's Final Determination
    7. Appeal of Board's Final Decision

    Plans and Specifications (construction permit application) Phase

    1. Submittal Package
    2. Administrative Processing
    3. Plan Review
    4. Construction Permit Issuance

    Operational Approval Phase

    1. Construction
    2. Authorization to Place the System into Service
    3. As-built Plans

  1. General Information

    Upgrades of Wastewater Treatment Systems That Are Not Expansions

    For wastewater treatment system upgrades without an expansion, a preliminary engineering report (PER) and plans and specifications are submitted to the appropriate Section of the Bureau. These wastewater treatment system upgrade projects have multiple phases which are:

    Preliminary Engineering Report
    Plans and Specifications (construction permit application)
    Operational Approval
    Each phase must be completed via Bureau approval before the project can go to the next phase. However, depending on the complexity of the upgrade, the PER and plans and specifications may be combined and submitted together.

    New or Expanding Wastewater Treatment Systems

    For new or expanding wastewater treatment systems, a preliminary engineering report (PER), effluent disposal permit application, and plans and specifications are submitted to the appropriate Section of the Bureau. These wastewater treatment system projects have multiple phases which are:

    Preliminary Engineering Report
    Effluent Disposal Permit (NPDES or Land Application System Permit)
    Plans and Specifications (construction permit application)
    Operational Approval
    Each phase must be completed via Bureau approval before the project can go to the next phase.

    There is no application fee for a PER and while there is not an application fee for an effluent disposal permit, there are annual operating fees. The first year's fee must be paid with no proration before the effluent disposal permit can be issued. Once an effluent disposal permit is issued, fees are assessed annually to persons who hold effective permits on July 1st of each year. This includes non-operational facilities even if the facility has not been built and continues until the permit is canceled. Therefore, any facility with an active operating permit on July 1st is subject to the fee for the state Fiscal Year (July 1-June 30) with no proration of fees.

    On existing facilities, inspection for closure by DHEC personnel does not automatically cancel a permit. Cancellation of a permit does not dismiss outstanding permit fees. It is your responsibility to advise DHEC in writing of any change and/or cancellation of a permit. If possible, for facilities that close toward the end of the Fiscal Year, it is recommended that requests for cancellation be submitted to the Department at least ninety (90) days prior to July 1. This will ensure your permit is canceled before July 1 so you will not be billed the next Fiscal Year for an active permit on a facility that has closed.

    If in the future you need to cancel your permit, notify:

    NPDES/ND Permit Administration
    DHEC
    2600 Bull Street
    Columbia, SC 29201

    To be conservative, new or expansion projects should be submitted at least one year prior to the date a construction permit will be needed while upgrades should be submitted at least six months in advance. The actual review time will vary. This will depend upon the complexity of the project, whether a public hearing is required on the effluent disposal permit, whether the effluent disposal permit is appealed, and the workload of the Bureau when the project is submitted.

  2. Permit Process Phases

    Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) Phase

    A PER is required for all wastewater treatment system projects. See Regulation 61-67 for details.

    1. Submittal Package

      A complete administrative package must be submitted by an engineer registered in SC. The submittal package must include the following information:

      1. A transmittal letter outlining the submittal package.

      2. Three (3) copies of a PER prepared according to Regulation 61-67, entitled "Standards for Wastewater Facility Construction." The consulting engineer's registration stamp must be on each report.

      3. For new and expanding wastewater treatment systems, an effluent disposal permit application. For facilities with a surface water discharge, the effluent disposal permit application will be the NPDES permit application. For facilities with land application of the effluent (spray irrigation, tile field, rapid infiltration, etc.) the "Application for a Land Disposal System Permit" will be used.

      4. Three (3) copies of the report on the method of sludge disposal, if applicable.

      5. If the wastewater treatment facility has land disposal as the proposed method of effluent disposal, three (3) copies of a report on the proposed ground water monitoring program. This report should give the number and location of the existing and proposed monitoring wells. It should also contain the proposed parameters to be monitored and their frequency of analysis.

