When to file for a permit, which permit to file, and more.
Guide Groundwater Discharge Permits: Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to file for a permit?
If your facility discharges 10,000* gallons per day or more of sanitary wastewater or any amount of industrial wastewater to the ground, you have to file for a groundwater discharge permit.
Groundwater discharge permits are issued primarily for domestic and commercial wastewater, carwashes, laundromats and certain industrial facilities. For more detail on different types of groundwater discharges, see the Ground Water Discharge Program regulations at 314 CMR 5.03 & 5.04.
Certain discharges are exempt from permitting by the Groundwater Discharge Program, including facilities that are regulated under Title 5. See 314 CMR 5.05 for a complete list of exempt discharges.
* There may be instances, particularly in nitrogen sensitive areas, where a groundwater discharge permit will be required for flows less than 10,000 gpd.
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Which permit application should I file?
The type and amount of wastewater discharged will determine which application you should file. For non industrial discharges there are individual permits and general permits available. For industrial discharges the application is based on the discharge type.
See the link below for groundwater permit applications. Please contact your regional program contact if you have any questions about the appropriate permit category for your discharge.
What is the difference between a General Permit and an Individual Permit?
A General Permit is a set of limits and conditions for one or more categories of discharges which warrant similar control measures. The MassDEP develops and issues the General Permit and the discharger then applies for coverage under those permit terms and conditions. Currently there are three General Permit categories: < 50,000 gallons per day sewage treatment facilities (public & private); car washes; and coin-operated laundromats.
The Individual Permit is a site-specific permit for those discharges not covered under a General Permit or not approved to operate under one.
Are on-site wastewater systems also groundwater discharges?
Yes. However, the discharges under 10,000 gallons per day to on-site systems are exempt from the Ground Water Discharge Permit if they are built and operated in accordance with 310 CMR 15.000, Title 5.
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What is the difference between a permit fee and an annual compliance fee?
All permittees (with the exception of some government entities) must pay a fee to the Department. There are two types of fees:
- Permit fee or application fee is paid when you apply for a new permit or modify or renew an existing permit
- Annual compliance fee is paid every year to the Department except for the initial fiscal year in which the permit is issued.
The compliance assurance fees ensure adequate resources for the agency's inspection and monitoring programs.
The following entities are exempt from the payment of annual compliance fees: cities, towns, counties, districts, municipal housing authorities, federally recognized Indian tribe housing authorities, and state agencies.
Further details on these fees can be found in the Permit Fact Sheet located in each permit application instruction package.
Do I have to submit plans and specifications with my application?
If your project is financed by the State Revolving Fund (SRF), please refer to those guidelines for when plans and specifications need to be submitted.
Each permit application contains instructions and checklists for what needs to be submitted with the application. For both Individual and General Permits there are certification forms that are required to be submitted with the Hydrogeologic application and the Permit application. Formal submission of plans and specifications is not required until 90 days prior to startup of the facility (or 90 days from permit issuance for an existing facility). However, for individual permits, MassDEP may require the submittal of plans and specifications with the application or at any time during the review.
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How do groundwater regulations protect public water supplies?
A Zone II or Interim Wellhead Protection Area (IWPA) is the area of an aquifer that contributes water to a drinking water well under a specified set of conditions. The effluent standards and monitoring requirements imposed by a Groundwater Discharge Permit are more stringent for a discharge within a Zone II or IWPA, especially for nitrogen.
Please refer to 314 CMR 5.02 for the definitions of these terms.