Jan 31st, 2024

Say Hello to The CII Permit – And Prepare for Its Arrival ASAP

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Regional Water Board's adoption meeting has been postponed u...

February 1, 2024

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Regional Water Board's adoption meeting has been postponed until after the U.S. EPA issues its final designation. For more information, CLICK HERE:

It was bound to happen.  With the assistance of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region is gearing up to adopt an entirely new General National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for storm water discharges that will impose requirements on facilities and operations previously exempt from regulation. Welcome to the extra requirements of the Commercial, Industrial Institutional (CII) permit.


Who Should Care?


Technically, everyone, but we will explain the why of that further down.  For now, the CII permit will mainly affect properties of a certain size within the Dominguez Channel/Greater Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor Watershed and the Los Cerritos Channel/Alamitos Bay Watershed.  But that’s not quite as limited as it may seem.  This includes areas as far north as Inglewood, then south to San Pedro and Long Beach, and then starting around Hollydale, stretching all the way south to Seal Beach.  This is not a small area and the EPA has already identified 640 parcels within it that will likely require the permit during this first round.


The new requirement will affect private owners of properties within those watershed areas with either:


1. more than five acres of impervious surface;

2. unpermitted facilities covered under the Industrial General Permit with five or more total acres;

3. facilities with five or more acres that have filed a No Exposure Certificate, or

4. portions of a facility excluded from a Notice off Non-Applicability with five or more acres. 


Previously exempt properties will now be brought into the world of storm water regulation. This includes commercial properties such as big box retailers like Home Depot or Best Buy, office complexes, warehouses and institutions such as schools and hospitals.  These entities likely did not need a permit for storm water discharge before but will now be required to hold one.


To explain why everyone should care: it is anticipated that while these few larger properties will be required to get the CII permit first, this first-generation permit will serve as a role model to incorporate smaller properties later.  In other words, sooner or later, hundreds of other properties will be swept into this new regulatory scheme.  Many of those will have no prior experience with storm water regulation or enforcement under the Clean Water Act.


Why Care At All, Especially If You Already Have A Permit?


The CII permit is more rigorous than the current general industrial permit that many businesses are used to.  The current version of the CII has fewer compliance options and no off-ramp to demonstrate that a property doesn’t discharge pollutants in storm water.  It is anticipated that past defenses, such as arguing that a business’s materials aren’t exposed to storm water, will no longer shield those businesses.


Also, because the CII is stricter, facilities already subject to the industrial permit will likely not avoid this permit.  If a permit holder classified areas such as parking lots and roofs as being non-industrial, these were likely excluded from industrial permit coverage.  They will need a permit now.  Those properties will either need to get the CII to cover those non-industrial areas, which means being subject to two permits with two sets of requirements, or the entire property will need to be covered under the CII.  


Do We Need ANOTHER Permit??


Turns out, despite all environmental regulations already in place, Los Angeles County watersheds are heavily polluted by zinc and copper.  While there is debate as to whether this issue has been sufficiently studied here in California, proponents of the CII permit argue that enough data exist to demonstrate that stormwater run-off from areas such as parking lots and rooftops is a major cause of this problem.  Whether the run-off comes from schools or shops or parking lots or industrial operations, they argue the end result is the same and that these sources require regulation.


Why Worry Now? 


Once the Regional Water Board adopts the CII permit, qualifying properties will have a short timeframe to select one of a few compliance options.  The only way to consider and choose the best option is for a property owner to collect sufficient data about their site to make an informed selection. That process will require at least one rainy season, and despite a currently wet winter, it’s not guaranteed that potential permittees will have those opportunities in the future. 


What Can You Do Right Now?


Written comments have already been submitted, but there’s still a chance to offer thoughts before the permit is officially adopted.  The public hearing regarding the permit’s adoption is currently scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on February 22, 2024, at 320 West 4th Street, Los Angeles, California 90013 in the Carmel Room.  To offer comments, interested people can learn more and register here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/losangeles/board_info/agenda/.  To only watch the adoption meeting, interested people can observe here: https://cal-span.org.

And if you have any questions about whether your property falls into this first permitted group or how to prepare for the future, we can offer referrals to one of our trusted consultants to help.

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