Frequently Asked Questions about MS4 Permits

Click on the questions below to see responses. Questions include (applicable permit(s) | date of last update).

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S5: Stormwater Management Program

Education and Outreach

Does a regional public education and outreach program need to represent a significant group of participants from each of the jurisdictions to meet permit requirement S5.C.1.c?
(Western Washington | December 7, 2015)

The results of the regional effort to measure the understanding of the targeted behavior and adoption by the targeted audience does not need to be parsed out by participating jurisdictions but can be assessed for the region on the whole. By 2/2/2016, the regional group shall use the resulting measurement to direct education and outreach resources most effectively to the region, as well as to evaluate changes in adoption of the targeted behaviors. However, if a permittee's community had little participation, it would be worthwhile to gain a better understanding as to why – were the wrong outreach methods used, did the message not resonate with the target audience, or was it the wrong message or behavior to target, for example? The overall goal of this permit requirement is to create behavior change effectively and gain water quality benefits in every community.

My jurisdiction’s targeted behavior change effort has been stymied by poor audience participation. Does the effort still meet my behavior change evaluation permit requirement (WWA PII S5.C.1.a.ii; PI S5.C.10.a.ii)?
(Western Washington | December 18, 2015)

In this situation, Permittees have at least two options. The first (and usually preferable) option is to identify and then evaluate a different behavior change effort that was implemented more widely. Alternatively, the Permittee can evaluate the behavior change effort that did not succeed (as described in the Q). While understanding and adoption of the desired behavior by the target audience is expected to be low, it is quite likely that the Permittee can identify significant ways to improve program implementation in the future. This, too, is an important aspect of the report to Ecology.

Do I report on the resulting measurements to direct education and outreach resources in the 2015 Annual Report (deadline of 2/2/2016) per WWA PH II: S5.C.1.c; PH I: S5.C.10.c?
(Western Washington | February 9, 2016)

You will not be reporting on this permit requirement for the 2015 Annual Report submittal (due 3/31/2016). You will need to report on this requirement next year, at that time you will need to attach a description of how this requirement was met.

It is possible that Ecology may ask for this information prior to next year's Annual Report (such as in a PH II audit setting), so it is best not to delay documenting how you met the 2/2/2016 deadline.

Controlling Runoff

How do I get credit for codes and other enforceable documents that already support or require LID?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

You must have reviewed those documents to have concluded that they support or require LID. Therefore, include in the list of documents reviewed those existing provisions that were reviewed but determined not to need updating to make LID the preferred and commonly-used approach to site development (Cite rationale for not updating). Ecology recommends including a summary of how each document's provisions work to make LID the preferred and commonly used approach to site development. The summary should include references to relevant chapters or sections.

Do I need to organize existing codes that do not need to be changed into the three categories?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

The Phase I and the WWA Phase II permits differ slightly in wording with respect to the clause that references those three categories. Phase I states "The summary of revisions shall be organized as follows" and Phase II states "The summary shall be organized as follows." Therefore, Phase I Permittees are not required to organize the documents that were previously revised to support or require LID in this fashion, although it will be helpful if it is organized in this format. WWA Phase II Permittees are required to organize the documents that were previously revised to support or require LID into the three categories. Refer to the Q&A below regarding what it means to "organize" the summary.

What does it mean to "organize" the summary into those three categories? Should I repeat documents when the provisions fall under more than one category? Can I just list the provisions once and include check boxes or icons to represent the three categories?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

Ecology will be flexible on the format for "organizing" the summary into the three categories. Make sure each revised provision or document is clearly identified with the appropriate category or categories. Ecology understands that multiple categories may be relevant to any given revised provision. Ecology has developed an optional template to help organize the submittal.

What does Ecology expect will be in the "other measures to minimize stormwater runoff" category?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

This category is provided for use when a measure does not directly minimize impervious surfaces or minimize the loss of native vegetation.

What is meant by "The summary shall include existing requirements for LID principles and LID BMPs in development-related codes?"
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

This sentence is referring to codes and other enforceable documents that you have determined do not need to be revised during this effort because they already meet this program objective.

Should the list specifically identify code citations and document page numbers? Should the summary include the relevant excerpted text or provide a narrative description of the relevant provisions?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

Because the range of codes, rules, standards and other enforceable documents that are subject to this requirement are highly variable, the summary report will need to be flexible enough to accommodate this range. In some cases, such as with widespread changes to multiple chapters in a Comprehensive Plan, the best way to summarize the revisions may be with a narrative description and specific page or policy citations provided as examples. In other cases, such as with small code changes, it may be best to include the exact citation and the excerpted language changes. There may also be reasons to summarize both in a narrative form and with specific citations and language. In general, you want to make sure that your summary contains enough details that any reviewer could easily verify the accuracy of the report.

What if we aren't entirely done with the adoption process by the time we need to write the summary?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

In this case, we recommend that your summary include planned revisions when those planned revisions are known and can be given a firm schedule for adoption. Please note however that the permit requirement is to "review, revise, and make effective local development-related codes, rules, etc. to incorporate and require LID principles and LID BMPs." Refer also to General Condition 20 (G20) of the municipal stormwater permits if you are unable to fully meet the requirement by the deadline.

