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National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Compliance Monitoring

CWA Topics

As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.

In most cases, the NPDES permit program is administered by authorized states. Since its introduction in 1972, the NPDES permit program is responsible for significant improvements to our nation's water quality.

Compliance Monitoring

EPA conducts inspections of facilities subject to the regulations to determine compliance. EPA inspections involve:

NPDES inspection protocols can be found in Chapters 1 - 7 of the NPDES Compliance Inspection Manual.

The Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Compliance Monitoring Strategy (NPDES CMS) (PDF) (38 pp, 1MB, About PDF) provides compliance monitoring frequency goals for NPDES major facilities, traditional non-major facilities, the pretreatment program, biosolids facilities, wet weather sources (including Combined Sewer Systems, Sanitary Sewer Systems, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, stormwater, and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), pesticide operators and vessels. The current NPDES CMS was issued in July 2014 and replaces the 2007 NPDES CMS (PDF) (29 pp, 469K, About PDF).

EPA Memorandum of Understanding with US Coast Guard: Collaboration on Compliance Assistance, Compliance Monitoring, and Enforcement of Vessel General Permit Requirements on Vessels (PDF) (11 pp, 298K, About PDF)

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Compliance Assistance | Compliance Monitoring | Compliance Incentives


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