Washington's biosolids permit system

Biosolids managers can learn about the Statewide General Permit for Biosolids Management and how to apply for coverage.

Statewide general permit for biosolids management

The statewide general permit for biosolids management is the main document that guides our implementation of Washington’s biosolids rules (Chapter 173-308 WAC) for wastewater treatment plants and other facilities that manage biosolids. We can modify coverage for individual facilities to include additional or more stringent requirements on a case-by-case basis. This approach allows facilities to develop programs that work well for them, and it helps us implement appropriate permit conditions.

The general permit covers five years. We begin permit development by issuing a preliminary determination. After reviewing comments on the appropriateness of a general permit, we either move forward with the proposal, or withdraw it in favor of another approach.

After we issue the final general permit, an application for coverage is due within 90 days from all facilities with active biosolids management programs. We will review the highest-priority applications first. A public hearing may be required before we make a final decision on an individual approval. 

We may impose additional or more stringent requirements, based on the proposal and local conditions.

Approvals for individual facilities and sites

A permit application is actually an application for coverage under the statewide general permit. We can impose additional or more stringent requirements to address specific local conditions. Depending on timing and the nature of operations, all facilities submit either a notice of intent (NOI) to be covered under the general permit or an application for coverage, or both.

When we review a permit application, we also consider any sites where land application is proposed. If a facility wishes to add a new site at a later date, that is considered a permit modification and must go through the appropriate steps of the process, including SEPA review and public notice. There may also be public hearings for individual facilities or specific land application sites. We will determine the need for a hearing on an individual facility proposal based on an assessment of the overall proposal and the level of interest.

What to do while the general permit is expired

Until the new general permit is in effect, all permit actions must be handled under an "agreed order" process. The agreed-order process is the same as the general permit process, and includes a review under the State Environmental Policy Act and public notice. 

The agreed order is binding and does not include a right of appeal for the applicant. It will require applicants to transition to the new permit once it is in effect, including compliance with any new requirements. New facilities can begin the permit process, but Ecology may not complete permit review and approval until a new general permit is in effect.

Contact your regional biosolids coordinator if you need permit coverage or want to modify your current coverage, including the addition of a new site or land application plan. 

See how the new permit will work

To see how the new permit process will work and where your facility will fall within the system, download the proposed Statewide General Permit for Biosolids Management. It is critical to read the introductory section 1 first so that facilities understand whether or not they must submit an application, and which parts of the permit apply to it. Section 2 provides more detail on the application process. .

Who must submit a permit application?

All facilities with active biosolids or septage management programs must submit an application for coverage under the general permit.

See this flow chart to determine which permit sections apply to your facility.

Submitting a complete application secures "provisional approval” of coverage. Provisional means a facility must follow state rules, general permit conditions, and their own proposal as outlined in their submittal until we advise otherwise, or until we complete our review of the application. A facility’s proposal cannot circumvent the requirements of the rules or general permit, of which we expect managers to be knowledgeable.