I'm a Phase I Permittee and therefore Ecology has reviewed my draft stormwater code and stormwater management manual for equivalency with the 2014 SWMMWW. Do I need to include the stormwater code and stormwater management manual in my list of documents reviewed and revised under this broader development code-related revision process?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

To ensure that the summary of your review and revision process is complete, all Permittees will need to include some form of description of the revisions made to your stormwater codes and other enforceable documents that regulate stormwater management at the site and subdivision scale. Ecology recommends that Phase I Permittees address this in a narrative rather than the detailed language changes, as the detailed language changes are thoroughly documented in the equivalency review process.

Can I submit a completed "Review Form Example Template" from the LID Code Update and Integration Toolkit as my required summary report?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

The "Review Form Example Template" from the LID Code Update and Integration Toolkit wasn't intended to be a reporting form. It is a worksheet to help you track your efforts. You may find it useful to include the completed form with your submittal, but the form itself doesn't contain all the information required to be submitted, nor does it reflect the organization of the required submittal. A word version of the "Review Form Example Template" is available through the WA Stormwater Center. Ecology has developed an optional reporting template that may be used to help organize the summary report.

I'm a Phase I Permittee and have a conditional deadline for making these changes effective that is in 2016. The permit requires the development code-related code review and revision summary be submitted "with the Annual Report due on March 31, 2016." Is my summary still due by March 31, 2016 even though the revised provisions may not be effective during calendar year 2015?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

Yes, your summary is due by March 31, 2016. It is ok that your summary includes activities that occurred outside of the 2015 calendar year. WWA Phase II Permittee summaries are due no later than March 31, 2017 unless otherwise specified in the permit.

If I complete the required review and revision process, making several but not all potential changes identified in the process, do I need to submit a G20 because I am out of compliance?
(Western Washington | July 22, 2015)

In this situation, a G20 is not triggered.

Where can I find references to site and subdivision requirements in the Ecology Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington (SWMMWW, as amended in 2014) as required under WWA Phase II Permit section S5.C.4.a.ii (Phase I S5.C.5.a.ii)?
(Western Washington | September 14, 2015)

Ecology has created a table that cross-references permit language for the Phase I Municipal Stormwater Permit and the Western Washington Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permit (does not include references within the Appendices) with specific sections in the SWMMWW. The table also includes manual citations for each of the subpoints and specific references to BMP infeasibility criteria under Section S5.C.4.aii.

For the LID development codes requirement, does adopting the new Ecology manual take care of this requirement?
(Western Washington | September 14, 2015)

No, the manual and Appendix 1 are associated with site and subdivision requirements, but do not address the broader development codes updates required by the permit (S5.C.5.b. in the Phase I permit; S5.C.4.f. in the WWA Phase II permit).

Must Shoreline Master Plans (SMP) and GMA Comprehensive Plans be updated at the same time to comply with the LID code update requirement, or can revisions to those plans occur on their regular schedule?
(Western Washington | September 14, 2015)

The WWA Phase II timelines for updates of broader development codes are generally consistent with the legislative timelines for GMA updates, so permittees can coordinate the requirement with the GMA review of Comprehensive Plans and related planning documents. Permittees should include the SMP in their review according to timelines in the permit. The review should focus on identifying barriers to implementing LID. If there are inconsistencies or barriers, permittees should use the broader zoning and development codes to address or clarify them. If there is a barrier to LID, the jurisdiction may need to conduct a limited SMP amendment. However, because SMPs include goals that are consistent with protecting water quality, habitat, and shoreline functions, SMPs are not likely to require amendment.

Within the context of the Western Washington permits, when is an engineer needed to develop a site plan?
(Western Washington | September 14, 2015)

In some situations, when only Minimum Requirements #1-5 apply, an Engineer may not be required. Be aware that there are situations (such as building near steep slopes) that may require an engineer even if only MRs #1-5 apply.

In general, if all of the following are true, then an engineer may not be needed:

  • the project only requires MRs #1-5,
  • developer chooses the list approach for MR 5, and
  • no engineering calculations are necessary to complete the CSWPPP for the site.

If the project requires MRs #6-9, or any of the above are not true, an engineer should be involved.

State law requires that engineering work be performed by or under the direction of a professional engineer licensed to practice in Washington State. Plans involving construction of treatment facilities or flow control facilities (detention ponds or infiltration basins), structural source control BMPs, or drainage conveyance systems generally involve engineering principles and should be prepared by or under the direction of a licensed engineer. Construction Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) that involve engineering calculations must also be prepared by or under the direction of a licensed engineer.


Does the stormwater control timing requirement (Phase I S5.C.5.a.iii, Western Phase II S5.C.4.a, Eastern Phase II S5.B.5.a) apply to lots individually, a plat as a whole, or phases of a plat?
(Western Washington | November 20, 2015)

The answer to this question depends on whether a development has multiple phases.

Typically when a plat is approved, the approval includes the stormwater requirements for the entire plat, including the individual lots. The stormwater infrastructure that is common to the plat (e.g., conveyance system associated with the road, and treatment and/or flow control facilities) is typically built concurrently with the roads and utilities. If the plat's stormwater site plan included restrictions or requirements for the individual lots, (e.g., maximum impervious surface, LID BMPs, declaration of covenant and grant of easement), those requirements should be recorded for each lot and must enforced by the local government when the individual lot is developed. This means that individual lots do not need to apply the updated stormwater control requirements because the entire plat had already started construction before the applicable deadline.

