What is a visual monitoring or assessment?
Once a quarter (i.e., every three months), you need to collect a stormwater grab sample in a clear and clean glass jar from every outfall. Clear and clean plastic bottles can also be used. You must collect the samples and visually assess them once each quarter for the entire Permit term – the same frequency that you have to inspect your facility.
From the moment stormwater first flows out of your facility’s outfalls, you have 30 minutes to collect and examine it within 60 minutes after collecting it. In the case of snow/ice melt, get your samples within 30 minutes after a measurable discharge begins. If you can’t get the samples during that time period, document that reason in your SWP3. Monitoring must be conducted during daylight hours, during normal hours of operation for the facility. Once you collect a sample for a particular quarter, you are not required to sample again until the next quarter. You must examine the sample in a well-lit area. Document your observations in accordance with Part 126.96.36.199 of the OKR05 Permit. You may use DEQ’s Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report template which can be downloaded from the DEQ’s website.
Section 3.5 on Page 33 of the EPA document entitled, Industrial Stormwater Monitoring and Sampling Guide gives information about conducting visual assessments of stormwater discharges. There is additional information about what to look for in Table 7-1, entitled Visual Monitoring of Stormwater Discharges, in the OKR05 Permit.
Who can perform a quarterly visual monitoring at my facility? Does a person need professional certification for visual monitoring?
Quarterly Visual Monitoring must be performed by a qualified person with at least one member of your stormwater pollution prevention team participating. A qualified person is that who is knowledgeable in the principles and practices of industrial stormwater controls and pollution prevention, and who possess the education and ability to assess conditions at the industrial facility that could impact stormwater quality, and the education and ability to assess the effectiveness of stormwater controls selected and installed to meet the requirements of the OKR05 Permit.
A professional certification is not required for Quarterly Visual Monitoring. However, the inspector must be a qualified person.
What is the required frequency for collecting stormwater samples for the visual monitoring?
You are required to perform the visual monitoring at least once per quarter (i.e., 1 every 3 months). The four quarters of a year are usually these four time periods:
- January 1 – March 31
- April 1 – June 30
- July 1 – September 30
- October 1 – December 31
Do I take a visual sample or a physical sample?
You must do both. You must visually observe the discharge and collect a stormwater sample that you can observe in a well-lit area within 60 minutes after collecting the stormwater sample.
When do I collect the stormwater sample for the visual monitoring?
The visual monitoring must be conducted on stormwater sample collected during the first 30 minutes of the discharge from a qualifying storm event.
The visual observation must be performed in a well-lit area within 60 minutes after collecting the stormwater sample.
Where do I collect a stormwater samples for the quarterly visual monitoring?
According to Part 188.8.131.52 of the OKR05 Permit, you have to collect a stormwater sample from each outfall for the entire Permit term (see Part 184.108.40.206 of the OKR05 Permit). Your SWP3 should have a site map that shows areas where the rain drains, industrial activities in each of these drainage areas, and the locations of all stormwater outfalls. Using the site map, find where the stormwater runoff goes from the drainage areas near industrial activities at your facility. You need to make sure that you sample only the stormwater that comes from your facility. If the stormwater in a storm sewer pipe contains discharges from other facilities, move your sampling point to where the flow is only from your facility. For more information about where to collect stormwater samples, look at the EPA document, Industrial Stormwater Monitoring and Sampling Guide(EPA 832-B-09-003, March 2009), beginning at Section 2.1 on Page 4.
The following are examples of mixed sources of stormwater where you should NOT sample:
- Don’t get stormwater samples from puddles, ponds or retention basins.
- Don’t get stormwater samples from a common ditch where stormwater from your facility would be mixed with stormwater from facilities upstream. You should find a location or locations where you can sample only your facility’s stormwater.
- Don’t get stormwater samples from a partially submerged storm sewer pipe where it discharges into a receiving waterbody. That is because the stormwater discharge would be mixed with water from the receiving lake, river, or stream.
- Don’t get stormwater samples from a manhole that carries stormwater from other stormwater sources along with stormwater from your facility. If you are getting a grab sample from a manhole, make sure that your sample is from stormwater discharge entirely from your facility. If not, your sample will not be representative of the area you are monitoring.
