Permit Watch

The Clean Water Act requires all facilities discharging pollutants into our streams obtain a permit. This permitting program is called the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers are responsible for issuing permits for activities that may physically impacts our waterbodies. TDEC issues ARAPs/401 certifications and the Corps issues 404 permits. While your city and county officials are responsible for some portion of the enforcement of these rules and local ordinances, the state and federal governments issue permits.

It is simplest to think of NPDES permits as those which control the chemical impacts to streams and 404 certifications or ARAPs as those permitting physical impacts to our streams. There are several types of permits within these categories. Learn more about specific permit types.

You can influence permit conditions by commenting on the permit during its minimum 30-day public notice period. It is helpful to know what activities are planned or are happening in and around your community, espeically when it may impact your drinking water source.

Check out all NPDES, ARAPs, and mining permits on public notice. You can also see a full list of pending and active permits through TDEC’s permit dataviewer.

TCWN comments on many permits per month. Some recent permit comments include the Harriman STP, the Pigeon Forge STP, the Lick Creek Valley STP, and an ARAP in Hamilton County.

ARAP (§401): Persons who wish to make an alteration to a stream, river, lake or wetland must first obtain a water quality permit. Physical alterations to properties of waters of the state requires an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) or a §401 Water Quality Certification. Examples of stream alterations that require a permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation include:

  • Dredging, excavation, channel widening, or straightening
  • Bank sloping; stabilization
  • Channel relocation
  • Water diversions or withdrawals
  • Dams, weirs, dykes, levees or other similar structures
  • Flooding, excavating, draining and/or filling a wetland
  • Road and utility crossings
  • Structural fill

NPDES: Persons discharging pollutants directly from point sources into surface waters of the state must obtain an NPDES discharge permit from the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control (WPC). Direct dischargers include industrial and commercial wastewater, industrial stormwater, and municipal wastewater discharges. Mining facilities and Class I Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) also require NPDES discharge permits.