NPDES FAQs - National Pollution Discharge Elimination System - Questions & Answers, Guidance, Links & Downloads

NPDES FAQs
from EHSO

1. Who needs a NPDES Permit?

Any person discharging pollutants from a point source (direct industrial discharge or municipal wastewater) into the waters of the United States. The permit will probably contain limits on what you can discharge, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge does not hurt water quality.

2. Where do I apply for a NPDES permit?

In most States, the State environmental protection office issues NPDES permits. A few States haven't yet received EPA approval to issue NPDES permits, and in those States you get an permit from an EPA regional office. You may also need to get a State permit from these States.

Here is who you should contact:

EPA Headquarters: NPDES Branch - (202) 260-9541
EPA Regions
State Contacts

The States that do not have permits are:

Alaska (contact EPA Region X)
Arizona (contact Region IX)
Idaho (contact Region X)
Maine (contact Region I)
Massachusetts (contact Region I)
New Hampshire (contact Region I)
New Mexico (contact Region VI)
Texas (contact Region VI)
District of Columbia (contact Region III)
Puerto Rico (contact Region II)
Pacific Territories (contact EPA Region IX)
Federal Indian Reservations (contact the EPA Regional Office where the Tribe is located)

3. Which States have EPA's approval to issue NPDES permits?

Click here to see the status of State NPDES Programs.

4. Is it legal to have wastewater coming out of a pipe into my local receiving water (e.g.lake,stream,river,wetland)?

As long as the wastewater being discharged is covered by and in compliance with an NPDES permit, there are enough controls in place to make sure the discharge is safe and that humans and aquatic life are being protected. To find out if a discharge is covered by an NPDES permit, call the EPA Regional office or the State office responsible for issuing NPDES permits.

5. How do NPDES permits protect water?

An NPDES permit will generally specify an acceptable level of a pollutant or pollutant parameter in a discharge (for example, a certain level of bacteria). The permittee may choose which technologies to use to achieve that level. Some permits, however, do contain certain generic 'best management practices' (such as installing a screen over the pipe to keep debris out of the waterway). Make sure that the States mandatory standards for clean water and the federal minimums are being met.

6. Is there any information available to me on permits in my area?

Yes, there is a national system that provides certain permitting information called the Permits Compliance System (PCS). Click here for more information on PCS.