With construction at a virtual standstill as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home orders, many projects are faced with the dilemma of how to comply with the requirements of the Construction Stormwater General Permit (CSGP) during shut-down. Although the Washington Department of Ecology has recognized that activities may be disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor’s orders, that does not necessarily mean a free pass for permit noncompliance. Ecology’s website couches its approach as “regulatory flexibility,” and states that all applicable state requirements remain in effect. Ecology says it will exercise discretion within its authority when deciding whether to pursue potential violations that may be linked to the current pandemic. There are, however, some steps a permittee can take to protect itself.
During normal times, the CSGP requires monthly discharge monitoring reports within 15 days following the end of each month documenting the weekly turbidity or transparency sampling results and pH, if applicable where concrete or engineered soil is being placed. Where benchmarks are exceeded, the CSGP requires review and revision of the project’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, immediate implementation of source control or treatment practices within 10 days of the discharge, and documentation in the site logbook. If the discharge is outside specified turbidity standards, sampling must continue until the turbidity or transparency falls back within standards or is eliminated.
Unfortunately, these are not normal times. Ecology still recommends continued compliance, while expressing awareness that some businesses may be running into issues due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The current CSGP provides some, limited, guidance for ways to navigate the current situation.
A further example of how to approach compliance is Sound Transit’s April 3 Construction Shutdown Overview. In directing its contractors to suspend almost all construction on transit expansion projects, Sound Transit also states that the very limited work that does continue “will focus on tasks considered critical and/or necessary to ensure that sites remain safe and secure and/or to avoid mobility, environmental or other impacts.”
At the heart of the CSGP options, and Ecology’s COVID-19 recommendations, is a simple step -- permittees should reach out to Ecology directly to discuss issues relating to CSGP compliance. The one factor permittees may have going for them right now is that they are not alone, and making early, and direct, contact with the agency may be the best approach in a very difficult time.
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