      6. Three (3) copies of an 8 ½" x 11" location map.

      The PER submittal package should be sent to the appropriate Section Manager of the Bureau at the following address: Bureau of Water
      DHEC
      2600 Bull Street
      Columbia, SC 29201

      An incomplete submittal may be returned. Therefore, please ensure the submittal package contains the correct number of copies of each item. Also, ensure the appropriate effluent disposal permit application is completely filled out and signed by the appropriate person. We recommend a preliminary conference with a member of the appropriate Section if there are any questions about the PER process.

    2. Administrative Processing

      Upon receipt of a PER, the project will normally be assigned to a member of the Section handling the project within a week of receipt. An acknowledgment letter will normally be sent to the consulting engineer. If the PER has been assigned, this letter will contain the name and telephone number of the project manager and an estimated review time. If the PER has not been assigned, the letter will give an estimated time for assignment and review.

    3. Effluent Limitations Guidelines

      For certain categories of industries, the EPA has developed effluent limitations that give the maximum allowed loading for parameters of concern for the industry based upon its production. These limitations or allowed loadings are contained in the Effluent Limitations Guidelines promulgated by the EPA as federal regulations for most categories of industries. These limitations are equivalent to secondary treatment limitations for that category of industry. The NPDES application requires the applicant to determine if effluent guidelines are applicable to their facility. The Bureau will review the applicant's determination on whether or not an Effluent Limitation Guideline exists for the category of industry being proposed.

      For a project with an Effluent Limitation Guideline that is proposing a surface water discharge, the effluent limitations will first be established using the EPA standards. Then, a wasteload allocation will be established using the procedure in the following paragraphs. The final effluent limitations will be based on the more stringent of the wasteload allocation limits or the Effluent Limitation Guideline limits.

    4. Wasteload Allocations for Surface Water Discharges

      For surface water discharges, the Bureau will establish a wasteload allocation for the receiving stream. Two regulations will be used in this procedure. Regulation 61-69, entitled "Classified Waters," lists the classification of those streams classified by name. For a stream not classified by name, Regulation 61-68, entitled "Water Classifications and Standards," establishes the stream classification. Section C, paragraph 5 of this regulation states the following: "Where surface waters are not classified by name in "Classified Waters," (Regulation 61-69), the use classification and numeric standards of the stream to which they are tributary apply, disregarding any site-specific numeric standards for that water body." Regulation 61-68 also gives the narrative and numeric standards for all waters of the state.

      Almost all surface water discharges must provide a minimum degree of treatment. For industries with a federal Effluent Limitation Guideline, the guideline will provide the minimum degree of treatment. For domestic wastewater, the minimum degree of treatment will be secondary treatment as defined by the EPA. Secondary limits for domestic wastewater on a monthly average are as follows:

      BOD5 - 30 mg/l (lagoons or trickling filters may qualify for 45 mg/l)
      Suspended Solids - 30 mg/l (lagoons may qualify for 90 mg/l, while trickling filters may qualify for 45 mg/l)
      If the secondary limitations or the Effluent Limitation Guidelines do not meet stream standards, then more stringent limitations will be established to protect the water quality of the receiving stream.

      The wasteload allocation procedure for oxygen demanding substances normally uses a computerized mathematical model of the receiving stream. This model simulates the effect of the discharge on the dissolved oxygen (DO) in the stream. Numerical effluent limits for five day BOD, ammonia, DO, total residual chlorine (TRC), etc. will be established.

      For conservative parameters, such as metals, that cause, or have the reasonable potential to cause, or contribute to a violation of water quality standards, effluent limitations for the parameter will be established using a simple mass balance approach to ensure water quality standards will not be violated. These limits will protect the water quality standards of the stream as given in Regulation 61-68.

      Also, the Bureau publication entitled "Toxics Control Strategy, An Implementation Plan for Water Quality Protection Under R.61-68 and R.61-9" will be used to establish the NPDES permit requirements on whole effluent toxicity and toxic compounds.

      Water quality data from the Bureau monitoring stations will be used, when available, in deriving effluent limits. At times more data or a detailed study will be needed to evaluate the proposed discharge. The Bureau will perform or require the permittee to perform whatever sampling or study is necessary to evaluate the proposed discharge.

