Tennessee Code Annotated
Title 69: Waters, Waterways, Drains and Levees
Chapter 3: Water Pollution Control
Part 1: Water Quality Control Act
TCA 69-3-108: Permits.
(a) Every person who is or is planning to carry on any of the activities outlined in subsection (b), other than a person who discharges into a publicly owned treatment works or who is a domestic discharger into a privately owned treatment works, or
who is regulated under a general permit as described in subsection (l), shall file an application for a permit with the commissioner or, when necessary, for modification of such person's existing permit.
(b) It is unlawful for any person, other than a person who discharges into a publicly owned treatment works or a person who is a domestic discharger into a privately owned treatment works, to carry out any of the following activities, except in
accordance with the conditions of a valid permit:
(1) The alteration of the physical, chemical, radiological, biological, or bacteriological properties of any waters of the state;
(2) The construction, installation, modification, or operation of any treatment works, or part thereof, or any extension or addition thereto;
(3) The increase in volume or strength of any wastes in excess of the permissive discharges specified under any existing permit;
(4) The development of a natural resource or the construction, installation, or operation of any establishment or any extension or modification thereof or addition thereto, the operation of which will or is likely to cause an increase in the
discharge of wastes into the waters of the state or would otherwise alter the physical, chemical, radiological, biological or bacteriological properties of any waters of the state in any manner not already lawfully authorized;
(5) The construction or use of any new outlet for the discharge of any wastes into the waters of the state;
(6) The discharge of sewage, industrial wastes or other wastes into waters, or a location from which it is likely that the discharged substance will move into waters;
(7) The construction, installation or operation of a concentrated animal feeding operation; provided, however, that only those operations that are required under the federal Clean Water Act, compiled in 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq., to have a
permit for concentrated animal feeding operations may be issued an national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit;
(8) The discharge of sewage, industrial wastes, or other wastes into a well or a location where it is likely that the discharged substance will move into a well, or the underground placement of fluids and other substances that do or may affect the
waters of the state; or
(9) The diversion of water through a flume for the purpose of generation of electric power by a utility.
(c) Any person operating or planning to operate a sewerage system shall file an application with the commissioner for a permit or, when necessary, for modification of such person's existing permit. Unless a person holds a valid permit, it is unlawful
to operate a sewerage system.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require any person discharging into a septic tank connected only to a subsurface drainfield, or any person constructing or operating a sanitary landfill between March 25, 1980, and March 24, 1982,
except in a county having a population of not less than sixty thousand two hundred fifty (60,250) nor more than sixty thousand three hundred fifty (60,350), according to the 1970 federal census or any subsequent federal census, as defined and
regulated by §§ 68-211-101 -- 68-211-115, to secure a permit; provided, that the exemption provided in this subsection (d) shall not exempt such person from any other provision of this part; and provided further, that any such person who is
exempt from obtaining a permit for constructing or operating a sanitary landfill between March 25, 1980, and March 24, 1982, shall not thereafter be required to obtain such permit.
(e) Applicants for permits that would authorize a new or expanded wastewater discharge into surface waters shall include in the application consideration of alternatives, including, but not limited to, land application and beneficial reuse of the
(f) With regard to permits for activities related to the surface mining of coal:
(1) No permit shall be issued that would allow removal of coal from the earth from its original location by surface mining methods or surface access points to underground mining within one hundred feet (100') of the ordinary high water mark of any
stream or allow overburden or waste materials from removal of coal from the earth by surface mining of coal to be disposed of within one hundred feet (100') of the ordinary high water mark of a stream; provided, however, that a permit may be issued
or renewed for stream crossings, including, but not limited to, rail crossings, utilities crossings, pipeline crossings, minor road crossings, for operations to improve the quality of stream segments previously disturbed by mining and for activities
related to and incidental to the removal of coal from its original location, such as transportation, storage, coal preparation and processing, loading and shipping operations within one hundred feet (100') of the ordinary high water mark of a stream
if necessary due to site specific conditions that do not cause the loss of stream function and do not cause a discharge of pollutants in violation of water quality criteria. Nothing in this subdivision (f)(1) shall apply to placement of material from
coal preparation and processing plants;
(2) Without limiting the applicability of this section, if the commissioner determines that surface coal mining at a particular site will violate water quality standards because acid mine drainage from the site will not be amenable to treatment
with proven technology both during the permit period or subsequent to completion of mining activities, the permit shall be denied.
(g) The commissioner may grant permits authorizing the discharges or activities described in subsection (b), including, but not limited to, land application of wastewater, but in granting such permits shall impose such conditions, including effluent
standards and conditions and terms of periodic review, as are necessary to accomplish the purposes of this part, and as are not inconsistent with the regulations promulgated by the board. Under no circumstances shall the commissioner issue a permit
for an activity that would cause a condition of pollution either by itself or in combination with others. In addition the permits shall include:
(1) The most stringent effluent limitations and schedules of compliance, either promulgated by the board, required to implement any applicable water quality standards, necessary to comply with an areawide waste treatment plan, or necessary to
comply with other state or federal laws or regulations;
(2) A definite term, not to exceed five (5) years, for which the permit is valid. This term shall be subject to provisions for modification, revocation or suspension of the permit;
(3) Monitoring, recording, reporting, and inspection requirements; and
(4) In the case of permits authorizing discharges from publicly owned treatment works, terms and conditions requiring the permittee to enforce user and cost recovery charges, pretreatment standards, and toxic effluent limitations applicable to
industrial users discharging into the treatment works.
