This guide describes the permitting process for discharges of sanitary or industrial wastewater. Consult this guide if your facility also uses reclaimed water in conjunction with a discharge.
- This page, Groundwater Discharge & Reclaimed Water Permitting Process, is offered by
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Groundwater Discharge & Reclaimed Water Permitting Process
Table of Contents
If your facility discharges 10,000* gallons per day or more of sanitary wastewater, any amount of industrial wastewater to the ground, or uses reclaimed water in conjunction with a discharge 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. The type of discharge and the amount being discharged will designate which permit application should be filed.
*Please note: There may be instances where site constraints would require a discharge of less than 10,000 gallons per day of treated sanitary wastewater to obtain a groundwater discharge permit.
In March 2009 the Groundwater Program revised the program's regulations, 314 CMR 5.00, and promulgated a new regulation for reclaimed water use, 314 CMR 20.00. The Program also changed the types of permits available along with the process to obtain these permits. The MassDEP Groundwater Program has two types of permit, the General Permit and the Individual Permit:
- The General Permit is an issued permit with a set of limits and conditions pertaining to one particular category of discharge. Applicants apply for coverage under the existing terms and conditions of the General Permit. Currently there are two categories of General Permit: < 50,000 gpd Private Sewage Treatment Facility (PSTF) or Publicly Operated Treatment Works (POTW); and Car Wash.
- The Individual Permit is a site-specific permit for those discharges not covered under a General Permit, not approved to operate under the General Permit, or utilizing reclaimed water.
Prior to submitting any permit application for a new or increased discharge to the ground, the applicant needs to submit a scope of work and hydrogeologic evaluation to ensure that the site is suitable for the proposed discharge and to assess the impact on any potential sensitive receptors in the area.
Additional Resources for Introduction
Hydrogeologic Scope and Evaluation
Scope of Work:
Prior to the submission of the WP 83 application form, the applicant will have a pre-scoping meeting with MassDEP. Following this meeting, the applicant will develop and submit to Mass DEP a scope of work for a hydrogeologic investigation in accordance with 314 CMR 5.09 that is specific to the proposed site, including consideration of downgradient receptors. Upon MassDEP approval of the scope of work, the applicant will then prepare a hydrogeologic evaluation report consistent with that scope.
Hydrogeologic Evaluation Report and BRP WP 83 application:
The completed hydrogeologic evaluation report will be submitted to the Mass DEP with the WP 83 application form, the fee and other required materials. The MassDEP approval of the hydrogeologic evaluation report will direct the applicant to apply for a groundwater discharge permit through the submittal of either a Notice of Intent for Coverage under a General Permit or the appropriate Individual groundwater discharge permit application.
Permit Applications, Submittal and Review
314 CMR 5.13 gives MassDEP the authority to issue general permits to one or more categories of dischargers whose discharges warrant similar control measures.
Currently there are two categories of General Permit:
- WP 81 - < 50,000 gpd sewage treatment plants for either Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) or Private Sewage Treatment Facilities (PSTF)
- WP 80 - Carwashes
To obtain a General Permit, the applicant submits a Notice of Intent (NOI) for coverage under the appropriate category. The NOI submittal will include:
- Project Description
- Design Criteria (Flow rate, loadings, treatment units)
- Engineer Certification
- Plans and Specification Certification
- Hydrogeologic Evaluation Certification
It is important to note that by submitting an NOI for coverage under a general permit the applicant waives any right to request an adjudicatory hearing relative to the MassDEP's issuance or denial of the general permit coverage.
The MassDEP will review the NOI for administrative and technical components. This review will determine whether coverage can be granted or not. If coverage is approved, the applicant will receive the public notice form to be published in the Environmental Monitor, a publication of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Forms and directions for these publications are provided to the applicant by MassDEP. The comment period is 30 days and comments are limited to the applicant's eligibility for coverage.
Coverage under the general permit is effective 45 days from the date the notice was published, unless the applicant is otherwise notified. Upon approval the applicant will be sent copies of the general permit and general permit fact sheet and an approval letter describing the facility, approved design flow, assigned permit number, specific monitoring wells to be sampled, and, for new facilities, inspection and clear water test requirements. The letter will also state the submittals required to be made prior to the start up of the plant.
