The Importance of the NPDES Permit
Along with the many other permits HPS is required to obtain prior to mining, HPS must get a Wastewater/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WW/NPDES) permit for wastewater discharges associated with mining activities.
What is an NPDES permit?
The Clean Water Act makes it illegal to discharge any pollutants into waters of the United States (including surface waters and wetlands) except in compliance with terms set forth in the Act. “Discharge of a pollutant” is defined by the Act to mean, among other things, “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.” The Act allows for the discharge of such pollutants only in compliance with an NPDES permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or delegated state agency. In Florida, the EPA has delegated its authority to issue NPDES permits to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
Under Florida law, any facility or activity that is reasonably expected to discharge to waters of the state must obtain a permit, unless exempt. Florida’s wastewater permitting program goes beyond EPA’s NPDES program to include groundwater; facilities and activities that have the potential to discharge to any “water” within the state (including groundwater) must nonetheless obtain a wastewater permit from FDEP unless exempt. Domestic wastewater facilities include systems like sanitary sewers or septic management facilities; any wastewater that is not “domestic” is considered “industrial wastewater, including stormwater. The FDEP requires an industrial wastewater (IWW)/NPDES permit for discharges associated with three potential sources: Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s), construction activities, and industrial activities. Wastewater discharges associated with mining, which consist of stormwater falling within the mining area, groundwater dewatered from mining areas, and water used in beneficiation (an industrial activity) require an IWW/NPDES Permit.
What is the purpose of the NPDES permitting program?
The purpose of IWW/NPDES permits is to ensure that any discharge from regulated activities does not cause or contribute to a violation of state water quality standards or adversely affect water resources or human health. The discharge of pollutants can harm our rivers, streams, and lakes if the discharge is not carefully monitored and treated. An IWW/NPDES permit provides conditions to ensure that regulated activities are taking the necessary precautions to limit the discharge and ensure state water quality standards are met.
Ultimately, the NPDES permitting process is in place to confirm that state mandatory and federal minimum standards are being met to protect our water. Along with limits on discharge, Best Management Practices, or BMPs, are an additional layer of protection incorporated into the NPDES permit. By implementing these BMPs, pollution can be prevented at its source.
HPS and NPDES
HPS will obtain an IWW/NPDES permit from FDEP for any discharges associated with mining activities. HPS will abide by all permit conditions and all state and federal water quality standards to ensure protection of water quality. This includes ensuring that all wastewater is properly treated and discharged at an approved NPDES IWW discharge point, where the water quality will be monitored. Monitoring both groundwater and surface water at the discharge points and at the property boundaries ensures that water quality off-site is protected.
HPS is committed to protecting water quality. In order to do so, HPS will ensure any wastewater discharge from mining activities is closing monitored and treated as specified by the IWW/NPDES permit.
 See “Federal, State, and Local Permits, Approvals, and Authorizations,” posted June 12, 2019.
 The “Clean Water Act” is the common name for the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972.
 The “waters” that are subject to Florida’s pollution control statutes expressly include underground waters. Fla. Stat. §403.031(13) (2018).
 See “Protecting Water Resources during Mining with a Ditch and Berm System,” posted May 8, 2019.