SWPPP 101: How to Identify All Sources of Potential and Actual Pollution

Sediment is one of the most apparent causes of stormwater pollution

Stormwater pollution is one of the most devastating events for local climates and ecosystems. 

For this reason, the EPA–and state district offices in some cases–requires organizations that discharge stormwater into public waterways to acquire a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. 

To qualify for this permit, dischargers must submit a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) detailing preventative measures to curtail stormwater pollution, erosion of the surrounding environment, and other harmful environmental effects. 

Since stormwater runoff is a natural occurrence of nature and construction zones, construction managers can’t avoid the responsibility of forgoing an SWPPP, but they can forego developing and maintaining a SWPPP with a consultant like us! 

Additionally, municipalities of a certain size must also develop their own stormwater management plan (SWMP) to comply with the Clean Water Act, which puts additional restrictions on active construction zones. 

Fortunately, by identifying potential sources of pollution, construction managers and builders can construct a straightforward SWPPP that addresses these environmental concerns and ensures proper restoration of the surrounding disturbed land. 

In this article, we want to discuss the importance of an SWPPP and the seven primary sources of pollution that all SWPPP consultants and managers should know when writing an SWPPP plan. 

The Importance of an SWPPP 

An SWPPP is a plan required to qualify for an NPDES permit. Since most construction zones are often forced to divert or dump stormwater in public waterways, they are required to implement controls that limit the velocity of stormwater runoff and the pollution of said runoff. 

SWPPPs are designed to protect the local environment and provide temporary measures during construction to mitigate potential environmental catastrophes. 

In addition, SWPPPs must provide protocols for workers’ safety and SWPPP inspection requirements

Typically, a manager of a construction zone or a consultant will be responsible for developing an SWPPP. However, to construct an inclusive SWPPP proposal, it’s keen to understand and identify all possible sources of pollution that could come in contact with stormwater runoff. 

3 Sources of Potential Stormwater Pollution

Sediment and Suspended Sediment

Sediment is one of the most apparent causes of stormwater pollution. That’s why most BMPs inside an SWPPP are designed to maintain sediment control from debris, garbage, concrete, and plastics. 

For example, organic waste from food, fertilizers, or natural sediment can be a major source of pollution for stormwater runoff, whether from a commercial construction zone, farm, or any commercial project involving these materials. In addition, organic debris from disturbed areas, such as leaves, grass clippings, and flowers, can also be a great source of pollution and turbidity. 

Further, unlike the sediment listed above, suspended sediment from more coarse materials, such as clay, sand, and silt can be a massive river and stream polluter. 

Therefore, proper filtration systems, such as rain gardens, permeable pavements, and other natural barriers must be implemented to filter our organic pollution and suspended sediment. On the other hand, silt fences, raised exits, and other artificial controls can eliminate sediment runoff that pollutes waterways. 


Chemicals, chlorides, and pathogens are probably the most dangerous and controversial sources of stormwater discharge.

Industrial solvents and chemical pesticides should be used cautiously and thoroughly discussed with an environmental consultant. Some effective control measures, such as buffer strips, allow pesticides to adhere to soil and separate from water. 

Unfortunately, chemical runoff can be difficult to track and treat, making preventative maintenance key. 

In addition, chlorides, such as chloride additives in concrete to common de-icing materials and pathogens from animal feces, sewage, and toilet rentals, are also massive sources of pollution if not properly controlled. You’ll need to ensure that a proper sewage disposal service can dispose of all sewage sources on your site and that barriers are put in place to stop the spread of chlorides. 

Additionally, contact your local municipality about ways of tapping into public sewage systems or separate sewage systems if possible. 

Solid Waste Materials

Finally, the second biggest cause of stormwater pollution comes from solid waste at construction sites. This waste includes leftover debris, garbage, and non-biodegradable materials, such as concrete and plastics. 

Identify all sources of solid waste materials on construction sites and implement proper protocols to dispose of or recycle waste materials. Ensure no waste materials are lying around and that all receptacles have proper lids to prevent waste from being mixed with runoff. 

While solid waste is typically a large culprit of stormwater pollution, it’s also the easiest to prevent through simple control measures and BMPs. 

Stormwater prevention management can be complicated, but by properly educating your team in BMPs and identifying potential sources of pollution, you can make educating your SWPPP easy. 

Additionally, by working with an environmental consultant, you can find the best control measures to ensure proper EPA compliance and protect the surrounding area from any sources of pollution.