(h) The commissioner may revoke, suspend, or modify any permit for cause, including:
(1) Violation of any terms or conditions of the permit or of any provision of this part;
(2) Obtaining the permit by misrepresentation or failing to disclose fully all relevant facts; or
(3) A change in any condition that requires either a temporary or permanent reduction or elimination of the permitted discharge.
(i) No permit under subsection (g) or (h) for the construction of any new outlet or for construction activities involved in the development of natural resources, for the construction of a new waste treatment system or for the modification or
extension of an existing waste treatment system shall be issued by the commissioner until the plans have first been submitted to and approved by the commissioner. No such approval shall be construed as creating a presumption of correct operation nor
as warranting by the commissioner that the approved facilities will reach the designated goals. If an environmental impact statement is required for any permit, the commissioner may require the applicant to pay for its preparation. Any such impact
statement must also include and address economic and social impact.
(j) Any permit procedure or other action required by or undertaken in accordance with this section or part shall be conducted in accordance with title 13, chapter 18, when the permit or action involves a major energy project, as defined in §
(k) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or circumscribe the authority of the commissioner to issue emergency orders as specified in § 69-3-109.
(l) Where the commissioner finds that a category of activities or discharges would be appropriately regulated under a general permit, the commissioner may issue such a permit. Any person conducting activities in the category covered by a general
permit shall not be required to file individual applications for permits except as provided in specific requirements of the general permit. Any person conducting activities covered under a general permit may be required by the commissioner to file an
application for any individual permit. Upon the issuance of an individual permit to a person with a general permit, the applicability of the general permit to that permitted activity or discharge shall be terminated. Any person who holds an
individual permit for an activity or discharge covered under the provisions of a general permit may request that the individual permit be revoked. Upon such revocation, the activity or discharge shall become subject to the provisions of the general
(m) Notwithstanding subsection (g), upon application by a person who discharges into groundwaters of the state and who is subject to a permit issued pursuant to the Hazardous Waste Management Act, compiled in title 68, chapter 212, the commissioner
may issue variances from the applicable water quality standards, criteria, or classification for groundwater; provided, that:
(1) The waters to which the variance applies are not used as a current source of drinking water and such use is not reasonably anticipated for the term of the variance and a reasonable time thereafter;
(2) The applicant demonstrates that such discharges will not pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment as defined in Tenn. Comp. R. & Reg. 1200-01-11-.06(6)(e)(2) (reserved) in effect on April 1, 1988, and
will not impair any actual, current uses other than those affected by the variance;
(3) Variances will be effective for a specific term, not to exceed the effective term of the permit;
(4) The variance is consistent with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, compiled in 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq., and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, compiled in 42 U.S.C. § 300f et seq.; and
(5) The variance provided for under this subsection (m) shall be applied for and issued in accordance with procedures regarding the issuance of permits as required by regulations issued under this chapter.
(n) (1) A chief administrative officer of a county highway department does not violate this chapter by repairing or causing the repair of up to four hundred feet (400') of highway or road in an emergency situation, if immediate repairs are necessary
to protect human safety and welfare, and if such repairs comply with rules and regulations promulgated by the board that regulate the manner in which the repairs are made. Such officer need not obtain a permit prior to making such repairs under such
(2) As soon as practicable, the chief administrative officer of a county highway department shall notify the commissioner by telephone that an emergency has arisen and that such chief administrative officer intends to make repairs in response to
such emergency. The giving of such notice shall not be construed to authorize the commissioner to terminate such repairs.
(3) Within ten (10) days of the completion of any highway or road repair made pursuant to this subsection (n), the chief administrative officer of the county highway department ordering such repair shall notify the commissioner, in writing, of the
action taken and the nature of the emergency necessitating such immediate repair.
(o) The following activities do not require a permit under this section:
(1) The removal of downed trees by dragging or winching and without grading or reshaping of the stream channel;
(2) The placement of downed trees on stream banks for erosion protection; and
(3) The planting of vegetation on stream banks.
