Knowing where your floor and storm drains lead and following your facility’s drain protection procedures are vital elements for preventing water pollution and complying with the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Don’t forget about your drains until there’s a spill approaching one. Drains should be regularly inspected to ensure your protection procedures and products are properly working.
So how often should you inspect your drains? It depends.
Some companies might be required to inspect their drains daily while others can limit themselves to quarterly inspections. Sometimes, however, the terms of a company’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit dictate how often drain inspections are needed.
One of the main reasons companies need to inspect their drains is to stay compliant with the CWA. The two biggest compliance areas under the CWA are stormwater regulations and Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plans.
Stormwater regulations require facilities that discharge pollutants directly into waterways to obtain a NPDES permit. In order to get a permit, the facility needs to prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) that outlines what steps they will take to prevent spills, what they will do when there is a spill that could get into a waterway and how they will monitor compliance.
After creating a SWPPP and applying for a permit, the state environmental agency (or the federal EPA, if the state does not operate their program) determines permissible levels of pollutants that can be discharged from the facility without affecting water quality. To verify that these levels are not being exceeded, water leaving the facility — including stormwater from parking lots if it could be exposed to pollutants — needs to sampled periodically.
In addition, a best management practice (BMP) that most facilities outline in their SWPPP is periodic inspections, which should include drain inspections. Because this is a BMP and the standard is performance based, the facility can generally set the frequency schedule for these inspections. It should be realistic and based on operations and potential for harm.
Facilities that are subject to SPCC regulations based on the volume of oil that is stored, used or managed onsite also need to establish plans that outline how they will prevent spills and their readiness to respond in the event of a spills. The rule requires facilities to conduct inspections “in accordance with written procedures that you or the certifying engineer develop for the facility” [40 CFR 112.7(e)]. Similar to stormwater regulations, the facility sets the frequency for drain inspections. Despite how often drain inspections take place, inspection records of need to be signed and kept with the plan for at least three years.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one in three Americans rely on water sourced directly from our nation’s waterways. Keep your drains protected with regular inspections to ensure clean water and a healthy environment.