Note however that a multi-phased development, such as a multi-phased subdivision, which may have had a stormwater approval for all the phases, should be evaluated differently. Each distinct phase should have its own start of construction date. Thus, if the start of construction for a phase exceeds the construction deadline set by the permit, the local government should apply the updated stormwater requirements.


Will the WWA Phase II deadline to adopt and make effective an ordinance or other enforceable mechanism to address runoff from new/re-development and construction site site projects be extended based on the Phase I manual adoption dates (WWA Ph II S5.C.4.a)?
(Western Washington | February 9, 2016)

No, the WWA PH II deadline (Dec. 31, 2016) to comply with S5.C.4.a. will not be extended.

Permittees that choose to adopt a Phase I Ecology-approved program must do so within the timeframe provided under the Phase II permit. Phase II Permittees may contact the Phase I Permittee whose program they wish to adopt directly to obtain a copy of the program. See the Phase I Equivalent Manuals page for information about adoption deadlines and the most recent Ecology actions. Phase II Permittees have between 11 and 13 months, depending on the program they choose, to adopt an equivalent Phase I program after that program has been adopted by the Phase I Permittee.

The Phase I Permit includes a specific allowance to adjust the Phase I deadline based on the number of days it took Ecology to provide written comments. An equivalent deadline change is not possible for Phase II Permittees, because Phase II programs do not require review by Ecology and therefore the Phase II permit does not include the Phase I deadline adjustment provision. Changing a deadline is considered a major permit modification.


What does the Washington State Supreme Court ruling in Snohomish County, et al. v. Pollution Control Hearings Bd., et al. mean in the context of the Phase I and WWA Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permits (effective date 8/1/2013)?
(Western Washington | January 26, 2017)

On December 29, 2016, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a decision in Snohomish County, et al. v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, et al. The ruling holds that municipal stormwater regulations adopted under the federal and state National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program are not "land use control ordinances" subject to state vesting statutes.

This means that the provisions of the 2013-2018 Phase I and Phase II Western WA Municipal Stormwater Permits that pertain to the timing of applicability of the updated stormwater controls for new and redevelopment are in effect.

  1. Phase I S5C5a.iii: “The local program adopted to meet the requirements of S5.C.5.a.i through ii shall apply to all applications submitted after June 30, 2015 and shall apply to applications submitted no later than June 30, 2015, which have not started construction by June 30, 2020.” (Refer to the permit for full citation including footnotes.)
  2. Phase II WWA S5C4a: “The local program adopted to meet the requirements of S5.C.4.a(i) through (iii) below, shall apply to all applications submitted on or after January 1, 2017 and shall apply to applications submitted prior to January 1, 2017, which have not started construction by January 1, 2022.” (Refer to the permit for full citation including footnotes and language applicable to Permittees in Lewis and Cowlitz counties and City of Aberdeen.)

Vesting statutes do not preclude compliance with the cited conditions above.


What does the State Supreme Court Ruling Snohomish County, et al. v. Pollution Control Hearings Bd., et al. mean for development applications submitted after the local codes are updated?
(Western Washington | April 7, 2017)

The State Supreme Court ruling made clear that the provisions of the 2013-2018 Phase I and Phase II Western WA Municipal Stormwater Permits that pertain to the timing of applicability of the updated stormwater controls for new and redevelopment are in effect.

The stormwater codes in effect at the time the application for a plat/subdivision is submitted apply to all subsequent building permits if stormwater is being addressed at the subdivision/plat level. This is because the Subdivision/plat application is the relevant application for determining the applicable stormwater requirements. The later submitted building applications can rely on the stormwater design that was included with the subdivision/plat application because stormwater has already been done for the geographic area of the subdivision/plat. Under the municipal stormwater permits the only place that the recent supreme court decision comes into play is if the developer does not start construction on the subdivision/plat until after June 30, 2020 (PH I)* or January 1, 2022 (PH II)*.

For the purposes of the municipal stormwater permits both “application” and “start construction” are defined in the permits.

Application means at a minimum, a complete project description, site plan, and if applicable SEPA checklist.

Start of construction in the permits and means at a minimum, the site work associated with and directly related to the approved project has begun. For example: grading the project site to final grade or utility installation.

*Note these dates vary for different permittees, see your Phase I or Phase II permit for details.


Does Ecology's interpretation and application of the State Supreme Court Ruling (Snohomish County, et al. v. Pollution Control Hearings Board) (i.e., as articulated in these FAQs) apply only to the Phase I and WWA Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permits, or does Ecology’s interpretation and application also apply to Washington State law governing vesting?
(Western Washington | April 7, 2017)

Ecology’s interpretation of the State Supreme Court ruling applies only to the permit language included in the Phase I and WWA Phase II Municipal Stormwater permits and does not extend to other state laws.


If a proposed development changes between the original application (e.g. subdivision/plat application) and a subsequent development application (e.g. building permit application), does the original stormwater plan still apply?
(Western Washington | April 7, 2017)

It would depend on the proposed changes to the project description.

The local jurisdiction should follow their procedures for determining whether a project description has changed enough from the original subdivision/plat application to be considered a new project, a distinct addition or revision to the project, or a minor change that could be considered part of the original project. Some considerations to determine whether a new project has been submitted include changes to the project that intensify the use of the site, or increases the hard surfaces, or increases to the land disturbing area.