If coverage cannot be approved, the applicant may receive a deficiency letter stating what information the application is missing, a denial letter stating why coverage cannot be approved or will be directed to apply for an individual permit.
After completion and approval of the hydrogeologic evaluation the applicant submits the appropriate application which includes:
- Engineering Report with Certification
- Hydrogeologic Certification
- Plans and Specification Certification
If the site is located in a Zone II or interim wellhead protection area (IWPA) then the applicant must notify the Public Water Supply of the submittal.
The MassDEP will review the application for administrative and technical components based on the timelines for review established for each permit category under 310 CMR 4.00. If the application is complete, a draft permit and fact sheet are sent to the applicant for a 14 day review and comment. The public notice is then sent to be published in the Environmental Monitor. In addition, for permits for reclaimed water or those containing "Special Effluent Limitations" per 314 CMR 5.10(9), the applicant or permittee shall also publish public notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the location of the discharge. Forms and directions for these publications are provided to the applicant. The comment period is 30 days.
Upon approval the applicant will be sent copies of the individual permit and plan approval letter. The letter will state the submittals required to be made prior to the start up of the plant and will specify any inspection and clear water test requirements. The permit will be issued and will be effective on issuance or, if comments were received, 30 days from the date of issuance.
If the application is incomplete or cannot be approved, the applicant will receive a deficiency letter stating what information the application is missing. The letter will include timeframes for the applicant to address any deficiencies.
Please note that the groundwater discharge permit applications for the coverage under a general permit or an individual permit for new WWTFs or modified WWTFs no longer require that engineering plans and specifications, with the exception of those documents associated with the effluent disposal facilities, be submitted with the application. Instead, an expanded engineering report accompanied by a certification statement from a Massachusetts Registered Professional Engineer stating that the plans and specifications have been prepared in accordance with applicable standards are required.
The formal submission of engineering plans & specifications for the proposed wastewater treatment facility to the MassDEP shall not be required until 90 days prior to the startup of the facility. These plans must be stamped, signed and dated by a Massachusetts Registered Professional Engineer. The plans and specifications must describe in detail the collection, treatment and disposal components of the WWTF.
Some facilities will be required to provide Financial Assurance Mechanisms (FAMs) per 314 CMR 5.15. Standard form documents are used for the FAMs and are provided to the permittee during the review of the application. These documents must be approved, signed and submitted to the MassDEP ninety days prior to facility startup.
Permit applications must also include a ground water monitoring plan and a certification statement that the hydrogeologic evaluation of the WWTF disposal site and its surroundings has been done and approved by MassDEP. Specifics regarding these submittals are contained in each of the permit application packages and a Certification Statement form is also provided.
Renewal of Permits
Groundwater Discharge and Reclaimed Water Permits are issued for up to 5 years. Persons who want to continue the permitted activity either under an Individual Permit or through coverage under a General Permit must submit a renewal application six months prior to the expiration date of the permit.
The permit renewal application categories are:
- WP 80 & WP 81 for renewal of coverage under a General Permit
- WP 11 & WP 12 for renewal with or without modification for an Individual Permit
- WP 82 Administrative Renewal for an Individual Permit
Renewal of coverage under a General Permit and renewal of an Individual Permit follow the same process of review and issuance (administrative review, technical review and public notice) as the original application.
The WP 82, Administrative Renewal application, is a category of renewal for Individual Permits issued under 314 CMR 5.00. This application has shorter timelines and lower fees than the other renewal categories. In order to qualify for an Administrative renewal the permittee must meet all the criteria listed in 314 CMR 5.12(9):
- Application submitted 180 days prior to the expiration date
- No modifications required or requested
- Facility is operating in compliance with 314 CMR 5.00, CMR 12.00, the operation and maintenance plan and any applicable Best Management Practices (BMPs)
- A Massachusetts Registered Engineer inspects and certifies that the facility is in compliance
- MassDEP determines that current limits are protective and stricter limits are not required
- Facility is in compliance with the Financial Assurance Mechanisms (if applicable)
- Facility is not required to submit an engineering report for treatment plant evaluation, typically conducted in operational year 14 through 19 or beyond per 314 CMR 5.12(7) & (8)
- Facility does not treat industrial wastewater
- BRP WP 82 application is signed and certified as required by 314 CMR 5.14.