A stormwater notice of violation is a formal notification issued by regulatory agencies or local authorities to property owners or businesses for non-compliance with stormwater management regulations. These statements generally include:

  • Which stormwater ordinance was violated
  • The time and date of the observed offense
  • Actions that must be taken to remediate the problem

A stormwater notice of violation can be thought of as a wake-up call from a regulatory agency. It’s an alert that an entity has violated stormwater management rules, which are there to safeguard our waterways and natural ecosystems. When a business receives this notice, it’s not just a fine or a warning. It’s a signal that something needs to change, and fast.

Failure to address these notices isn’t just bad for the planet. It can lead to a world of legal complications that may include regulatory fines, court actions, or mandates to retrofit or improve outdated infrastructure. Companies that address these notices promptly eliminate the risk of costly legal action and showcase their commitment to maintain environmental practices.

Common Causes of Stormwater Violations

A stormwater notice of violation is usually triggered by one of several practices commonly flagged by regulators:

Failure to Obtain Permits

Starting construction or land development activities without having obtained necessary permits from regulators may result in a violation. Permits are typically required for activities like excavation, soil disturbance, or installation of stormwater control measures. They ensure compliance with regulations and environmental standards. Per the U.S. Clean Water Act, any entity that discharges pollutants into waterways must obtain an EPA-issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Here in Virginia, the NPDES program is administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality under the state-specific name Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES). All businesses and property owners in the state must receive a VPDES permit before they discharge any pollutants.

Improper Disposal of Pollutants

The practice of discharging pollutants such as chemicals, oils, sediment, or debris into storm drains, water bodies, or the stormwater system without the pollutants undergoing proper treatment is a serious violation. These pollutants are regulated because of their deleterious impact on our waterways’ delicate ecological balance. Companies that violate the agreed-upon discharge limits set in their permits may face EPA scrutiny and receive a stormwater notice of violation.

Lack of Stormwater Management Practices

Failure to implement adequate stormwater management practices on construction sites, industrial facilities, or developed properties is a common cause of violations. These missteps may include inadequate erosion control measures, improper storage of materials, or insufficient stormwater infrastructure to prevent runoff.

Neglecting Maintenance of Stormwater Infrastructure

Stormwater management facilities, such as retention ponds, swales, or detention basins, must be undergo regular maintenance. Failure to perform this upkeep may lead to violations because the accumulation of debris, sediment, or vegetation in these structures impedes their function. Poor structure performance increases runoff and its associated environmental impact.

Non-Compliance with Regulations

Failure to adhere to specific stormwater regulations, guidelines, or permit conditions set forth by the EPA can result in violations. For example, if a company exceeds allowable pollutant discharge limits, ignores erosion control requirements, or disregards reporting and monitoring obligations, it most likely has violated an EPA regulation.

Ignoring Notice of Violations

A stormwater notice of violation isn’t just a warning. If a company Ignores or delays a response, this can escalate the situation and result in further penalties or enforcement actions. The quickest way to get out of the weeds and avoid further penalties is to promptly address and resolve identified deficiencies.

Inadequate Training or Awareness

Lack of awareness or training among property owners, businesses, or construction personnel regarding stormwater management requirements and best practices may lead to a notice of violation. To prevent inadvertent non-compliance, educate stakeholders and provide proper training for all personnel.

Implications of Stormwater Violations

Stormwater violations can lead to hefty consequences for property owners and businesses. The implications of these violations can result in financial, legal, environmental, and reputational risks:

  • Financial Impact: A stormwater notice of violation can lead to severe financial consequences for businesses and property owners, including fines, penalties, and even higher costs associated with required remediation efforts. Regulatory agencies may impose fines that accumulate daily during ongoing periods of non-compliance. Additionally, entities may be liable for the expenses to clean up environmental damage and implement new stormwater management solutions to prevent future violations.
  • Legal and Compliance Risks: Stormwater violations may trigger a range of enforcement actions from regulatory bodies and lead to temporary or permanent shutdown of operations. Combined with the possibility of lawsuits from governmental entities, environmental organizations, or affected individuals, violations may require a substantial diversion of resources from core business activities to address compliance issues and litigation.
  • Environmental Damage: Improper stormwater management can have devastating effects on the environment, including water pollution that degrades aquatic ecosystems and harms wildlife. The release of hazardous chemicals into water bodies through stormwater runoff can lead to a decline in biodiversity, destruction of habitats, and significant disruptions to local ecosystems. These environmental impacts underscore the critical importance of adhering to stormwater regulations to protect natural resources.
  • Reputational Risks: The repercussions of stormwater violations extend beyond financial and legal consequences to include potential damage to a company’s public image and reputation. Such violations can erode trust among consumers, communities, and investors and impact a company’s brand value and market position. Sustainable practices and compliance with environmental regulations are increasingly important to stakeholders. These make environmental stewardship a key component of a company’s reputation management strategy.

