General Permits and How They Protect the Environment
General permits are best suited for the regulation of numerous, very similar, and generally smaller facilities and sources that have emissions and discharges that pose little environmental risk. For example, with respect to permitting requirements, one dry cleaning business is like most others, just as sand and gravel pits are all about the same. When it comes to limiting stormwater runoff, each construction site needs to take the same precautions regardless of what is being built. As long as the applicant agrees to conduct its proposed activities under the pre-set limits established by the permit, it will be able to operate under any general permit for which it is eligible.
Because there are so many sources or facilities involved statewide in the types of activities allowable under a general permit, ADEQ is able to save a lot of staff time and state resources by using them. Instead of considering permit requests for such common and widespread activities on an individual basis, general permits ensure that the environment is protected from the effect of hundreds of such construction sites, grain elevators, or other "like" activities. General permits allow both ADEQ and the public to focus on the facilities and sources that have a potentially significant environmental impact.
Facilities and sources whose emissions and discharges could have a significant environmental impact are not eligible to operate under a general permit. Facilities or sources that have a general permit, and who then expand their operations to the point that their emissions and/or discharge levels exceed the pre-set limits of their general permits, become ineligible to continue operating under a general permit, and must apply for an individual permit.
However, when a facility or source seeks to operate under a general permit, there are limited opportunities for participation in the decision-making process. That is because any concerns about the environmental impact of a particular type of activity allowed under general permits were addressed during the rulemaking process that initially created the general permit.
Activities Regulated by General Permits
Reclaimed Water Reuse
Direct reuse of reclaimed water recycles treated effluent for beneficial uses, thereby conserving potable water
sources for human consumption and domestic uses. Reclaimed water permits may be issued as individual or general permits and are required for:
- A reclaimed water blending facility
- A reclaimed water agent
- Direct reuse
- A gray water user
- A reuse of industrial wastewater if it is combined with sanitary wastewater or used in the production or processing of a crop or substance that may be used as human or animal food
Currently there are nine general reclaimed water permits. In most cases, these general permits can be issued in less time and with lower review fees than the reclaimed water individual permit.
- A Type 1 General Permit does not require notification and does not expire if the general permit conditions are continually met.
- Type 2 General Permits require a Notice of Intent (NOI) and are generally valid for five years.
- Type 3 General Permits require a NOI and are valid for five years. The applicant must receive a written verification from the department before operating.
Discharges to Groundwater
You need to obtain an Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) if you own or operate a facility that discharges a pollutant either directly to an aquifer or to the land surface or to the vadose zone in such a manner that there is a reasonable probability that the pollutant will reach an aquifer. ADEQ will help you determine if the facility qualifies for a general permit or exemption upon request.
APPs are issued as individual and general permits. The following facilities are considered to be "discharging" and require permits, unless exempted or if ADEQ determines that there will be no migration of pollutants directly to the aquifer or to the vadose zone:
- Surface impoundments, pits, ponds, and lagoons
- Solid waste disposal facilities (generally regulated by the Solid Waste Management, except for mining overburden and wall rock that has not been subject to mine leaching operations
- Injection wells
- Land treatment facilities
- Facilities adding pollutants to a salt dome, salt beds, or salt formations, drywells, underground caves, or mines
- Mine tailings piles and ponds
- Mine leaching operations
- Septic tank systems
- Underground water storage facilities (if wastewater - effluent is used)
- Point source discharges to navigable waters
- Sewage or wastewater treatment facilities
There are currently 45 general APPs ranging from permits requiring department notification, to permits authorized by simply meeting the criteria specified in statute or rule.
Discharges to Surface Water
Under the Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (AZPDES), all facilities that discharge pollutants from any point source into waters of the United States (navigable waters) are required to get an AZPDES permit. Pollutants can enter from a variety of pathways, including agricultural, domestic and industrial sources. For regulatory purposes these sources are generally categorized as either point source or nonpoint sources.
AZPDES permits are issued as individual or general permits. A general permit could be written to include all
facilities within a common geographic area that:
- Involve the same or substantially similar types of operations
- Discharge the same types of wastes
- Require the same effluent limitations or operating conditions
- Require the same or similar monitoring requirements
Air Quality General Permits
How to get involved
Because each general permit of a particular type contains the same permit language and emissions or discharge limits as all the other permits, there is limited opportunity for public participation associated with the issuance of a general permit. To learn more about the public participation process associated with rulemaking, please visit Laws, Rules and Policies.