Bloomberg reports this morning that a Washington-based NGO is suing a window manufacturer for its alleged failure to comply with the terms of a NPDES General Permit issued by the State of Washington as authorized by US EPA. The alleged failures include inadequate monitoring of stormwater quality and slight exceedances of the amounts of zinc and copper authorized by the General Permit as well as a pH that was slightly lower than authorized.
As you may know, NPDES General Permits are used to broadly authorize discharges that might otherwise require an individual permit under the Clean Water Act. Coverage under such General Permits is relatively easy to obtain. The General Permits include generic permit conditions like those at issue in this case.
In the Maui litigation, several Democratic Attorneys General suggested that such a General Permit would be appropriate for the tens of millions of residential septic systems in the United States that would be subject to Federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction under their interpretation of the law.
If NPDES General Permits are supposed to make things easier for regulators and those whose discharges don't merit an individual NPDES permit, how is that mission accomplished if those with General Permits face the staggering costs of Federal litigation for any violation of those General Permits, no matter how minor? Today's news out of Washington begs an answer to that question.