Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Water: Construction

Proposed Rule: Effluent Guidelines for Discharges from the Construction and Development Industry

Fact Sheet; 821-F-08-002; November 2008

We are proposing effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and new source performance standards (NSPS) to control the discharge of pollutants from construction sites. EPA is requesting comment on the proposed ELGs and NSPS, which would require construction sites to implement a range of erosion and sediment control measures to control pollutants in stormwater discharges. In addition, for certain large sites located in areas of the country with high rainfall intensity and soils with a high clay content, stormwater discharges from the construction site would be required to meet a numeric limit on the allowable level of turbidity, which is a measure of sediment in the water.


Background on Construction Activity

Construction activities like clearing, excavating, and grading significantly disturb the land. The disturbed soil, if not managed properly, can easily be washed off of the construction site during storms and enter water bodies. Stormwater discharges from construction activities can cause an array of physical, chemical and biological impacts.

Sediment is one of the leading causes of water quality impairment nationwide. The deposition of sediment from construction has contributed to reducing water depth in small streams, lakes and reservoirs, leading to the need for dredging.

Top of page


Background on Effluent Guidelines

Effluent guidelines are national standards that apply to wastewater discharges to surface waters and publicly owned treatment works (municipal sewage treatment plants). EPA issues effluent guidelines for categories of existing sources and new sources under Title III of the Clean Water Act to control pollution from these sources. The standards are based on the performance of treatment and control technologies.

Top of page


Proposed Requirements

The proposed rule is intended to work in concert with existing state and local programs, adding a technology-based "floor" that establishes minimum requirements that would apply nationally. Once implemented, these new requirements would significantly reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants discharged from construction sites.

The proposed rule would require all construction sites to implement a range of erosion and sediment control best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pollutants in stormwater discharges.

Construction sites disturbing ten or more acres at a time would also be required to install sediment basins to treat their stormwater discharges. In addition, if sites 30 acres or larger are located in areas of the country with high rainfall intensity and soils with a high clay content, their stormwater discharges would be required to meet a numeric limit on the allowable level of turbidity.

The turbidity limit is intended to remove fine-grained and slowly-settling or non-settleable particles contained in stormwater. Particles such as clays and fine silts contained in stormwater discharges from construction sites typically cannot be effectively removed by conventional stormwater BMPs (such as sediment basins). In order to meet the proposed numeric turbidity limit, many sites would need to use chemical treatment and filtration of their stormwater discharges.

Top of page


Costs and Benefits of the Proposed Rule

This proposed rule is projected to reduce the amount of sediment discharged from construction sites by up to 27 billion pounds each year, at an annual cost of $1.9 billion. The benefits from reducing discharges of sediments include better protection for drinking water supplies, improvements in aquatic environments (e.g., reduced streambed smothering), and less need for dredging of navigation channels and reservoirs.

Top of page


Additional Information

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

For further information, please contact the Construction and Development program manager. You can view or download the Federal Register Notice (November 28, 2008). You can also review all of our materials regarding the Construction and Development industry.

The official docket at Regulations.gov (docket # EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0465) contains additional materials and accepts comments upon this proposal.

Support Documents

Top of page


Jump to main content.