If the change is determined to be a new project, the original stormwater plan would not apply and the stormwater regulations in effect at the time of the new application would apply.

If the jurisdiction accepts the proposed changes as a distinct addition or revision to the original permit project description, then the original stormwater plan may still apply to the portion of the development considered originally. The proposed additions or revisions to the original project description must be reviewed under the stormwater regulations in effect at the time of the revised application. In other words, the original stormwater plan did not envision the revised project description (with additions) now being considered, and therefore did not address stormwater for the complete proposed project.


We have one subdivision that specifically stated in its application materials that each of the lots “will be responsible for providing stormwater management of the runoff created by the development of the new homes”. Should these lots be held to the prior regulations, or those in effect at time of complete building permit application submittal?
(Western Washington | April 7, 2017)

In this scenario, the subdivision application did not address stormwater management, and left the stormwater requirements to the building permit stage of the process. Therefore, each building permit should be reviewed to meet stormwater requirements in effect at the time of the building permit application.


Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination

Table - Municipal Stormwater Permittee Notification and Reporting Procedures for Discharges and Spills into and from the MS4
(All | July 31, 2015)

Retain records of the incident or situation and associated response actions. The permit requires that you make this information available upon request and, as applicable, report it in your Municipal Stormwater Permit Annual Report. This table describes reporting requirements. Also see Ecology's Spill Reporting page for additional information.

If you need to report an illicit discharge or spill, call the appropriate regional hotline as directed by this FAQ. For all other questions and to notify Ecology under Special Condition S4.F.1, contact your regional permit specialist.

Type of Discharge Permit Citation Who to Notify Time to Notify Permittee Special Reporting
A spill or discharge (including allowable or authorized discharges) into or from my MS4, which could constitute a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment. G3 Ecology Regional Office:

Northwest Region:
Southwest Region:
Central Region:
Eastern Region:
Immediately, but no later than 24- hours after obtaining the knowledge. Notify jurisdictions, or secondary permittees, with inter-connected MS4s as needed.
A spill or discharge of oil or hazardous substances (including allowable or authorized discharges) into or from my MS4, which presents a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment. G3 Washington Emergency Management Division:
1-800-OILS-911 OR


National Response Center:


Ecology Regional Office (see above)
Immediately None
A spill or discharge into or from my MS4, which might cause bacterial contamination of shellfishmarine waters. (Western Washington only) G3 WA State Department of Health:
1-360-236-3330 (business hours)
1-360-789-8962 (24-hours)


Ecology Regional Office:
Northwest Region:
Southwest Region:
Immediately None
A discharge from my MS4 that is causing or contributing to a known or likely violation of water quality standards. S4.F Notify your assigned regional Ecology permit specialist in writing in accordance with S4.F.1. The written notification must be signed by the appropriate authorized person. (See Permit Condition G19.)

NOTE: This discharge may also require immediate notification under G3, as above.
Within 30 days of determining the discharge contributes to a known or likely violation of water quality standards. Your regional Ecology permit specialist will respond in writing in accordance with the applicable provisions in S4.F.2.
Illicit discharges that do not present threats to human health, welfare, or the environment, or cause or contribute to a known or likely water quality violation. Various Document in your Municipal Stormwater Permit Annual Report. Include in your annual report submittal. None
Allowable or authorized discharges that do not present threats to human health, welfare, or the environment, or cause or contribute to a known or likely water quality violation. Various Permit does not require specific notification. NA None


Are discharges associated with emergency firefighting exempted from G3 reporting (because they are authorized under the permit)?
(All | July 1, 2015)

No. Section G3 is a stand-alone permit requirement. You must report any discharge (authorized or not, allowed or not) which you determine could constitute a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment. Check requirements in section G3 to ensure that you provide all necessary notifications.

Does the IDDE field screening methodology and performance measure based on % of the system increase the level of effort of field screening? How does Ecology expect jurisdictions to measure the % of the MS4, by geographic area or linear feet, or other measure?
(All | July 20, 2015)

In order to answer this, it's important to separate the field screening methods from the performance measure for how much to screen:
  • Field screening methodology is now flexible and up to the permittee to determine. Each permittee chooses whether to use a method based on, for example, outfall screening, junction points or nodes of the MS4, or a more detailed inventory of some sections using a camera. Ecology expects that permittees may vary this for different sections of their MS4, as appropriate. The permit requires that you describe the method in the annual report, but does not prescribe what that method must be. Refer to the Illicit Connection and Illicit Discharge Field Screening and Source Tracing Guidance Manual (2013) for information on field screening methodologies.
  • The percent of the MS4 that must be screened can be determined by whatever works best for the permittee. This may be linear feet of the MS4, geographic area served by the MS4 (aerial extent based on delineation of MS4 basins), or percent of outfalls. Note that using the percent of outfalls method implies that each outfall is representative of the same MS4 service area, which is not actually true, but it may be the best fit given the state of MS4 maps.


Under what conditions must a municipal stormwater permittee report specific discharges or spills to Ecology?
(All | July 31, 2015)

Three kinds of situations require specific notification and reporting to Ecology:
  1. Discharges, including spills, into the MS4, which could constitute a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment. (See permit General Condition G3)
  2. Discharges from the MS4, which could constitute a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment. (See permit General Condition G3)
  3. Discharges from the MS4 that are causing or contributing to a known or likely violation of a water quality standard in the receiving water. (See permit Special Condition S4.F)


Do all municipal stormwater permittees, including secondary permittees, need to follow these notification and reporting requirements?
(All | July 31, 2015)

Yes. All municipal stormwater permittees must report illicit discharges, spills, and water quality concerns associated with their MS4s.

