The 3P’S of NPDES Permitting

View of a city on water

Whether you are a new facility that is planning on obtaining a new NPDES Permit for discharge of your wastewater or stormwater to a “waters of the U.S”, or an existing facility that is planning on renewing their existing NPDES Permit, you will never go astray if you follow the three P’s of NPDES Permitting:  Planning, Preparing, and Participating


The Planning Stage is the first and most important step in the NPDES Permitting process.  Though a completed NPDES Permit Application is due to the regulator 6 months prior to NPDES Permit expiration for existing facilities planning on renewing their permits, and from 9 to 12 months prior to discharge for new facilities planning on obtaining a new permit, the Planning Stage is recommended before the application is even started. 

For most existing facilities, it is recommended that the Planning Stage start 6 months prior to starting the permit application.  For new facilities, it is recommended that the Planning Stage start 12 to 18 months prior to starting the permit application. The Planning Stage includes: 

  • Evaluating your existing operations and production rates and if they changed during the previous permit timeframe.  The permit application you will provide will represent what is estimated for your business in the next permit term, so this step is very important so that you will have a permit that you can comply with based on your near future operation and production rates. 
  • Evaluating your existing data and monitoring requirements.  You will need to provide a summary of this data and will likely need to provide results from additional permit application-required sampling.  The Planning Stage allows you to properly evaluate and summarize this data to make sure that future compliance can be achieved. 
  • Evaluating new regulatory requirements.  New regulatory requirements may impact your new or renewed permit in many ways, from requiring additional monitoring to additional or more strict effluent limits.  Knowing this prior to preparing and submitting the permit will help you and your business plan for future compliance requirements. 
  • Evaluating similar permits approved during your previous permit term.  Similar permits from a similar industry within your regulatory state can provide you with needed information in what your new or renewed permit conditions you may also be required to comply with.  Knowing this beforehand is a necessary step in your planning process. 
  • Evaluating if you need upgraded or new wastewater treatment facilities.  Depending on the regulatory authority, a separate permit authorization may be required for the construction of wastewater treatment facilities.  Since this permit will be required before construction can commence, this permit may be required earlier than a new NPDES Permit.

As part of the Planning Stage, a pre-application planning meeting may also be warranted with the regulatory authority prior to preparing the application.


The Preparing Stage is the second step in the NPDES Permitting process.  The Preparing Stage consists of preparing and submitting the application for regulatory review.  For most facilities, it is recommended that the Preparing Stage start 3 months prior to the submittal date of the permit application, which is 6 months prior to permit expiration for existing facilities and 9 to 12 months prior to the start of discharge for new facilities.  The Preparing Stage includes completing the necessary regulatory-required forms associated information required by the individual regulatory authority.  For many facilities, these forms are requiring similar information that is provided for other permits, such as those required under Title V Air Permitting.  Therefore, the applications previously submitted should be consulted so that similar information that has been previously submitted can be utilized.  It should also be noted that information being provided to the regulatory authority is publicly available information, so any information that is provided as part of the regulatory-required forms should be carefully reviewed by all levels of management before being submitted. 


The Participating Stage is the third and second most important part of the NPDES Permitting process.  The Participating Stage is extremely important for new facilities since discharges are required by a set timeframe and therefore, delays in the issuance of a new permit authorization is not an option.  Because existing facilities can operate on an administratively extended existing NPDES Permit, the Participating Stage is less time-dependent, but still important.  It is recommended that the Participating Stage include:

  • Participating in Post-Submittal Application meeting or conference call with the regulatory authority to review the submitted permit application.  The Post-Submittal Application meeting or conference call gives you the opportunity to build an initial contact relationship with the regulator reviewing your application, provide you the opportunity to discuss your specific operations, discuss next steps and your needed timeframes for review and authorization, and any additional information that the regulatory may need. 
  • Following up on regular intervals to inquire about permit application review and if additional information is needed.  The regular intervals are important to keep the regulatory reviewing you permit informed of changing timeframes, and to keep you permit review in the regulator review schedule. 
  • Requesting a draft permit for review and comments PRIOR to the permit-required 30-day public notice period.  During the public notice period, you and the public can comment on the requirements of the draft permit.  A draft permit for comments PRIOR to this 30-day public notice period will provide you an opportunity to review the permit without the public seeing your comments. 
  • Carefully reviewing the final permit terms and requirements.  You will have about two weeks after permit issuance to request an appeal of certain conditions if you are unable to achieve compliance.  Keep in mind that new permit limits will likely include a compliance schedule that will allow you time to plan to meet them, so you will not have to demonstrate compliance immediately. 

With the 3-P’s, you should be well on your way to obtaining a new or renewed permit that allows your operations to continue without interruption or compliance issues.