SWPPP Civil Engineering


In general, constructions sites involve various construction and earth-disturbing activities. This increases their chance of generating stormwater pollutants and sediments. As stormwater flows over construction sites, it accumulates sediments, chemicals, and debris. These sediments are eventually discharged into the nearby water bodies.

This can affect the water quality, especially if it’s not untreated. For instance, it will render the water unsafe for swimming, fishing, and drinking.

To minimize stormwater pollution, some construction projects require an SWPPP! Typically, any construction project that disturbs 1 acre or more, should have an SWPPP. Otherwise, the property owner will incur penalties for violating Stormwater pollution requirements.

Wait, what’s an SWPPP in the first place? More importantly, what is some of the SWPPP requirements in California? Worry not! In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about SWPPP.

Now, let’s get started!

What’s SWPPP?

SWPPP stands for Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. It’s a site- and a project-specific document describing measures of reducing runoff pollution.

The plan determines the potential sources of runoff pollution at the site. It also describes the measures set on the site to prevent pollution from the project. Moreover, it demonstrates the procedures that comply with the Construction general permit. Lastly, it suggests the BMPs (best management practices) for preventing environmental pollution. Some of these practices may include; Diversion dikes, silt fences, and inlet protection.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what an SWPPP is, why is it so important? Let’s find out!

Importance of an SWPPP? Why do you need one in California?

The objective of SWPPPs is to create strategies that meet stormwater regulations. This helps project owners to avoid penalties and charges imposed for non-compliance. Stormwater guidelines reduce runoff water pollution linked to construction activities.

An SWPPP also helps the EPA to improve and preserve water quality. The Environmental Protection Agency achieves this by regulating institutions that discharge polluted water.

If the contaminants enter a municipal sewer system, NPDES and SWPPP s aren’t required. However, the facility discharging the pollutants must consult with the local water authority. This is because most municipalities have pre-treatment requirements and volume limits. Some authorities may prohibit the discharge of certain pollutants into their sewer system. Note, NPDES is the acronym for National Pollutants Discharge Elimination System.

Moving on, an SWPPP allows you to minimize the harmful impact of your site on the environment. Best of all, it will help the contractor in the following ways;

  • Provides reporting and inspection procedures
  • Describes the BMPs for reducing contaminants in run-off discharges from the site.
  • Ensures compliances with the general construction permit’s terms & conditions
  • Outlines the potential sources of runoff pollution from the site.

What does a Strom Water Pollution Prevention Plan contain?

An SWPPP focuses on the proactive procedures set to minimize water pollution. But, as you know, even the best plan can fail sometimes. Therefore, it must include the list of equipment and procedures that will be used in case of a discharge. To sum things up, and SWPPP should contain the following details;

  • Site description

The site description should include the address and name of the construction project. On top of that, it should include a site map and a description of the activities taking place there.

A site map shows the size and the geographic location of the project. It should also show how surface runoff flows from the site. These details provide outside responders with a general perspective of the site layout. This will enable them to help your construction site in case of an emergency.

  • Stormwater pollution team

This plan should’ve names and positions of the people responsible for pollution prevention. The team ensures that the procedure and BMPs listed on the SWPPP are followed. Also, they can take part in adopting the necessary corrective procedures. Note, every member of the stormwater prevention team should’ve access to the SWPPP.

  • Employee Training

The plan should also document and implement a training program for the employees. It informs them about the BMPs and stormwater pollution prevention procedures. You can incorporate it into other training programs like spill response, SPCC, or RCRA. Trained employees should understand their role in averting stormwater pollution.

  • Inspection & Monitoring

Permits demonstrate the parameters, frequency, and strategies of monitoring runoff outflows. This ensures that the discharged pollutants don’t exceed the outflow limitations. Monitoring can be continuous or done twice a year. But that will depend on the established effluent and pollutant limitations.

In most states, construction sites must track the reports of their monitoring process. This report should then be submitted to the relevant authority to ascertain compliance. Every state has requirements to self-disclose on non-compliances.

On top of routine monitoring, constructions sites must perform periodic inspections. This will ensure that the procedures and control measures are still being implemented.

  • Potential sources of Runoff water pollution

The plan should include all outdoor areas where spills and leaks could occur. More notably, it must identify areas where materials exposed to rain are stored. Uncovered loose materials stored outdoors are among the main causes of runoff sediments.

The document should also include any significant spill that has happened in the past 3 years. Fuel leaks can occur from machinery, equipment, and vehicles. As the runoff flows over surfaces where leaks have occurred, it carries fuel and oil products.

  • Control Measures, BMPs & schedules

Every activity that causes pollution should have at least 1 control measure. The SWPPP should document the proposed control measures. Also, it should describe how the measure will prevent the discharge of contaminants.

Effluent limits are the amount of the pollutant that can be discharged into the water. These limits can either be water quality- or technology-based. They’re usually contained in a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. But, if they’re not prescribed, you can adopt other procedures to meet the limits.

BMPs are engineered controlled devices or procedures used to minimize stormwater pollution. These practices should be implemented regularly on a construction site. A good example of BMP is using soil stabilizers and silt fences to minimize sediment and erosion. Minimizing non-stormwater discharge is also part of BMPs.

  • Spill Response plans

The procedures and control measures in SWPPPs can prevent pollution in any circumstances. But, as we stated earlier, even the best strategies can fail. That’s where spill response plans come in! The detailed spill response plan complies with other regulatory requirements. This plan should highlight other circumstances that can cause stormwater pollution.

SWPPP Requirements in California

Storm Water Pollution Prevent Plan requirements can vary from one state to another. However, every state must meet the minimum federal SWPPP requirements from NPDES.

One thing you need to note though is that an SWPPP is only temporary. Simply put, it’s only intended to handle the surface runoff at the site during the construction phase. Once you complete the project, it’s concluded with an NOI (Notice of Termination).

An SWPPP is required by the local regulatory bodies before construction begins. However, this will vary depending on the local, state, and federal guidelines. Good contractors always follow and comply with SWPPP requirements.

Who creates the SWPPP?

In California, SWPPPs are certified and prepared by a QSD (Qualified SWPPP Developer). However, other SWPPP tasks like inspections can be done under the supervision of a QSD or QSP. QSP stands for Qualified SWPPP Practitioner. Both the QSP and QSD must meet various training and extensive qualification requirements.

If your project has a civil engineer, it may be more practical if the engineer is a QSD as well. The engineer will develop the SWPPP and ensure it complies with the requirements. Remember, the property owner is the LRP (Legally Responsible Person) for SWPPP compliance.

When is a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan required in California?

Projects that involve excavation, grading, and clearing of more than 1 acre need an SWPPP. This is as per the guidelines from NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System). The plan should be part of the CGP (Construction General Permit) requirements. Note, this applies to all ground-disturbing activities, including excavation and stockpiling.

How can Innodez Design & Engineering help with SWPPP?

Do you want an SWPPP for a project in California? Or perhaps you want to learn more about SWPPP in general? Either, Innodez Design & Engineering will be glad to help! Our licensed QSDs and QSPs will help you create an effective SWPPP for your site. Also, they’ll help you decide the Best Management Practices to implement.

If you’ve got an SWPPP in place already, feel free to send it to our experts. We’ll review and upgrade it to ensure the procedures meet the federal, and state requirements!

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