Web-based Tool Helps Companies Develop Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans

Federal regulation calls for companies engaged in certain industrial activities to obtain a stormwater permit and implement a pollution prevention program. Although an important endeavor, this can also be an onerous task, especially for small and mid-sized companies with fewer resources.

On Nov. 2, Georgia Tech's Energy and Environmental Management Center (EEMC) announced it has developed stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) software that streamlines the planning process -- promising to reduce time and effort by as much as 80 percent.

Funded by EPA's Office of Water, this Web-based tool initially helps companies determine whether or not they even need a stormwater permit. "If you don't have any pollutants exposed to stormwater, you are exempt, but most manufacturers fall into one of the 11 categories that require a permit," said Ginny Key, an instructional designer at EEMC.

Available at either http://www.gatechstormwater.com or http://www.gatechenvironment.com, the SWPPP software walks companies through a series of questions about their facilities, such as whether they have outdoor fueling stations or loading docks. Then the tool guides companies through:

  • Assembling a pollution prevention team.
  • Identifying potential pollutants.
  • Selecting appropriate best management practices (BMPs) to control pollutants.
  • Recordkeeping and reporting.
  • Employee training.
  • Implementing and updating the plan.

Plans will vary tremendously depending on a company's internal expertise, the contour of its property, potential pollutants and nearby receiving waters.

Some pollution-prevention remedies may require structural modifications, such as installing mechanisms to equipment to prevent fuel spills. Yet many best practices are a simple matter of good housekeeping, point out Ed Hardison and Jim Walsh, EEMC project engineers who helped develop the SWPPP tool.

When the SWPPP tool presents a best practice, it includes various business factors, such as implementation and maintenance costs, level of difficulty and expertise required. The SWPPP tool also provides contact information about each state's permitting authority and if there are additional state requirements that must be met.

At the end of the program, the SWPPP tool produces a customized plan in a rich-text-format document that can be converted to any word-processing system. The program also saves all information and features a revision log, which enables companies to go back to the Web site and modify their plans as they make changes. For example, if they introduce new materials, those considered potential pollutants must be tracked.

One of EEMC's greatest challenges was incorporating complex government regulations into a user-friendly tool. "We wanted to make the process as easy as possible without watering down the information too much," said Greg Rupert, a Web designer and software specialist at EEMC. "I think people will be surprised at how effortless the process is compared to the sophistication of their final plans."

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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