How do I report a discharge or spill into or from my MS4 that could present a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment? (See permit General Condition G3.)
(All | July 31, 2015)

Immediately, but no later than 24 hours after obtaining the knowledge, contact the appropriate Ecology regional office hotline (see table above). Note that specific additional reporting is required for discharges of oil or hazardous substances (statewide) or discharges that might cause bacterial contamination of shellfish (in Western Washington only).

For all reported spills or discharges, keep records of the incident and associated response actions. Include that information in your Municipal Stormwater Permit Annual Report and upon request.

Under what conditions do I need to provide G3 notification re: "allowable" or "conditionally allowable" discharges, such as discharges associated with emergency firefighting?
(All | July 31, 2015)

Any discharge into or from the MS4, including discharges associated with emergency firefighting, may be subject to reporting under permit General Condition G3. If you determine that a specific discharge into or from your MS4 could constitute a threat to human health, welfare or the environment, follow permit General Condition G3 reporting rules. G3 is a stand-alone requirement.

What reporting and notification should I perform when a spill occurs into my MS4, and my MS4 discharges into another jurisdiction's MS4?
(All | July 31, 2015)

All municipal stormwater permittees must notify the local jurisdiction receiving the discharge. This will allow them to manage the discharge more effectively. The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma must also contact the City or County they are located in (Phase I permit condition S6.E.7.f). For additional notification requirements, refer to the table above. Keep records of all reported discharges or spills and associated response actions. Report that information in your Municipal Stormwater Permit Annual Report and upon request.

If I have already reported a spill in accordance with permit condition G3, do I also need to notify my regional Ecology permit specialist under S4.F.1?
(All | July 31, 2015)

Possibly. Notify your regional Ecology permit specialist under S4.F.1 if you have credible, site-specific information that a discharge from your MS4 is causing or contributing to a known or likely water quality standards violation in the receiving water. (See Frequently Asked Questions: Municipal Stormwater Permits and Compliance with Standards.)

How do I report illicit discharges into or from my MS4 that do not present threats to human health, welfare, or the environment?
(All | July 31, 2015)

Address such discharges through your Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) program or, for Phase I permittees, your Structural Stormwater Controls or Source Control programs. No immediate notification to Ecology or other authorities is required. Retain records of the illicit discharge and your associated response actions to report in your Municipal Stormwater Permit Annual Report.

As a Phase I county, do I have to screen 12% of my system each year AND meet the requirement to finish screening my urban/higher density rural sub-basins?
(All | September 14, 2015)

Yes, both requirements apply. However, you can clearly count any screening conducted to meet the requirement to finish screening your urban/higher density rural sub-basins toward the annual average of 12%. You may also count any screening conducted in urban, higher density rural, and rural sub-basins to meet TMDL requirements toward the annual average of 12%.

What kind of information should I include in the summary of actions taken to characterize, trace, and eliminate each illicit discharge found by or reported to my jurisdiction (AR Q# 20:WWA PH II; #17 EWA; #48 PH I)?
(All | December 7, 2015)

​For each illicit discharge that you find or hear about, describe the following:
  • Actions taken to characterize the nature of and potential public environmental threat posed by the discharge (WWA PhII S5.C.3.d.i; EWA S5.B.3.di; PH I S5.C.8.d.i)
  • Actions taken to trace the source of the illicit discharge (WWA PHII S5.C.3.d.ii; S5.B.3.d.ii; S5.C.8.d.iii)
  • Actions taken to eliminate the illicit discharge (WWA PH II S5.C.3.d.iii; EWA S5.B.3.d.iii; PH I S5.C.8.d.iii)
  • Your timeline for implementing and completing your response, in accordance with the schedule and deadlines provided in (WWA PH II S5.C.3.d.iv; EWA S5.B.3.d.iv; PH I S5.C.8.d.iv).
NOTE: This list is a very quick summary of the required information. Consult S5 permit language for the source of the necessary information. See the IDDE Incident Tracking Form for a form (and a format) that may be used to record the information; the Instructions for this form provide a detailed description of the required information.

Maintenance and Inspection

Are Western Washington Phase II municipal stormwater permittees responsible for inspection and maintenance of private BMPs/facilities that discharge to their system?
(WWA PII | October 30, 2015)

​Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permittees have inspection and maintenance standards for private BMPs/facilities built pursuant to Minimum Requirement 6/Core Element #5 (runoff treatment) or Minimum Requirement 7/Core Element #6 (flow control). See permit sections S5.C.3.b.v and S5.C.4.c. (WWA Phase II) and sections and S5.B.5.c. (EWA Phase II). These permit requirements refer to private facilities that were built to meet permit requirements enacted via ordinance February 16, 2010 (or earlier if a jurisdiction was an early adopter of the regulations). Only those private facilities built to satisfy those Permit requirements are subject to inspection and maintenance standards by the Municipality. Private facilities built prior to those requirements have no specific inspection requirements.