      For discharges to ditches or wet weather streams, the Bureau publication entitled "Guidelines on the Acceptance Policy Governing Wastewater Discharges to Dry and Wet Weather Streams, and Dry Ditches" will be used in the review of the PER. In general, a discharge to a wet weather stream or a ditch will not be viewed favorably.

      At times a receiving stream's assimilative capacity must be allocated among discharges. For the designated 208 Planning areas of the State, the responsible COG will divide the allowed loading according to their procedures. For the non-designated areas of the State, the Bureau divides the allowed loading using a procedure for allocation of assimilative capacity which has been adopted in the State's 208 Plan for the Non-Designated Areas. For more information, please visit our NPDES WEB page on Allocation of Stream Assimilative Capacity.

    5. Antidegradation Considerations

      In accordance with Regulation 61-68, entitled "Water Classifications and Standards," proposed or expanding discharges to "high quality" surface waters can only be permitted if the Department finds, after intergovernmental coordination and public participation, that allowing lower water quality is necessary to important economic or social development in the areas where the waters are located. "High Quality" waters are those waters whose quality exceeds levels necessary to support propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife, and recreation in and on the water. Therefore, on all new or expanding discharges, the Department will conduct an antidegradation review to determine whether or not the discharge can be allowed.

    6. Sludge Considerations

      If the wastewater treatment facility will generate sludge the effluent disposal permit will indicate the approved method of sludge handling. If the approved method of sludge handling is land application, the land application requirements will be included in the effluent disposal permit. For more information, please visit our NPDES/ND WEB page on Sludge & Septage.

    7. Coordination with other DHEC Programs and other Entities

      Other DHEC staff (outside of permitting) may be involved in the project review depending on the scope of the project. Examples of programs areas include:

      Regional Office (field visits for new discharge proposals)
      Shellfish Program (evaluating impacts on shellfish harvesting)
      Recreational Waters Program (evaluating downstream regulated swimming areas)
      Drinking Water Program (evaluating water intake issues)
      For existing facilities, a review of the Bureau's wastewater treatment plant files and operating history of the facility will be conducted. This will be to see if any problems exist or if enforcement action has been or will be taken that will prevent the approval of the PER. For new discharges, the Bureau may request the permit applicant to provide a compliance history on other similar permits issued to them by other States or the EPA. A history of violations of an existing effluent disposal permit may result in a disapproval of a PER on an expansion. The decision on the preliminary approval will be made based on the severity of the problems.

      For facilities in the coastal zone, the PER review will be coordinated with DHEC's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM). An information form on the project will be sent to OCRM. They will decide whether the project is in compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan. If they need any additional information on the project, they will request it directly from the consulting engineer. While OCRM does not normally certify PERs (in contrast to permits), their input is helpful to the development of the plans and specifications.

      The PER review will be coordinated with the appropriate COG. An information form on the project will be sent to the COG. They will decide whether the project is in compliance with the approved Water Quality Management Plan (208 Plan). If they need any additional information on the project, they will request it directly from the consulting engineer. Some COGs charge the permit applicant a fee for this certification. The Bureau will normally require COG certification for an approval during the PER phase of a project.

    8. Land Disposal Permits

      For land disposal projects, the effluent limitations normally will be established as secondary. If secondary limitations will not protect the quality of the ground water, more stringent effluent limitations will be established.

      A site inspection will be conducted by the Ground Water Quality Section of the Bureau to confirm the suitability of the proposed land application site. Also, this Section will review the soils characterization report and approve the construction of the ground water monitoring wells. The monitoring wells must be installed in accordance with Regulation 61-71, entitled "Well Standards and Regulations." As with surface water discharges, if Shellfish, Water Supply, and Recreational Waters are involved, comments will be received from the appropriate program area(s).

      See Section 505 of Regulation 61-9 for specific requirements on several types of land application systems.

    9. PER Approvals and Extensions

      Upon receipt of all comments and the completion of the PER review, a decision will be made. A letter of approval or disapproval will be sent to the consulting engineer and/or the permit applicant. All approvals will be conditional upon the public notice requirements of the effluent disposal permit. PER approvals will normally be valid for one hundred eighty (180) days. Also, approval of a PER is not a commitment by the Bureau to issue an effluent disposal permit or construction permit.

