Environmental Permits Handbook
National Pollutant Discharge
Persons discharging pollutants directly from point sources into surface waters of the state must obtain an NPDES discharge permit from the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control (WPC). Direct dischargers include industrial and commercial wastewater, industrial stormwater, and municipal wastewater discharges. Mining facilities and Class I Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) also require NPDES discharge permits.
Industries sending wastewater to public sewers, called publicly owned treatment works (POTW), are considered indirect dischargers, and they do not need an NPDES discharge permit. However, these industries must obtain a discharge permit from their local POTW. POTW standards and requirements are specified in local sewer ordinances. Industries that discharge to a POTW must contact their municipality to obtain a discharge permit.
Plans for treatment works may have to be prepared by an engineer licensed in the state of Tennessee. Plans must be aproved by the Division of Water Pollution Control prior to construction.
Applicants must submit application forms 180 days before (1) they plan to initiate a new discharge, (2) their existing discharge permit expires, or (3) they make a significant modification to the quantity of discharge or the nature of pollutants in an existing discharge. The following forms are required:
In most cases, topographic maps, process flow line diagrams, and extensive sampling data are required with the applications. A preliminary engineering report and treatability analysis also may be required where unusual or complex wastewater treatment systems may be needed.
If the application is incomplete or if additional information is required, the applicant will be notified. When all information has been received, the application is either approved or denied. If approved, a draft permit is prepared, and a public notice is issued. The applicant is given 25 days and the EPA is given 60 days to review and comment on the draft permit. EPA does not review all draft permits. A public hearing is held if significant interest is displayed. After considering public comments, the appropriate revisions are made, and the final permit is issued. The Division must make permit decisions within one (1) year of receipt of a complete application for major facilities and within 180 days of receipt of a complete application for minor facilities. The permit process can take from six (6) to 12 months. Normally, the permit is issued for a term of five (5) years. Under the current development phase of the WPC Watershed Initiative, however, permits may be issued for less than five (5) years to synchronize the permit expiration dates of all facilities within a given watershed. A permit may be appealed to the Water Quality Control Board within 30 days after the final permit is received.
Plan review fees vary from $250 to $1,500, depending on the design flow capacity of the facility, or the size of a mining site in acres. These fees are due with the application.
Annual Maintenance Fees vary from $500 to $7,500, depending on the volume of discharge, or the size of disturbance in acres on a mining site, and the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code of the facility.
To view fees as referenced in Rules 1200-04-11 Click Here (pdf). Fee information begins on page 7.
The applicant may proceed with the permitted activity in accordance with the established limitations on the concentration and/or mass of pollutants and all other permit requirements. The permit is transferable for a change of ownership and with the proper authorization. Minor modifications can be made administratively, but major changes require a public notice. For renewals, applications must be submitted at least 180 days before the existing permit expires. If the permittee disagrees with specific terms and conditions in the permit, the applicant may appeal to the Water Quality Control Board within 30 days of the date of issuance, provided the appealed item was addressed as part of the draft process.
The applicant is responsible for complying with all the applicable rules, regulations and permit requirements. These include meeting specified effluent limitations and fulfilling monitoring, sampling and reporting requirements to assess effluent quantity and quality (biological, chemical and physical characteristics).
The Division of Water Pollution Control has the responsibility to take all prudent steps to secure, protect and preserve the waters of Tennessee.
The Division and the EPA have the right to enter and inspect the facility and all related records at any reasonable time. They also may inspect any related equipment or monitoring methods. The Division has the right to revoke, suspend or modify any permit for violation of permit conditions.
Applications and assistance can be obtained from the Division of Water Pollution Control. New applicants who need more than one permit can contact their regional Environmental Coordinator for further assistance.
Applicants may refer to the following publications:
Tennessee Water Quality Control Act -TCA.§ 69-3-108(b)(1), (2), (3), (4), and (6)