Whenever a municipality, industry, or other business wishes to discharge water to a surface water of the State, they must first obtain a permit from the Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water (DSW). This permit is called a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. NPDES permits regulate wastewater discharges by limiting the quantities of pollutants in the discharge and establishing monitoring requirements and other conditions. The limits and other conditions in the permit help ensure compliance with Ohio's Water Quality Standards and Federal Regulations, all of which were written to protect public health and the aquatic environment. There are two types of NPDES permits: individual and general.
An individual NPDES permit is unique to each facility. The limitations and other conditions in an individual permit are based on the facility's operations, type and amount of discharge, and receiving stream, among other factors.
Because some individual permits contain very similar or, in many cases, identical effluent limitations and requirements, their contents have been compiled into one permit that can be applied to certain categories of discharges. A general permit is one permit that covers facilities that have similar operations and type of discharge. A general NPDES permit is a potential alternative to an individual NPDES permit and affords coverage to new and existing dischargers that meet the eligibility criteria given in the general permit. General permits are used to cover discharges that will have minimal effects on the environment.