      If an approval expires or is within thirty (30) days from expiring, the consulting engineer can make a written request to the project manager to extend the approval. Extensions will be granted after a reevaluation of the proposed project shows the proposal is still acceptable.

    Effluent Disposal Permit Issuance Phase

    1. Draft Permit

      After approval of a PER, the appropriate effluent disposal permit will be drafted by the Bureau project manager. For surface water discharges, this permit is the NPDES permit, while, for land disposal systems, the permit is the Land Application System permit commonly called a No Discharge (ND) permit. The draft permit will contain the proposed effluent limitations, monitoring requirements, reporting requirements, and other obligations of the permittee. The draft permit will be processed according to Regulation 61-9, entitled "Water Pollution Control Permits." For more information, please visit our WEB page on the NPDES Permit Program and the Land Application Permit Program.

    2. Coordination with Other Entities

      The draft permit will be sent to the permittee and the appropriate Regional Office of EQC. They will be given twenty (20) days to comment on the draft permit. Also, major NPDES permits (as defined by the EPA) will be sent to the EPA for comments. They will be given thirty (30) days to comment on the draft permit. The comments will be reviewed and the draft permit will be modified if necessary.

    3. Public Notice of Intent to Issue

      The Bureau will then place the draft permit with an intent to issue statement on public notice for thirty (30) days. The public notice will appear in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the project. Four (4) signs will be posted in the area surrounding the discharge point or wastewater treatment facility site. Also, the Bureau will mail a copy of the public notice to persons on the Bureau's NPDES/ND mailing list. The public notice will request interested citizens, groups, etc. to send their comments on the draft permit to the Bureau. The public notice with the intent to issue statement is not a commitment by the Bureau to issue the proposed permit.

    4. Review of Comments and Public Hearing

      After the public notice period, the Bureau will review the comments received. If the Bureau does not receive comments, the Bureau staff will review the project file and decide to issue or deny the proposed permit. If the Bureau receives comments and they show significant cause or sufficient public interest, a public hearing will be held.

      A public notice announcing the public hearing will be published in the same newspaper used to publish the intent to issue the draft permit. Also, everyone who sent a comment to the Bureau will receive a copy of the public notice on the hearing. The public notice on the hearing will give at least a thirty (30) day notice on the date of the hearing. It also will contain the time and place of the hearing. Normally, the public hearing will be held in the evening in the general area of the proposed project.

      At the public hearing, the Bureau will present the draft permit and the preliminary decision. The permittee will be given the opportunity to make a brief oral presentation. The public will then have the opportunity to make comments. A court reporter will record the hearing and provide the Bureau a copy of the hearing transcript. This transcript will be available for review by the public.

    5. Staff's Final Determination

      Bureau staff will review the project file, the hearing record (if a hearing was held), and any other documents or information necessary to make a final determination. Based on this review, a final determination will be made by Bureau staff to:

      Issue the permit as proposed,
      Issue the permit with modifications, or
      Deny the permit.

    Plans and Specifications (Construction Permit Application) Phase

    Submittal of a set of plans and specifications as part of the application for a permit to construct is given below and then described.

    1. Submittal Package

      A complete administrative package must be submitted by an engineer registered in SC. The submittal package must include the following information:

      1. A transmittal letter outlining the submittal package.

      2. Three (3) sets of plans and specifications stamped by the consulting engineer.

      3. The original application for permit to construct properly filled out with the appropriate signatures and two (2) copies.

      4. Three (3) copies of the easements necessary to build the project. This is not needed if the project is owned by a public entity with the right of eminent domain.

      5. Three (3) copies of the appropriate design calculations including flow and pump station calculations with the pump curves.

      6. Three (3) copies of an 8 ½" x 11" location map. This should be separate from the plans. Therefore, even if there is a location map on the plans there still needs to be a separate map on an 8 ½" x 11" sheet of paper with two (2) copies.

      7. One (1) overall layout sheet separate from the plans. This layout must show the wastewater treatment plant in relation to existing streets. This sheet will be sent to the Development Board when the project is permitted.

      8. The appropriate fee as given in Regulation 61-30, entitled, "Environmental Protection Fees.

      The submittal package should be sent to the attention of the appropriate Section Manager of the Bureau at the following address:

      Bureau of Water
      DHEC
      2600 Bull Street
      Columbia, SC 29201

      An incomplete submittal may be returned. Therefore, please ensure the submittal package contains the correct number of copies of each item with proper signatures.