(p) Unless the applicant agrees otherwise, when an individual landowner applies for a permit for debris removal or stream bank stabilization activities, the commissioner shall either issue or deny the permit or take action scheduling a public hearing
on the application within sixty (60) days of receipt of a complete application; provided further, however, that the staff of the division will communicate orally or in writing to the applicant within fifteen (15) days of receipt of any such
(q) (1) The alteration of a wet weather conveyance, as defined in § 69-3-103, by any activity is permitted by this subsection (q) and shall require no notice or approval; provided, that it is done in accordance with all of the following
(A) The activity may not result in the discharge of waste or other substances that may be harmful to humans or wildlife;
(B) Material may not be placed in a location or manner so as to impair surface water flow into or out of any wetland area;
(C) (i) Sediment shall be prevented from entering other waters of the state;
(ii) Erosion and sediment controls shall be designed according to the size and slope of disturbed or drainage areas to detain runoff and trap sediment and shall be properly selected, installed, and maintained in accordance with the
manufacturer's specifications and good engineering practices;
(iii) Erosion and sediment control measures shall be in place and functional before earth moving operations begin, and shall be constructed and maintained throughout the construction period. Temporary measures may be removed at the beginning
of the work day, but shall be replaced at the end of the work day;
(iv) Checkdams shall be utilized where runoff is concentrated. Clean rock, log, sandbag or straw bale checkdams shall be properly constructed to detain runoff and trap sediment. Checkdams or other erosion control devices are not to be
constructed in stream. Clean rock can be of various type and size, depending on the application. Clean rock shall not contain fines, soils or other wastes or contaminants; and
(D) Appropriate steps shall be taken to ensure that petroleum products or other chemical pollutants are prevented from entering waters of the state. All spills shall be reported to the appropriate emergency management agency and to the
division. In the event of a spill, measures shall be taken immediately to prevent pollution of waters of the state, including groundwater.
(2) There shall be no additional conditions upon a person's activity within a wet weather conveyance. This subdivision (q)(2) does not apply to national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permits.
(r) A person desiring to alter a specific water of the state may request a determination from the commissioner that it is a wet weather conveyance and submit a report from a qualified hydrologic professional in support of the request. If the report
contains all information that is required in rules promulgated by the board, and in accordance with department procedures and guidance, and is certified by a qualified hydrologic professional to be true, accurate and complete and, if submitted after
promulgation of the rules required by § 69-3-105(l), contains all information that is required in those rules, then the determination made in the report shall be presumed to be correct, unless the commissioner notifies the person, in writing,
within thirty (30) days of submittal of the report, that the commissioner has affirmatively determined that there is a significant question about whether the water of the state in question is a stream or a wet weather conveyance and states the
reasons for that determination. In that event, the commissioner must, within thirty (30) days following the initial notification, determine whether the water of the state in question is a stream or a wet weather conveyance and notify the person in
writing of that decision and the reasons for that determination. A person may appeal a determination by the commissioner that the specific water is a stream by filing a petition for appeal with the board within thirty (30) days of receiving the
commissioner's decision. For purposes of this subsection (r), a qualified hydrologic professional is a person holding a bachelor's degree in biology, geology, ecology, engineering or related sciences, having at least five (5) years of relevant
experience in making hydrologic determinations and who has been certified as a hydrologic professional pursuant to rules promulgated by the board.
(s) Any national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit issued pursuant to this section to a local governmental entity administering a municipal separate storm sewer system shall not impose post-construction storm water requirements,
except to the extent necessary to comply with the minimum requirements of federal law. Any such NPDES permit that includes numeric or narrative effluent limitations to manage post-construction storm water shall allow the local governmental entity
administering a municipal separate storm sewer system discretion in selecting measures to meet any such effluent limitations.
(t) This state shall not require any local governmental entity that administers a municipal separate storm sewer system under a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit issued pursuant to this section to impose control measures
for post-construction storm water that exceed the minimum requirements of federal law. Any local governmental entity that adopts control measures that exceed the minimum requirements of federal law must do so by ordinance or resolution, as
appropriate, by the local legislative body upon a majority vote. This subsection (t) shall not apply to any ordinance or resolution in effect on April 23, 2016, but shall not preclude a local governmental entity that administers a municipal separate
storm sewer system from making changes consistent with subsection (s) and this subsection (t). When a local governmental entity seeks coverage under any future version of the NPDES permit after April 23, 2016, such ordinance or resolution shall
comply with subsection (s) and this subsection (t). The local government entity shall provide in writing the control measures that exceed federal minimum requirements to the local legislative body at least thirty (30) days in advance of a vote in
order to provide for a public comment period.
History: Acts 1971, ch. 164, § 7; 1971, ch. 386, § 2; 1973, ch. 105, § 1; 1977, ch. 366, § 1; 1980, ch. 647, §§ 1, 2; 1981, ch. 131, § 43; T.C.A., § 70-330; Acts 1983, ch. 38, § 1; 1984, ch. 804,
§ 6; 1988, ch. 688, §§ 3, 7; 1989, ch. 114, § 1; 1993, ch. 155, § 1; 1998, ch. 659, § 4; 1998, ch. 735, § 2; 2004, ch. 519, § 1; 2009, ch. 271, § 1; 2009, ch. 289, § 2; 2009, ch. 330, § 1; 2009,
ch. 464, §§ 2, 5; 2016, ch. 1007, § 1.