New Jersey Stormwater Laws and Regulations

This section, authored by the NJDEP, provides a general overview of the regulatory landscape in New Jersey related to stormwater management. Federal law and regulations under the Clean Water Act are primarily implemented by the USEPA. In turn, USEPA can transfer this authority to the states.  Generally, environmental regulation is organized around point source versus nonpoint sources.  Point sources are those that discharge water into the environment through a discernible point of discharge, while a nonpoint source could be a more expansive area with little to no discernible point water is released into the environment.  As discussed below, New Jersey has some of the country’s oldest, most robust programs responsible for the protection of surface and ground waters from point and nonpoint sources of pollutants.

Regulating Stormwater - Background

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Department) is the issuing authority for the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits in New Jersey under the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES). The Department’s Division of Water Quality (DWQ) oversees a suite of NJPDES programs that form a comprehensive framework to protect the waters of the State from various point and nonpoint sources of pollutants. The NJPDES Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:14A et seq.) provide requirements for discharges of stormwater associated with individual industrial activities, other point or nonpoint sources over larger geographic areas like municipalities, and combined sewer overflow (CSO) systems.

Under the nonpoint programs, DWQ’s goal is to eliminate or minimize the exposure of source materials to stormwater and require certain best management practices to ensure stormwater is effectively managed on individual properties or within larger geographic areas like towns or certain roadways (MS4 Program). In combination, these different programs cover a wide range of activities, facilities, and properties that all have the potential to discharge pollutants into waterways or groundwater.

Other NJPDES programs regulate individual facilities and discharge points. Under these programs, most industrial facilities, sanitary discharges over 2,000 gallons per day (gpd), and CSOs are required to discharge in compliance with a Department-issued permit. These permits typically set numeric standards and establish specific operational best management practices.

MS4 Program

The NJPDES rules at N.J.A.C. 7:14A-25 govern the issuance of permits to entities that own or operate small municipal separate storm sewer systems, known as MS4s. Under this program, permits must be secured by municipalities, certain public complexes such as universities and hospitals, and state, interstate and federal agencies that operate or maintain highways. The permit program establishes the Statewide Basic Requirements that must be implemented to reduce nonpoint source pollutant loads from these sources. The Statewide Basic Requirements include measures such as:

              i.         the adoption of ordinances (litter control, pet waste, wildlife feeding, proper waste disposal, etc.);

             ii.         the development of a municipal stormwater management plan and implementing ordinance(s);

            iii.         requiring certain maintenance activities (such as street sweeping and catch basin cleaning);

            iv.         implementing solids and floatables control;

             v.         locating discharge points and stenciling catch basins;

            vi.         and a public education component.

Stormwater Management Rules

Complementing the MS4 Program are the rules governing stormwater management at N.J.A.C. 7:8. The Stormwater Management rules set stormwater management design and performance standards to be applied under other existing regulatory programs. The regulatory programs that apply these rules are local approvals under the Municipal Land Use Law, and the Department’s Division of Land Use Regulation permits under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA), the Coastal Wetlands Act of 1970, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act and the Waterfront and Harbor Facilities Act (Waterfront Development). Stormwater management rules establish certain environmental performance standards to be met once the requirements of the rules have been triggered by a development proposal or permit application.

The amended rules in January 2020 define “major development” as any individual “development,” as well as multiple developments that individually or collectively result in:

1. The disturbance of one or more acres of land since February 2, 2004;

2. The creation of one-quarter acre or more of “regulated impervious surface” since February 2, 2004;

3. The creation of one-quarter acre or more of “regulated motor vehicle surface” since March 2, 2021; or

4. A combination of 2 and 3 above that totals an area of one-quarter acre or more. The same surface shall not be counted twice when determining if the combination area equals one quarter acre or more.

In addition, local government units may impose a stricter threshold than what is defined as major development in the amended rule. Local government units will need to adopt ordinances specifying whether they are using this state standard or a more stringent threshold requiring green infrastructure.

Finally, the Stormwater Management Rules also govern the components of regional and municipal stormwater management plans, and establish the stormwater management design and performance standards for new (proposed) development. Performance standards focus on groundwater recharge, runoff quantity controls, and runoff quality controls. Details of the performance standards can be found in Subchapter 5 of the Stormwater Management rules.

Additional Information

NJPDES permits are either individual or general. Individual permits typically are used to establish site-specific conditions at facilities that would not be eligible for a general permit. Individual permits often are more costly and typically contain more extensive sampling and monitoring requirements. General permits are created to provide uniform requirements across facilities that are within a specific sector or that are expected to discharge a similar quality of wastewater. Below is a list of general permits that DWQ provides, as well as a discussion of individual stormwater permits.

