EPA Electronic Reporting Rule Finalized...
...Includes Biosolids Reports
The New Rule
According to an EPA press release, "on September 24, 2015, Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule for publication in the Federal Register.... This rule will replace most paper-based Clean Water Act (CWA) NPDES permitting and compliance monitoring reporting requirements with electronic reporting.... This regulation will help provide greater clarity on who is and who is not in compliance and enhances transparency by providing a timelier, complete, more accurate, and nationally-consistent set of data about the NPDES program. This final rule will likely be published in the Federal Register sometime in October." It goes into effect 60 days after publication.
"The rule requires that NPDES regulated entities electronically submit the following permit and compliance monitoring information instead of using paper reports:
- Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs);
- Notices of Intent to discharge in compliance with a general permit; and
- Program reports.
"...Importantly, while the rule changes the method by which information is provided (i.e., electronic rather than paper-based), it does not increase the amount of information required from NPDES regulated entities facilities under existing regulations."
The new rule covers biosolids reporting under 40 CFR Part 503 (the EPA biosolids regulations), requiring electronic submittal of Biosolids Annual Reports for land application, surface disposal, and incineration.
"One year after the effective date of the final rule, all NPDES regulated entities in states where EPA is the authorized NPDES biosolids program... (includes all states in the NEBRA region) "...must electronically submit their Sewage Sludge/Biosolids Annual Program Report to EPA.... "EPA estimates there are 4,209 major facilities and 694 non-major facilities that file annual biosolids reports and will need to do so electronically in the future."
In response to comments and suggestions from certain states during the public comment period, EPA is providing some states with more time to electronically collect, manage, and share data – up to five years instead of two years as initially proposed. This means that in states that conduct the biosolids regulatory program (delegated by EPA: AZ, OH, MI, OK, SD, TX, UT, WI), NPDES regulated facilities have until 5 years after the effective date of the final rule to submit data electronically to EPA; in the interim, they will continue to submit reports to their state agency.
In the appendices of the new rule, summary tables identify all the NPDES program data fields that must be reported – now electronically – including the name and description of the data, a citation to the Clean Water Act or regulation that requires the reporting, and a reference to which particular NPDES-regulated operation or facility (e.g. a biosolids operation) must report the data. The biosolids reporting requirements listed include:
- Biosolids/Sewage Sludge Management Facility Type
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Treatment Processes (Permit)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Form (Permit)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Management Practice (Permit)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Pathogen Class (Permit)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Vector Attraction Reduction Options (Permit)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Pathogen Reduction Options (Permit)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Amount (Permit)
- Deficiencies Identified Through the Biosolids/Sewage Sludge Compliance Monitoring
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Treatment Processes
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Analytical Methods
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Form
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Management Practice
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Pathogen Class
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Amount (Program Report)
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Pathogen Reduction Options
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Vector Attraction Reduction Options
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge Monitored Parameter, as well as the Value and Units and End Date
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge - Surface Disposal Maximum Allowable Pollutant Concentration
- Biosolids or Sewage Sludge - Land Application or Surface Disposal Deficiencies
History of the Rule & What to Expect Next
"EPA proposed the e-reporting rule in July of 2013 with a public comment period. According to the agency, "since then, EPA has held over more than [sic] 70 technical and individual meetings with states to review the electronic reporting provisions and to identify any issues requiring resolution. In addition, EPA held over 50 webinars and meetings with over 1,200 stakeholders to discuss the rulemaking. EPA will continue collaborating with states as they enhance their electronic reporting capabilities to support the rule’s implementation. Over the next few months, EPA will schedule trainings and outreach webinar sessions for states and regulated entities to provide an overview of the final rule, and the next steps for implementing electronic reporting."
Once the new electronic reporting rule is in effect, “EPA will separately calculate the electronic reporting participation rate for each authorized NPDES program and for DMRs [discharge monitoring reports] and the Sewage Sludge/Biosolids Annual Program Reports. EPA will assess the electronic reporting participation rate for individually permitted facilities separate from the electronic reporting participation rate for general permit covered facilities for DMRs.” This EPA monitoring of compliance with the rule will be conducted "18 months after the effective date of the rule and every year thereafter."