Some affected businesses unaware of new stormwater rules

Stormwater runoff
New stormwater regulations will require as many as 19,000 Minnesota businesses to monitor potential pollution on their property, but business leaders say many small businesses don't even know about the new rules.
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New storm water regulations from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will require as many as 19,000 Minnesota businesses to monitor potential pollution on their property.

The new rules will affect different industry sectors over time. They require businesses to obtain a new storm water permit designed to stop polluted rain or snow runoff from a business property. They also target leaking oil from trucks or hazardous materials stored outside that could wash into wetlands or streams.

The first round of permit applications began earlier this month.

A variety of businesses -- from those selling timber products to auto salvage yards -- have six months to comply with the new regulations. As many as 19,000 Minnesota businesses would need to obtain permits, MPCA Industrial Storm water Program Outreach Coordinator Melissa Wenzel said.

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"We've done a number of analysis using Dunn and Bradstreet data, using internal analysis and it does vary," Wenzel said.

Some of the businesses have had storm water permits in the past, but others will be required to apply for a permit for the first time.

The biggest change for businesses is that they will need a pollution protection plan, Wenzel said. They also will be required to collect storm water runoff and have it tested for potential pollution.

"So for example an auto salvage yard would have certain pollutants to monitor for. And a facility would take four samples, once every three months and average them," she said. "They'll compare that to the standards laid out in the permit and if they're below those limits they've passed for the permit cycle."

The same rules apply for a salvage yard with two employees, or a trucking company with 200 employees.

Even businesses that could prove that all potential contaminants are protected and would not come in contact with storm water must obtain the permit, Wenzel said.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supports the storm water permit program but worries about a one size fits all approach.

Mike Robertson, an environmental consultant for the chamber, said it is unclear how much it will cost businesses to monitor and test storm water. Those costs will vary depending on which pollutants the business is required to monitor, he said.

Small businesses are more likely to bear a financial burden, Robertson said.

"Even very small facilities are going to have to comply with this, so there's a question about cost in doing that," he said. "There's going to be monitoring and lab costs that are incurred. That could be a significant cost in a small business."

He also said many small businesses are not aware of the new MPCA rules.

"This is going to require a very extensive education effort on the part of the agency because there are facilities that have not had to deal with this kind of thing in the past that are now going to have to comply and apply for a permit," Robertson said.

MPCA officials say they plan a variety of outreach efforts to let businesses large and small know about the new storm water permit process.