  1. Sand & Gravel Activity (RSG)– This new general permit authorizes stormwater discharges to ground water for facilities involved in sand and gravel mining/quarrying operations.
  2. Vehicle Recycling General Permit (RVR)– This general permit authorizes the discharge of industrial stormwater for facilities that engage in Vehicle Recycling.
  3. Dental Amalgam General Permit (K2)– This general permit authorizes those who discharge wastewater to the ground water from new or existing dental facilities using individual subsurface sewage disposal systems, i.e. “septic systems”.
  4. Concrete Products Manufacturing (CPM)– This general permit regulates industrial stormwater discharges to surface and ground waters of the State from facilities that manufacture concrete or concrete products (block and brick, and ready mixed concrete) or facilities classified as manufacturers of concrete or concrete related products by the DEP.
  5. Basic Industrial Stormwater Permit (5G2)– This general permit is available to regulated industrial facilities that have eliminated or can eliminate within 6 months of authorization, all exposure of industrial materials or activities to stormwater discharges (rainfall and snowmelt waters). Exposure may be eliminated by covering the materials or activities or by moving materials or activities indoors.
  6. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (R8)– This general permit authorizes new and existing discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations and designated animal feeding operations required to obtain a permit pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:14A-2.13.
  7. Construction Activities (5G3)– This general permit authorizes point source discharges from certain construction activities. Regulated entities are required to develop a soil erosion and sediment plan aimed at eliminating the flow of contaminated rainwater into streams and rivers. This general permit is issued through the Local Soil Conservation Districts.
  8. Scrap Metal (SM, SM2)– This general permit authorizes the discharge of stormwater from facilities involved in the scrap metal recycling business and facilities involved in scrap metal recycling and the recycling of used vehicle parts.
  9. Hot Mix Asphalt Producers (R4)- This general permit authorizes stormwater discharges to surface and ground water for facilities engaged in the activity of manufacturing hot mix asphalt defined by SIC 2951 and NAICS 324121.
  10.  Mining & Quarrying Activities (R13)- This general permit authorizes stormwater and certain process wastewater discharges to surface waters and stormwater-only discharges to groundwater for facilities involved in mining and quarrying under SIC 1411, 1423, 1429, 1442, 1446, 1459 (NAICS 212311, 212313, 212319, 212321, 212322, 212325, 212319, 212399).
  11.  Newark Airport (R5)- This general permit regulates the discharge of industrial stormwater from the Newark Liberty International Airport Complex and all its operators that conduct fueling of vehicles, aircraft or equipment; washing of vehicles, aicraft or equipment; maintenance of vehicles, aircraft or equipment and de-icing or anti-icing of vehicles, aircraft or equipment.
  12.  Lined Surface Impoundments (LSI)- The Lined Surface Impoundment General Permit authorization was developed to encourage the elimination of ground water discharges from unlined surface impoundments, basins or infiltration/percolation lagoons, and to simplify the regulatory requirements for permittees.
  13.  Basin Discharges at Sanitary Landfills (I1)- This permit authorizes stormwater basin discharges at operating sanitary landfills. It is for site runoff into sedimentation basins, retention basins, detention basins, and surface impoundments (collectively referred to as basins). This runoff (rainwater) flows into basins without contacting landfill refuse. The permit includes monitoring among other permit requirements.
  14.  Sanitary Subsurface Disposal (T1)- This general permit authorizes the discharge of sanitary sewage from facilities to a subsurface disposal (septic) system with a design volume in excess of 2,000 GPD.
  15.  Potable Water Treatment Plants (I2)- This general permit covers potable water treatment plants (WTP) discharging filter backwash and clarifier water to outdoor basins. The discharge results from the process of bringing raw water supplies to drinking quality standards, which often requires the removal of low concentrations of iron, manganese, organic matter, and trace amounts of other metals. When filters are backwashed or when clarifiers are cleaned, the wastewater generated is usually discharged to an outdoor infiltration-percolation basin which ultimately discharges to groundwater.
  16.  Wood Recyclers General Permit (R7)- This NJPDES General permit provides an alternative to an individual NJPDES stormwater permit for regulating wood recycling facility operations.
  17.  Tier A Municipal Stormwater Permit (R9)- The Tier A Municipal Stormwater General Permit authorizes the discharge of stormwater from small municipal separate storm sewers. The permit was issued in response to USEPA’s phase II rules. Tier A municipalities are generally located within the more densely populated regions of the state or along or near the coast. The Tier A permit addresses stormwater quality issues related to both new and existing development.
  18.  Tier B Municipal Stormwater Permit (R10)- The Tier B Municipal Stormwater General Permit authorizes the discharge of stormwater from small municipal separate storm sewers. Tier B municipalities are generally located in more rural areas and in non-coastal regions. The Tier B permit focuses on new development and redevelopment projects and public education.
  19.  Public Complex Stormwater Permit (R11)- The Public Complex Stormwater General Permit authorizes the discharge of stormwater from large publicly owned complexes such as colleges, universities, prisons and hospital complexes.
  20.  Highway Agency Stormwater Permit (R12)- The Highway Agency Stormwater General Permit authorizes the discharge of stormwater from highways or other thoroughfares operated by counties or by entities such as the NJ Department of Transportation, NJ Expressway Authority, and the South Jersey Transportation Authority.

Individual NJPDES permits are issued to facilities that cannot eliminate exposure of pollutants to stormwater. These facilities have to develop and implement Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans to minimize or eliminate contact between pollutants and stormwater. Other permit conditions may require monitoring stormwater discharges for pollutants, and in some cases, effluent limitations may be imposed.


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