Can Western Washington Permittees allow owners of a private stormwater facility to use a qualified third party (rather than Permittee staff) to inspect and to certify that required inspection and maintenance occurred?
(Western Washington | July 1, 2015)

Yes, Permittees may establish this type of program through the same legal authority required in this permit section (Phase II: S5.C.4.c; Phase I: S5.C.9.b.) The Permittee must retain the legal authority to inspect and enforce for cases where the private land owner does not elect to use a qualified third party. The self-certification program must use qualified personnel as defined in the Permits. The Permittee is still required to track inspections, maintain records, and ensure the inspections are occurring within the correct frequencies to achieve the target percentage for number of inspections.

Regardless of who inspects the stormwater facilities, the Permittee is ultimately responsible for the discharges from its MS4. Discharges that violate any water quality standard are prohibited and may require additional attention under S4.F.

Does Ecology have guidance on how to implement alternatives to the standard approach of inspecting catch basins annually?
(All | July 20, 2015)

Detailed catch basin inspection guidance is available.

How does Ecology define "typical maintenance" and "capital construction" in (WWA Phase II) and S5.C.9.a.ii (Phase I)?
(Western Washington | July 20, 2015)

Permittees have the flexibility to define the terms "typical maintenance" and "capital construction" as needed. Ecology suggests using the SWMMWW Vol. 5 Chapter 4 to help guide permittees.

For WWA Phase II Permit condition, when do I have to perform maintenance, if the project will have capital construction costs of greater than $25,000?
(WWA PII | August 19, 2015)

Individual maintenance projects with capital costs of greater than $25,000 are not explicitly addressed in the permit. It can be assumed that Ecology is providing a timeline of more than two years, because it is anticipated that those projects need additional planning or implementation time compared to maintenance projects with costs less than $25,000. For these larger, more expensive projects, Ecology recognizes the permittee may need to go through capital planning, with timeframes that could extend beyond the term of this permit. In most cases, we expect larger projects to be completed within five years, which is generally one capital planning cycle.

Are there additional maintenance standards for proprietary devices that are separate from the manufacturer's O&M specs?
(All | July 20, 2015)

There are 3 places to refer to for maintenance standards guidance:

Do drainage systems (including treatment and flow control BMPs/facilities) that serve individual city-owned properties (e.g., fire stations, reservoirs, parks) need to be included in the system inspection and maintenance activities in the Municipal Operations and Maintenance (Good Housekeeping) section of the permit?
(All | July 20, 2015)

Yes, the Municipal Operations and Maintenance requirements apply to all "municipally owned or operated" facilities, including facilities on individual municipally-owned properties. This also includes maintenance responsibilities for a county to maintain a county-owned facility located within a city boundary.

S9: Reporting

Annual Reports: Secure Access Washington / Electronic Signature Account Form (ESAF)

Can the responsible official still sign an Annual Report after she or he has delegated signing authority via the ESAF?
(All | July 1, 2015)

Any member of your organization who is designated a "Signer" or "Coordinator" in the Water Quality Web Portal, AND who has been appropriately designated the authority to sign the Annual Report according to Condition G19 of your permit, may sign an Annual Report. You may have multiple signers at a time, so long as your delegation letter(s) are written to allow that.

Does filling out Section 8 of the ESAF only delegate signatory authority for the Annual Report, or does it sign away signatory authority for all permit-related submittals, like S4.F?
(All | July 1, 2015)

Filling out Section 8 of the ESAF designates ALL signatory authority for the permit to the person named in Section 7. If you wish to ONLY designate authority for Annual Report submittals, you must attach a delegation letter that clearly states the authority that is being delegated. Note that the Water Quality Web Portal does not support "partial" designation, so the system will not prevent an unauthorized person from accidentally submitting a different permit-related submittal.

If my mayor has filled out an ESAF for another permit (e.g., construction stormwater), does she or he need to do it again for this permit?
(All | July 1, 2015)

Yes, a new ESAF is required. Each ESAF you fill out is for a single permit.

I lost my Electronic Signature Account password. How do I get it back?
(All | December 7, 2015)

You will need to contact Ecology at to have a temporary password sent to your email address. For additional help (e.g. need to change an email address, or can't remember your answers to security questions), see the relevant sections of the user manual for the WQWebPortal system​. Currently it includes mostly information about Discharge Monitoring Reports (which are not a part of the MS4 permit), but it also includes information about unlocking locked accounts.

Annual Reports: Technical Issues

I have a lot of very large attachments. Will this cause problems?
(All | July 1, 2015)

There is no specific limit on the number or size of attachments. Ecology recommends that you try to keep the total size of all of your attachments under 15 MB, because the verification email you receive has a 15 MB size limit; it will not include attachments that make the total size of the email greater than 15 MB. We recommend that you minimize the size of your documents as much as possible by compressing PDFs and images in Word documents; you can also zip files to compress them even further.

If you simply cannot reduce the size of your files below 15 MB, the system will still accept them; it may take a long time for them to upload.

How do I upload a file without attaching it to a question?
(All | July 1, 2015)

On the main page of the annual report that lists the categories of questions, look in the lower left. There is an "Attachments" heading, with a small box next to it. Click the box to open up the Attachments section, where you can upload a file without going through the "browse" dialog in a question.

How do I attach multiple files to a single question (do I have to use the separate Attachments page)?
(All | January 19, 2017)

You can only add one file per question. If you upload additional attachments, only the most recent will be saved.

However, you can upload additional files for a question through the dialogue in the Attachments box. If you choose to use this option you must reference the question(s) that the file is for in the Description box.

