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FAQ - Stormwater regulations for Construction

Does my site need a SWMP?

Projects that expose one acre or more of soil due to construction activity such as grading, clearing, or grubbing need a State of Colorado Stormwater Discharge Permit and a Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP).

Projects that are smaller than an acre, but part of a common plan of development will also need both a permit and a SWMP. Examples of “common plan of development” include lots in a larger subdivision or retail lots that are part of a larger project.

If I need a permit and a SWMP, what else is required to implement them?

Two basic requirements exist:
1.) The State will require that you implement your SWMP by installing and maintaining Best Management Practices (BMPs) over the life of your project.
2.) The State will require that you routinely inspect your project to ensure compliance with the plan you created, and that inspections also occur after rain or snow events (subject to change because the state requirements are under review in 2018).

What is a Best Management Practice or BMP?

A BMP is any practice, decision, or device that is used to limit or reduce pollutants leaving the construction project. Most often, when we say BMP, we mean devices like silt fence, erosion control blankets, wattles, or inlet protection, for example.

What is the difference between a GESC and a SWMP?

A Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control plan (GESC) is a city or county requirement for construction projects which is aimed at meeting local pollution control requirements that are above and beyond the State requirements.

A Stormwater Mangement Plan (SWMP) is a document and plan that help meet State level requirements to control erosion, sediment, and pollutants at a construction site. A SWMP contains a narrative (text based) description of the project and the methods that will be used to control pollution, along with a map of the project showing the location and the phasing of Best Management Practices used to control pollution.

If I have a GESC do I need a SWMP?

The GESC and the SWMP satisfy two different requirements. Having a GESC to satisfy the local pollution prevention requirement, does NOT satisfy the State requirement, and vice versa. IF your city or county requires a GESC, you will end up needing a SWMP as well. If written well, they will not require a lot of extra work to implement both, but you will still need both plans in the case of inspection.

What is SWPPP?

A Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is essentially the same thing as a SWMP, but the term is used for federal projects and by several other states. In Colorado we use the term SWMP (commonly called a “swamp”)

Can my SWMP be changed to meet changing needs on my project?

YES! One of the purposes of the recurring inspections is to verify that the SWMP is meeting the objective of keeping pollutants on site and out of the waterways. If the plan is not working you can and should update the SWMP. If you are using a trusted inspection partner (like Summit!) they will alert you if your plan needs to be updated, and get your approval prior to making any changes.

Who can create a SWMP or GESC plan for me?

Civil Engineers are certainly qualified, and they know the project well. Stormwater Compliance specialists like Summit are also well qualified, and we would argue that our SWMP writers have more experience than most Civil Engineers because of our specialization in this niche. We would also recommend having the same company prepare the SWMP and perform inspections to ensure consistency and manage the cost of compliance.

What is difference between a routine third party inspection and a regulatory inspection?

Part of the State requirement for stormwater permit holders is performing inspections at regular intervals. The State requires bi-weekly scheduled inspections along with post-storm inspections (note: possibly changing to weekly in 2018 when Colorado requirements may change under a new federal permit). These may be performed by the project owner (or PM or site Super) or by a third party inspection company like Summit. We call these “routine” inspections to distinguish them from regulatory inspections. Regulatory inspections may be done by the State, county, or city, but the important distinction is that the entity that issued the permit, and has some enforcement power, is there to confirm that your project is being run in a manner that is consistent with your SWMP or GESC.

How often should I expect a regulatory inspection?

This varies greatly. The State inspects about 10% of their projects in a year, so it is possible that you never see them during active construction. On the other hand, that is about 400 to 500 State of Colorado inspections a year. Cities and counties tend to have much more frequent drop in inspections. Depending on the project, you may see them once or twice a month, or they may increase or decrease their visits based on your compliance levels. However, there is a lot of variation between cities and their planned frequency of inspections.

What are the possible enforcement actions for non-compliance?

The State of Colorado uses a legal process that is quite slow. If you have a State visit, and they note “deficiencies” you will get a written report, then you take action to correct the items, then provide documentation of compliance. That may be the end of the process, or you may get a follow up visit. IF you do not respond adequately, and the State believes you have allowed pollution to happen and not responded appropriately, the State will, essentially, sue for compliance. Many times a settlement is possible, but the whole process is slow, painful, and if your first response is deemed inadequate, it is time to call in the legal team.

Cities and counties use more direct enforcement actions. Because they are also your source for building permits, Certificates of Occupancy, water taps, etc, they have a lot of leverage. After a warning or two, you may experience a stop work order until you achieve compliance, or they may withhold a C/O or a water tap or other necessary permit to ensure that you get your site back on track.

What should I do to prepare for a State regulatory inspection?

Check out our ebook for dozens of specific actions you can take before, during, and after a State inspection. A proper answer will take far more space than we have here.

Can i wait until a regulatory inspection to bring by site into compliance?

Well, you can…but you shouldn’t. Summit believes that proactive compliance is the most affordable approach to compliance. Take the necessary steps to get a permit, a SWMP, install your BMPs and maintain them. This obviously requires some investment, but most often the proactive compliance approach is more cost effective than waiting for enforcement and the responding belatedly. We’ve seen projects who did nothing, or did the bare minimum, until an inspection was pending. This requires rapid mobilization, last minute scrambling for paperwork, and pushing pause on other construction activities to prepare. Typically this is an expensive approach that yields substandard results, and even if you get your site in order, your paper trail will show a pattern of non-compliance. Be proactive, your planet deserves it.

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