PADEP Develops COVID-19 Guidance

COVID-19 Update

April 15, 2020
Thomas M. Duncan

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has established a COVID-19 webpage, which is intended to provide direction to the regulated community during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Below is a summary of PADEP’s COVID-19 policies.  We will continue to monitor PADEP’s pronouncements and modify this information as it becomes available.  Any questions can be directed to MGKF's Tom Duncan at 484-430-2358.

Requesting Suspension of a Regulatory or Permit Condition
PADEP has developed a form which can be used to request a temporary suspension of regulatory or permitting requirements based on circumstances relating to the pandemic.  Examples may potentially include that a stack test cannot be safely completed because it would require a number of individuals to spend significant time in an enclosed area, or where the regulated entity is unable to provide a hard copy of a required submission. On April 9, 2020, PADEP began posting the Governor’s approvals of suspension requests to PADEP’s COVID-19 webpage.

NPDES and Chapters 102/105 Guidance
PADEP has issued a memo to County Conservation Districts regarding site inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The guidance instructs Conservation Districts to only perform field inspections that are critical to public health and safety and further instructs Conservation District staff who are able to work remotely or by other acceptable to continue to review plan and permit application submissions, routine correspondence, phone contacts, record checks, etc.  Complaints that can be investigated and/or resolved through remote means, such as email or phone communication with permittees and operators, should be addressed in that manner.  Conservation District staff working remotely should perform complaint inspections upon receipt of complaints related to issues critical to public health and safety.  Conservation District staff who are unable to work remotely should refer all delegated complaint inspections to the appropriate DEP Regional Office, and DEP will continue to respond in the field to environmental emergencies, referred by Conservation Districts, that present an immediate threat to public health and safety.

PADEP's guidance also directs Chapter 102 permit holders that have not been deemed as “life sustaining businesses” to cease earth disturbance activities and immediately implement temporary or permanent stabilization practices in accordance with approved permit plans and conditions and the stabilization standards outlined in PADEP’s Erosion and Sediment Control Program Manual.  Those permit holders may cease performing weekly routine inspections as otherwise required by their permit but must continue to conduct other inspections required by their permit, including post-storm event inspections and corrective action inspections as set forth in their permit.  Permittees must continue to comply with all other permit terms and conditions, including, but not limited to, the requirement to take immediate action to restore, repair, or replace a Best Management Practice (BMP) or to provide an alternative method of treatment upon reduction, loss, or failure of any BMP.

PADEP is adding a No Data Indicator Code “Z” to use when completing Discharge Monitoring Reports when no data has been generated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Regulated entities may use this code only after receiving approval of a request for a temporary suspension of regulatory or permitting requirements, as outlined above.

Storage Tank Guidance
PADEP has issued guidance regarding the inspection, installation, and removal of tanks during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be found here.  PADEP is allowing the following activities to continue: (1) inspection, upgrade, repair, and testing activities that are performed by PADEP-certified tank handling companies; (2) third-party inspection activities required by storage tank regulations to identify storage tank system and component failures; (3) installation of storage tank systems at life-sustaining businesses by PADEP-certified tank handling companies; and (4) removal of storage tank systems where removal is necessary for subsequent tank installation or to protect human health and the environment.

[Last updated April 15, 2020 to note that PADEP is adding a No Data Indicator Code “Z” to use when completing DMRs when no data has been generated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The code can be used only after receiving approval of a temporary suspension request.]