I completed my Annual Report, and now I need something to post to my website. Where can I get my Annual Report answers?
(All | July 1, 2015)

Once you have completed your annual report, you will receive an email with up to 15 MB of the file attachments that you uploaded. One of those files will be a PDF of your "Copy of Record", which contains all of the annual report questions and all of your answers, which you can then upload to your website.

If you did not receive a confirmation email or cannot find the email you received, you can download the Copy of Record from PARIS. Find your permit, then in the Facility Summary look in the Document table for a PDF file that begins with the phrase "Copy of Record".

I found a mistake after I submitted my Annual Report. How do I fix it, and should I submit a G20 notification?
(All | August 19, 2015)

You can modify your Annual Report submittal at any time, before or after the submittal deadline. Log into WQWebPortal, change the answers or files you need to change, then submit the report again, just like you submitted it originally. You will need your G19 signatory to sign the submittal every time you re-submit. The system will log each resubmittal, as well as the changes that were made every time.

A G20 Notice of Noncompliance may be necessary depending upon the details of your situation. If you need to make a change to your Annual Report after the report is due (i.e., April 1 or later), contact your regional permit manager for guidance.

Are there limits or requirements for naming files that we attach to the Annual Report, such as length or special characters?
(All | November 20, 2015)

The system will cut off file names of more than 20 characters. While using longer file names will not cause an issue, permittees are strongly encouraged to limit file names to 20 characters or fewer, to minimize the number of characters that are trimmed.

There aren't any special invalid characters. File names that are valid in the Windows operating system are valid for uploading to WQWebPortal.

The system automatically adds the question number, date, and time to the names of files submitted through specific questions. This reduces the likelihood that there will be multiple files in the system with the same name, and makes managing your annual report files easier.

Annual Reports: Questions

Should my annual report (submitted March 31, 2015) address activities undertaken since the beginning of the permit term (August 2013) or only CY2014 (January-December)?
(All | July 1, 2015)

Your annual report should only cover activities performed in the previous calendar year.

What is the difference among Y, N, and NA answers?
(All | July 1, 2015)

Generally speaking:
  • Y can be interpreted as: Yes, I fully met this requirement during the reporting period.
  • NA can be interpreted as: This Q does not apply to me or the requirement is not yet due.
  • N can be interpreted as: No, I did not meet this requirement during the reporting period.

Can we use last year's annual report as the basis for preparing this year's annual report?
(All | July 1, 2015)

The annual report questions in the current set of permits (in Western Washington, effective August 2013; in Eastern Wasthington, effective August 2014) do NOT track with the annual report questions found in the 2007 permits. They are similar but are not in all cases identical. Please consult the appropriate appendix in the permits for a list of questions being asked in this permit cycle.

Multiple Questions, WWA Phase II Continuing, Phase I: Some questions refer to existing ongoing programs to be updated during the permit term. For example, Q22 (WWA Phase II Continuing) asks if we implemented an ordinance to address runoff requirements, but the permit states we have until December 2016 to update.
(All | July 1, 2015)

Ecology expects permittees to answer the annual report questions based on your programs in place during the 12-month reporting period.

For questions like Question 22, which asks about a program that you are currently required to implement AND that you will be required to revise during the permit term, respond Y if during the reporting period you implemented the ordinance/program currently required by the permit (PH I & WWA Phase II: S5.A.4; EWA Phase II: S5.A.2). Respond N if you did not implement the current program as required. A response of N generally indicates a permit violation. NA is not an option in this case because all permittees must continue implementing permit requirements established in the previous permit term.

Please note that another Q focused on the revised ordinance will be asked the year after the update deadline has passed. Beginning in that annual report, Q22 refers to the revised ordinance.

NOTE: Several questions related to the runoff control program for new and redevelopment projects as well as the operations and maintenance program are handled in the same way.

Q9 (Phase II Continuing): Does this relate to the SWMP document I prepared last year?
(All | July 1, 2015)

You can answer "Yes" to this question if you have posted the most recent version of your Stormwater Management Program to your website. For example, in the annual report due March 31, 2015, your 2014 SWMP posted by May 31, 2014; Annual Reports were not required in 2014.

Q12 (Phase II Continuing): If I have not yet updated the prohibited discharge ordinance/regulatory mechanism but may need to do so, should I answer NO (because I have not yet done this) or NA because the permit requirement due date has not been triggered?
(WWA PII | July 1, 2015)

For annual reports covering CY2014-2017: Because the obligation to update this regulatory mechanism is not yet triggered, you should answer NA if you have not yet updated the associated regulatory mechanism. If you have reviewed your regulatory mechanism and made the necessary updates, answer Y in the corresponding annual report. If you have reviewed the current regulatory mechanism and determined that no updates are needed, the correct answer is also Y. Answering "No" to this question means that you did NOT implement this permit requirement by the required deadline and are out of compliance.

For annual reports submitted after CY2018: After CY2018, the NA option is not available to you. For that annual report, you must select either Y (I reviewed the regulatory mechanism and updated it by Feburary 2, 2018) or N (I missed the deadline to update the regulatory mechanism).

Q14 (Phase II Continuing): How do I determine what percentage of my MS4 has been screened?
(WWA PII | July 1, 2015)

Permittees may use their own methods for determining how much of their MS4 has been screened, such as tributary area, miles of conveyance, or outfall basins.

