Reducing the Regulatory Exposure from a Municipal Landfill and Meeting Bay TMDL Waste Load Allocations – A Case Study

The Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permit program may be best known by attendees for as the regulatory framework for the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit program but localities sometimes find themselves regulated under one of the VPDES industrial general permit program for stormwater discharges associated with certain regulated industrial activities.

The Craney Island Landfill was first constructed as a municipal solid waste landfill for the City of Portsmouth until 1985 after which time it was still used for the disposal of bulky items and non-putrescible waste for City residents until the mid-2010s. For the past decade, the landfill has been exclusively used for city-generated landscaping debris, sediment collected from ditch and culvert maintenance, and street sweeping debris.  Residential wastes are no longer accepted.

VPDES industrial stormwater general permits for landfills contain either pollutant discharge effluent limits or pollutant discharge benchmarks for contaminants in stormwater runoff from the landfill area. Prior to the renewal of the VPDES industrial general permit in 2019, the landfill permit contained effluent limits for its discharges of stormwater runoff. Effluent limits in a VPDES general permit carry additional enforcement risk for the permittee as an exceedance of an effluent limit is considered a permit violation while a benchmark exceedance is not.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, industrial general permits must also demonstrate compliance with the waste load allocation assigned to this source by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality under the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load (TMDL) watershed implementation plan or develop and implement a facility-specific action plan.

This presentation will provide an overview of the way that the City of Portsmouth successfully negotiated the removal of effluent limits and replacement of them with benchmark monitoring requirements, reduced the number of regulated outfalls from 3 to 1, developed and implemented measures to meet the Bay TMDL waste load allocations and ultimately was able to receive a benchmark sampling waiver from the VDEQ over in the current permit term.  It will discuss the regulatory framework for this permit and provide managers of similar permits with potential ways to reduce their regulatory liability and compliance costs when operating under these permits.