About four months ago, Tom Brown, president of general contractor Sierra Pacific West, set out to fulfill one specific requirement of the new construction general permit.
That requirement, which mandates him to have a state approved qualified stormwater pollution prevention plan practitioner on site at his jobs, has a deadline attached to it. And the deadline is approaching.
The deadline has been looming since the adoption of the new Construction Activities Storm Water General Permit by the State Storm Water Resources Control Board.
Virtually all contractors involved in construction activity resulting in disturbance of one or more acres of land must satisfy the requirement.
Though effective last July, the updated permit includes certain subsections not effective for some time, including those relating to required training and certification of qualified stormwater pollution prevention plan practitioners, or QSPs.
Currently, companies can assign anyone to be a QSP who is certified by either Enviro Cert International Inc. or Sediment and Erosion Control Inc.
But beginning Sept. 2, anyone designated a QSP must have attended a State Water Board-sponsored or approved QSP training course and pass a test.
When he sent his man out for training four months ago, Brown had no idea he’d still be without certification.
He fears the deadline will creep up on a lot of contractors, leaving them unprepared to comply with the new permit.
“It’s concerning,” Brown said. “I didn’t realize it would probably take as long as it did.”
Though he said he isn’t at odds with the new stormwater prevention measures on their merit, the timing makes it tough for contractors who would rather spend their time thinking of how to stay in business than how to comply with another state mandate.
“Regulation is regulation; and we understand the stormwater,” Brown said. “We get that. But in a down economy it would have been nicer if there was some mechanism in there that would allow us a little more time.
“It could turn out like the diesel emissions requirement. I don’t think there are any companies, developers or owners that are happy with it. But it is what it is.”
The QSPs are charged with implementing best management practices required by the permit through a series of observations, sampling and analysis.
Michael Roth, water resources control engineer at the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the new general permit isn’t asking for much of anything new, but it is requiring more precision.
“The new permit is considered kind of strict,” Roth said, “but really, the requirements in it are the same that we required in the last permit, except now there’s some numbers involved.”
The new permit, for example, will affect how QSPs report water turbidity.
“Before, you could go out and look at the water,” Roth added. “We’d always say, ‘Is it lemonade or is it chocolate milk?’ Chocolate milk -- you have to do more work to get the sediment out. Lemonade -- it’s good enough.
“Now, they have to take a sample and have a turbidity test done … And then they have to take the results and they have to make a report.”
Roth said training courses could cost in the region of a few hundered dollars per person.
After sending just one worker out to get trained, Brown said that could be an underestimation, though he didn't recall the exact amount he's spent so far.
Either way, penalties for not complying can be much more than the cost of training.
According to the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, monetary penalties up to $10,000 per day can be imposed for each violation of the general permit.
Contractors looking to find qualified trainers, Roth said, should visit the California Stormwater Quality Association’s website at casqa.org. From there, nearly 100 trainers of record can be found.
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