Q19 and Q20 (Phase II Continuing): If my jurisdictions did not have any illicit discharges to characterize, trace, or eliminate (i.e., the correct answer to Q19 is 0), then do I click "Not Applicable" on Q20 since there is no summary to attach?
(WWA PII | July 1, 2015)

If no potential discharges were reported during the reporting year, select "NA" for Q20. If, however, you conducted investigations but did not locate actual illicit discharges, please also attach those investigation summaries to your Q20 response.

Q21 (Phase II Continuing and New) and Q48 (Phase I): Can I submit ERTS records as documentation?
(WWA Both | July 1, 2015)

Usually not. ERTS records document spills and other illicit discharges to/from your MS4 that were reported to Ecology. In most cases, these records will not include all of the information being requested in this annual report question (e.g., information related to actions you took to characterize, trace, and eliminate illicit discharges). ERTS records track more closely with questions related to G3 (Spill reporting), such as Qs 60-62 for Phase II Continuing, Qs 59-61 for Phase II New, and Qs86-88 for Phase I Permittees.

If you use the RSMP SIDIR form to track illicit discharge, you may use the weekly spreadsheet reports from that form to meet this permit requirement.

Q49 (Phase II Continuing): If I did not finish all catchbasin inspections, do I answer No or NA?
(WWA PII | July 1, 2015)

For annual reports covering CY2014-16, answering NA is allowable, since the permit requirement does not need to be fully implemented until mid-2017 (for most Permittees). Answering "N" indicates that you did not meet a permit requirement.

Q49c (Phase II Continuing): Does the number of catch basins inspected during the reporting period include catch basins inspected during the previous permit term?
(WWA PII | July 1, 2015)

No, the number of catch basins is for those inspected during the reporting period. The reporting period is the previous year. If you are filling out the Annual Report in 2015, then your reporting period is from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014.

Q59 (Phase II Continuing): What is meant by "contributed to the RSMP" for SIDIR? Is this different from "Participated in cost-sharing"?
(WWA PII | July 1, 2015)

"Contributed to the RSMP" in this context means "paid the amount specified for my jurisdiction in S8.D into the RSMP Pooled Funding Account for SIDIR".

Q 16 (Phase I) Is "No" the acceptable answer when Phase I received an alternative date to adopt and make effective the ECY-approved equivalent stormwater manuals/programs per S5.C.5.a.iii?
(Western Washington | February 9, 2016)

Question 16 of the Phase 1 annual report form reads: "Adopted and made effective the Ecology-approved enforceable requirements, technical standards and manual to meet site and subdivision-scale requirements of S5.C.5.a no later than July 1, 2015? (S5.C.5.a.iii)." As all of the Phase I Permittees did receive a later deadline than "July 1, 2015" based on Special Condition S5C5a.iii of the Phase I permit, a "No" answer is correct and acceptable. The Phase I schedule for adoption can be found here:

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G19: Certification

G19 (All Permits): What is a "principal executive officer" or a "ranking elected official"? Can it be a public works director or stormwater manager?
(All | July 1, 2015)

In general, the meanings of "principal executive officer" and "ranking elected official" depend on the structure of your local government. A ranking elected official tends to be a mayor or councilmember. A principal executive officer is generally a city manager or city administrator. Because each local government is different, the permittee must use discretion in identifying its default G19 signatory. The signatory, including any delegate, must be able to make the permit-required certification for all submittals.


Stormwater flow control and treatment BMPs/facilities (WWA Permits): Does this definition refer to Minimum Requirements 6 and 7 from the 2012 Stormwater Management Manual, or to the 2014 version of the Manual?
(WWA Both | July 1, 2015)

This definition refers to the Minimum Requirements in effect at the time the facility is designed, and permit requirements that incorporate this phrase should be interpreted in that way. A facility designed in 2013 would refer to the 2012 Stormwater Management Manual; a facility designed in 2015 would refer to the 2014 version of the Manual.

Appendix 1: Minimum Technical Requirements

If I achieve the LID Performance Standard, can I disregard Minimum Requirement #7?
(WWA Both | September 14, 2015)

No. Minimum Requirements #5 and #7 are independent. Regardless of decisions made and methods used to comply with Minimum Requirement #5, projects must also comply with Minimum Requirement #7, if applicable.

Is Ecology planning to update/amend the SWMMWW or guidance for implementing T5.13/Soil Depth and Quality BMP in light of recent bioretention soil mix research?
(All | October 30, 2015)

​No, Ecology does not have plans to revise BMP T5.13 in light of ongoing research in bioretention soil mixtures. BMP T5.13 deals with options for meeting soil quality and depth in lawn and landscaping areas, not bioretention facilities. The specifications in the SWMMWW for soil amendment are different from the default and custom Bioretention Soil Media in BMP T7.30 that have been the subject of recent and ongoing research.

Appendix 2: Total Maximum Daily Load

Does paying into the Regional Stormwater Monitoring Program (RSMP) satisfy my obligations to conduct TMDL-related monitoring under Appendix 2?
(WWA Both | July 1, 2015)

No, you must still conduct TMDL-related monitoring. Appendix 2 requirements stand separate from other requirements in the permit; permittees that have done everything required of them in the body of the permit still have to do the additional actions described in Appendix 2.

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Last updated February 9, 2016