    2. Administrative Processing

      The review of construction projects will be on a "first come/first serve" basis by each program area. Therefore, construction plans and specifications will be reviewed in chronological order based on the submittal date of the complete package. Upon receipt of a construction permit application package, the project will be placed in line for review.

      An acknowledgment letter will normally be sent to the consulting engineer for the project. For a complete submittal, this letter will usually give an estimated time before the project will be assigned to a member of the Section handling the project for review. Normally, the reviewer of the PER will also review the plans and specifications.

      Also, for a complete submittal, the requests for comments from the entities involved in the permitting process will be sent when the project is initially received. The requests will be sent to the appropriate Regional Office of EQC, the appropriate Council of Governments, and OCRM for projects in coastal counties.

    3. Plan Review

      When a project is assigned to a reviewer, the project will be reviewed on a technical and administrative basis. The administrative review will involve ensuring the Bureau coordinates with the appropriate entities besides the entities already requested to provide comments when the project was initially received.

      On an upgrade of an existing facility without an expansion where the PER and plans and specifications are submitted together, a review of the Bureau's WWTP files will be conducted to see if any problems exist or if any type of enforcement action has been or will be taken that will prevent the issuance of a construction permit.

      The technical review will be done using criteria in Regulation 61-67 and, as appropriate, criteria in "Recommended Standards for Sewerage Works'" (commonly called "Ten State Standards"), EPA design manuals, EPA Development Documents and standard reference books commonly used in the field of wastewater treatment.

    4. Construction Permit Issuance

      When the project meets all administrative and technical requirements, a construction permit will be issued. The original permit will be sent to the project owner and a copy will be sent to the consulting engineer.

      The construction permit will have two expiration dates. The first date will be the expiration date if construction does not start by the specified date. Normally, this date will be one year after the date of issue. The second expiration date will be the expiration date if construction is not completed by the specified date. Normally, this date will be two years from the date of issue. However, either of these dates may be coordinated with the Bureau's Enforcement Section, as appropriate. In any case, an enforceable schedule in an order or effluent disposal permit dictates.

    Operational Approval Phase

    1. Construction

      After the Bureau issues the construction permit, the project can be built. The consulting engineer will perform construction inspections as required by the application for permit to construct. Also, DHEC may perform construction inspections.

    2. Authorization to Place the System into Service

      When construction is complete, the consulting engineer will send a letter to the appropriate Regional Office of EQC certifying the project is built according to the permitted plans and specifications. Also, additional items may need to accompany the letter of construction certification such as:

      1. A copy of the record drawings.
      1. A letter of final acceptance for ownership, operation and maintenance of the system from the appropriate entity.

      2. When applicable, a letter from OCRM stating their certification requirements have been met.

      3. Pump test results, if applicable.

      Contact the applicable EQC Regional Office to obtain specific details on a submission package.

    3. As-built Plans

      If construction is not according to the approved plans and specifications but the changes are acceptable to the consulting engineer, as-built plans must be submitted to the appropriate Section for review and approval. The submittal package for as-built plans must include the items in the following box.

      This submittal package must be mailed to the appropriate Section Manager. The administrative review process for as-built plans and specifications will be essentially the same process as given in the sections entitled "Administrative Processing" and "Plan Review." However, there will normally be no coordination with the COGs, OCRM, etc. on the review and approval of as-built plans, unless a new permit is required based on the changes being significant.

      After approval of the as-built plans, the consulting engineer will send a letter to the appropriate Regional Office certifying the project is built according to the approved as-built plans and specifications. The procedures given in the section entitled "Authorization to Place the System into Service" will be followed for granting authorization to place the system into service.

      If the Bureau does not approve the as-built plans, the project must be rebuilt according to the approved plans and specifications. After the contractor rebuilds the project according to the approved plans and specifications, the consulting engineer will send a letter to the appropriate Regional Office certifying the project is built according to the approved plans and specifications. The procedures given in the section entitled "Authorization to Place the System into Service" will be followed for issuance of the final approval to operate.


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