If your stormwater discharge merges with discharges from other facilities/sources, you need to find and sample at a point before your stormwater mixes with stormwater from other facilities/sources. However if stormwater from a neighboring facility runs into drainage areas of industrial activity on your property in an uncontrolled fashion (for example, sheet flow), you should include that in your sample of stormwater discharge. If you are concerned about this offsite source, get stormwater samples at the points where it enters and leaves your property. If your sample shows significant pollution at the point where it enters your facility, be sure to document that in your Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report since that pollution can impact your results when the stormwater leaves your facility.
Does the 30-minute time frame for sample collection start at the beginning or end of the rain event?
The 30-minute time frame starts when the stormwater begins to discharge from your facility to waters of the State or a municipal separate storm sewer.
Can I take a grab sample for the visual monitoring or assessment?
Yes, grab samples shall be collected for quarterly visual monitoring.
Is an automatic sampler allowed for visual monitoring or assessment?
An automatic sampler is not recommended for collecting samples for quarterly visual monitoring. That is because in addition to collecting the sample, it is important to make a note of anything you see at the discharge location that might influence the sample results.
How large of a sample must be collected to conduct the visual monitoring or assessment?
The sample must be large enough so that the characteristics of the stormwater sample can be adequately observed and documented. A liter/quart sized clean and clear plastic or glass jar could be easily viewed.
How do I visually assess the sample?
After collecting samples for visual assessment, they should be examined in a well-lit area within 60 minutes after collecting it. Document your observations in accordance with Part 220.127.116.11 of the OKR05 Permit. You may use DEQ’s Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report template which can be downloaded from the DEQ’s website.
How do I document the visual monitoring?
DEQ’s website has a Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report template that covers all the OKR05 required elements for visual assessment of discharge points/outfalls at your facility. This template is generic and editable, so you can modify the Report to meet the conditions at your facility. You aren’t required to use that Template, but your visual assessments must cover the minimum requirements given in Part 7.2.1 of the OKR05 Permit.
Another item you might want to include in your written Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report is a picture of your sample. Place a white background behind the sample so that any color in it can be seen.
Can I use one report form for documenting all discharge points?
You may use one report form for documenting all discharge points. However, you must develop a Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report form for your facility incorporating the entire reporting requirements for Visual Monitoring. You must collect a stormwater sample from each outfall/discharge point once per quarter and conduct visual monitoring of each of these samples.
If you use DEQ reporting template, you must use one Quarterly Visual Monitoring Report form for each outfall to document your observations.
Do I need to document if there has been no discharge from a discharge point at our facility during the quarter?
Yes. The visual monitoring is a part of the required comprehensive inspection. If there is no discharge from a discharge point until the next inspection this will need to be documented using the Visual Monitoring Form.
What if I have multiple discharge points that discharge stormwater from similar use areas at my facility?
If your facility has two or more discharge points that discharge substantially identical stormwater, then your facility may conduct the visual monitoring on just one of the discharge points and report that the results also apply to the other substantially identical discharge points. The determination of substantially identical discharge points must be made based on the significant material evaluation conducted as part of the SWP3 development. The substantially identical discharge points must be identified on the site map too.
Quarterly Visual Monitoring of each substantially identical discharge point must be conducted on a rotating basis of each substantially identical outfall throughout the period of your coverage under the OKR05 Permit.
What happens if I find something in my sample or I observe unnatural characteristics at the time of the discharge?
If you/the inspector observes turbidity, color, oil films, floating solids, foams, settle-able solids, suspended solids, or deposits in the sample or at the time of the discharge, these observations will need to be documented on the visual assessment report form. These unnatural characteristics are likely indicative of stormwater contamination.
Whenever the visual monitoring shows evidence of stormwater pollution, you must initiate the corrective action procedures in Part 6 of the OKR05 Permit to address the source of contamination.
When will the DEQ review my visual monitoring reports?
The visual monitoring reports and the other related documentation will be reviewed by DEQ staff during inspections of your facility.
Does a written report need to be sent to DEQ every time there is a visual monitoring?
No. You just need to make sure that you keep all completed reports on file at your facility with all your other stormwater documents, such as your SWP3.