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Our wastewater permitting practice includes the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES"), pretreatment, and wastewater treatment plant construction permitting programs and, as applicable, permitting by certain interstate regulatory authorities.

NPDES Permit Program
The NPDES permit program was initially established pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act, but in most states has been federally delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and is largely administered by the states, although EPA retains some limited permit review authority. The program governs the discharge of pollutants via point sources into waters of the United States, including wastewater discharges from pipes, ditches, and similar conveyances.

Pretreatment Program
A companion to the NPDES permit program is the pretreatment program applicable to companies that discharge their wastewater to publicly owned treatment works ("POTWs") rather than to surface waters, and requires POTWs to develop and enforce the pretreatment requirements.

Treatment Plant Construction
Wastewater treatment plants that are designed to meet NPDES or pretreatment discharge standards are often subject to state construction permitting requirements. We represent clients in connection with the permitting of these facilities in much the same manner as with the underlying discharge permits. Further information on this aspect of our practice as it relates to POTWs can be found at the sewage facilities page of our website.

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NPDES Permit Program
Our experience in the NPDES permit practice includes the following:

  • We have assisted clients in preparing NPDES permit applications, focusing on issues relating to the scope of the necessary information requirements as well as sensitivity to capturing the benefits of the NPDES "permit shield" found in the Clean Water Act and comparable protections under state law.
  • A parallel approval program administered by the Delaware River Basin Commission ("DRBC"), an interstate commission made up of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and the federal government, has also been a focal point of our practice. Clients often seek advice on the interplay between the NPDES permit program, EPA's retained review permit authority, and DRBC's asserted jurisdiction.
  • We also assist clients in reviewing draft NPDES permits, in an effort to more thoroughly evaluate proposed conditions. This often brings into play state water quality standards, federal effluent limitation guidelines, and Total Maximum Daily Loads ("TMDLs").
  • As a consequence of the expanded state and federal governmental effort to establish TMDLs, it is also an important focus of our practice. In representing numerous clients faced with TMDL-based requirements, we have gained considerable experience in understanding the programmatic aspects of TMDLs as well as the development of specific waste load allocations (for point source dischargers) and load allocations (for non-point source dischargers) in a variety of contexts. Most notably, we have been heavily involved in the development and implementation of TMDLs for toxic pollutants in the Delaware Estuary and nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
  • Through the expansion of the NPDES permit program to cover stormwater discharges, we have an active practice advising industrial and developer clients on applicable stormwater permitting requirements.
  • Where it becomes necessary to challenge agency permitting decisions, whether in the context of a permit denial or imposition of inappropriate conditions, we have successfully represented clients in pursuing permit appeals and in defending appeals brought by third parties.
  • We have successfully defended a wide variety of clients in response to enforcement actions arising out of alleged violations of NPDES wastewater discharge permits and regulations brought by state and federal regulators as well as private actions grounded in federal and state citizen suit provisions.


Pretreatment Program
Our practice under the pretreatment program includes the following:

  • Many of our clients discharge to POTWs and are subject to specific pretreatment requirements and permits. We assist these clients in obtaining and complying with the pretreatment permits and associated requirements.
  • Each of the pretreatment authorities has the ability to take enforcement action and impose penalties, thereby raising the potential for significant liability. We have defended clients against enforcement actions, including penalty proceedings and actions seeking the installation of additional control equipment or the cessation of noncompliant discharges.
  • Compliance with pretreatment requirements can often become quite complicated because of EPA's close oversight and the pressure on the municipal treatment plant operators to maintain compliance with the NPDES permits issued for their facilities. We have represented municipal authorities in developing pretreatment programs to maintain compliance with their NPDES permits.


 

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