The Importance of Proactive Measures

The best way to sidestep the issue of violations altogether is to become proactive. These steps often involve implementing stormwater management best practices to improve operations. Regularly inspect and maintain stormwater systems or invest in staff training on compliance requirements. Engage early with regulators, apply for permits early, and conduct regular environmental audits to identify potential compliance issues before they escalate into violations.

Simple Solutions to Prevent Stormwater Violations

Prevent violations with proper stormwater management practices, obtain necessary permits, conduct regular inspections and maintenance, and stay informed about regulatory requirements.

  1. Obtain and Comply with Permits: Be sure that NPDES/VPDES permits are obtained and that all activities comply with the terms of these permits.
  2. Regular Facility Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of facilities and stormwater management systems to identify and address potential issues before they lead to problems.
  3. Implement Stormwater Management Best Practices: Adopt and maintain healthy management practices for stormwater management: install sediment control devices, provide proper storage of hazardous materials, and conduct regular maintenance of stormwater infrastructure.
  4. Employee Training: Provide ongoing training for employees on stormwater regulations, pollution prevention, and the proper handling of materials to minimize the risk of stormwater contamination.
  5. Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP): Develop and implement a comprehensive SWPPP that identifies potential sources of pollution and outlines measures to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff.
  6. Record Keeping and Documentation: Keep detailed records of inspections, maintenance activities, training sessions, and compliance efforts to demonstrate adherence to stormwater regulations and permits.
  7. Regular Monitoring and Reporting: Conduct regular monitoring of stormwater discharges and submit required reports to regulatory agencies in a timely manner; document compliance and the effectiveness of stormwater management practices.

When You Get a Notice, Respond Promptly

While receiving a notice of violation can be a concern, it’s important to move fast and address the issue right away. The first step is to take stock of the situation to understand the nature and extent of the violation. Review operational procedures, evaluate environmental impact, and communicate with regulators.

The next step is to identify corrective measures. Pinpoint exactly what changes will rectify the violation and prevent future occurrences. Whether the situation calls for an upgrade of equipment, revision of protocols, or enhancing training programs, the aim is to address the root cause of the problem. Collaborate with professionals who have experience with effective stormwater management, which can speed up remediation efforts and prevent violation notices from escalating into more serious problems.

Companies like Rock Hard Excavation specialize in stormwater compliance and can offer insights into regulatory standards, best practices, and innovative solutions for environmental management. This is often the quickest way to bring a facility up to code whenever the EPA comes knocking. Better yet, these partners can help companies refine their mitigation plans to make sure that future operations don’t result in further violations.

Long-Term Benefits of Stormwater Compliance

The immediate benefit of improving stormwater management is clear: prevent a stormwater notice of violation from darkening the company doorstep. But the good practices established here can pay dividends in the long run, particularly when the full range of environmental and operational benefits are considered:

  • Environmental Protection: Stormwater compliance safeguards water bodies from pollution, which leads to cleaner rivers, lakes, and oceans. The downstream effects include preservation of aquatic ecosystems and better maintenance of our region’s natural wildlife habitats. It also has an impact on sustainability and the availability of water resources over time. Companies that prioritize good practices minimize harmful runoff and boost water conservation efforts across the board.
  • Legal Protection: Naturally, compliance with stormwater regulations makes it less likely a property will get hit with fines or associated litigation related to environmental damage. Stormwater management best practices serve as proactive measures that support public health and the financial health of the business in question.
  • Higher Property Values: Properties that adhere to stormwater compliance regulations tend to be more attractive to potential buyers as it demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship. Best practices here can prevent property damage like flooding and erosion and can help maintain or improve property values over time.
  • Better Community Reputation: If a company makes environmental compliance a priority, this boosts its reputation within the community and shows a commitment to our natural ecosystem. It strengthens relationships with local governments and contributes to collective efforts toward public health.

If you’ve received a stormwater notice of violation, don’t panic. Rock Hard Excavating has the experience and expertise to remediate the issue and bring you up to code. To discuss a potential violation or any other stormwater management issue, get in touch for a consultation.