Water Quality Permits

Overview

The 900-J general permit regulates wastewater discharges for most seafood processing facilities in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality must periodically update this permit, known as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permit, to protect water quality and meet requirements of the U.S. Clean Water Act.
 
DEQ is currently working on a proposed permit renewal. A draft permit was initially available for public comment in spring 2018. DEQ reviewed comments from the initial public comment period and made significant changes in the updated draft permit.

How can the public participate?

 

Why does DEQ need to update its wastewater permit for seafood processing?

  • DEQ needs to adapt its permit coverage to respond to changes in industry practices and water quality to ensure facilities are meeting state and federal requirements.
  • When the most recent 900-J general permit expired in 2011, DEQ administratively extended the permit so that processors maintained coverage. Facilities assigned coverage are required to comply with existing permit conditions until DEQ finalizes an updated permit. 
  • DEQ can’t issue the expired permit to new applicants. Renewing the permit will allow new applicants suitable for a general permit to obtain coverage.

What are the environmental benefits?

  • An updated permit will allow DEQ and seafood processors to more effectively protect Oregon’s waters for fishing, swimming, shellfish production and other beneficial uses. 
  • Wastewater from seafood processing operations can contain pollutants such as organic material, bacteria and ammonia that can be harmful to aquatic life.

How will the permit renewal affect businesses?

  • Businesses that process seafood in Oregon, including fish and shellfish, will be affected. As of 2017, there were 24 seafood processing facilities that had the 900-J general or an individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
  • In some cases, facilities may need to upgrade to more advanced wastewater treatment systems.
  • General permits are intended for businesses that produce small, consistent wastewater discharges. Some processors may consider moving from the general permit to an individual permit because of the unique nature or complexity of their operations, allowing DEQ to tailor permit requirements to the specific needs of the facility and local waterways.
  • In cases where a facility is not eligible for coverage under the general permit, or the facility is unable to comply with the permit conditions, DEQ may direct facilities to apply for individual permit coverage.

What has changed since the original draft permit was available for public comment in 2018?

  • Monitoring and reporting requirements have been updated.
  • Regulations for wastewater discharges to impaired waterways have been further clarified.
  • Bacteria, temperature, ammonia and chlorine limits have been replaced by monitoring and reporting requirements.  DEQ proposes gathering data to evaluate and inform what limits may be necessary and appropriate in the future.
  • Because DEQ is not proposing new limits for bacteria, temperature, ammonia and chlorine, the originally proposed schedule for complying with these limits has been removed.