Some farm activities require a construction storm water permit

What is a construction storm water permit?

I know the answer to this one because for the last five years it has been one of my major responsibilities as an urban technician for the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District.

A Construction Storm Water Permit is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program. This program is intended to reduce the amount of pollutants that find their way into our surface waters over time.

By reducing the amount of pollutants that enter our surface waters we improve the quality of the water we drink, swim, and fish in. This permit has been around for quite some time, and those who work in the construction or related fields are probably familiar with the Construction Storm Water Permit.

Farm connection

However, I was surprised to learn last year that much confusion still exists regarding the requirements of the Construction Storm Water Permit for Agricultural Projects (link opens .pdf.).

As of March 10, 2003, all construction activities that result in the disturbance of one or more total acres must obtain a Construction Storm Water Permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Now, keep in mind that I said “construction activities.”

Agricultural and silvicultural activities, including, orchards, cultivated crops, pastures, range lands, and forested lands, are exempt from Storm Water Regulations. However, you are required to obtain a permit to build manure storage structures, erect/demolish buildings, or build ponds that are used for anything other than irrigation, and other related construction activities.

Exemptions

Before you start complaining, there is some good news. Some activities are exempt from the permit. Conservation practices such as grassed waterways, filter strips, diversions, terraces, grade stabilization structures, and lined waterways are all exempt practices.

In addition, there are also two permit waivers that can be applied for small construction sites ranging from one to five acres with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The first waiver is for situations where little or no rainfall is expected during the construction activity. Good luck with that one in Ohio.

The second waiver is for situations where a specific analysis indicates that sediment controls are not needed on your construction site to protect water quality.

Some construction activities require further questions to determine whether or not a permit is necessary. Such construction activities might include: ditch maintenance, culvert repairs, and tree/brush removal.

If you have any questions regarding this Construction Storm Water Permit contact the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Division of Surface Water or your local Soil and Water Conservation District.

Why bother?

At a recent workshop where I did a presentation on this topic, I was asked, “If I’m working out in the middle of nowhere and it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever notice me, let alone check for my Construction Storm Water Permit, why would I even bother?”

Before I answer, here’s a quick fact.

Sediment is found to be the largest pollutant to our surface waters by volume.

Initially, all government agencies were created out of a public need. Soil and Water Conservation Districts and later the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency were no different. Both agencies were intended to protect and improve our natural resources. This is something we all benefit from.

With this in mind, my answer to this is why wouldn’t you? Your help in doing so is greatly needed and deeply appreciated.

For additional information on the permit, contact Ohio EPA, at 614-644-2001 or visit www.epa.state.oh.us/dsw/.

About the Author

Tyson Lamielle is district technician with Stark Soil and Water Conservation District. Lamielle began his career with Stark SWCD in January of 2005. He graduated from Muskingum University with a bachelor’s degree in earth science. Prior to joining the district, he worked in construction. More Stories by Tyson Lamielle

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