Starting a new construction project and not sure which environmental rules might apply or whether or not you need a permit?  At one time, these were tough questions, but searching for environmental regulations and assistance has become much easier since the establishment of the web-based Construction Industry Compliance Assistance (CICA) Center ( www.CICACenter.org). CICA Center, which is supported by funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), helps the construction industry identify and comply with applicable environmental regulations, including both federal and state rules. All of the resources hosted on CICA Center are free of charge.

CICA Center was launched in 2002 and has been continually adding new information. The center now covers nearly every federal and state environmental rule applicable to the construction industry, including stormwater, construction and demolition debris, wetlands and hazardous waste, just to mention a few. The center is operated by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), located in Ann Arbor, MI. NCMS has drawn on the knowledge of several trade groups and many state environmental agencies to assist in developing and maintaining CICA Center.

CICA Center is a gateway to hundreds of thousands of pages of information. That may sound ominous, but finding the information you need is made easy by a well-structured navigation system. Main topics are shown as "tabs" at the top of the website (see Figure 1) and each tab has a drop-down menu revealing the specific content for that topic. You can go directly to specific topics, such as stormwater, or you may want to start with the Compliance Summary tab to obtain an overview of applicable environmental rules. Some of the CICA Center's most popular features are described below.

Compliance Summary

The Compliance Summary feature is a great place to start if you are looking for an overview of your environmental responsibilities. To use this tool, you identify the state where the construction project is located and you check off applicable characteristics of the project (i.e., type of construction or potential impacts such as wetlands or animal habitat); then, click on the "proceed" button, and you receive a checklist of applicable environmental regulations for your particular project. Under each topic there is a summary of the rules and links to more detailed information, including regulations, permit application forms and local or state points of contact.

Environmental Topics

Construction site inspections by state environmental agencies or EPA are becoming more common across the United States. Information hosted on CICA Center can help you prepare for inspections and avoid costly fines for non-compliance. Below are key areas for which to prepare.

Reducing Stormwater Pollution - Many builders are finding out the hard way that the stormwater construction permitting process has changed dramatically over the past few years. Any construction project, with very few exceptions, that disturbs one or more acres or is part of a larger common plan that disturbs one or more acres, must obtain a stormwater permit. Both the federal EPA and state environmental agencies are cracking down with stiff penalties on contractors that have not obtained the proper permits or otherwise are not abiding by the rules.

CICA Center provides a clear and concise overview of the federal regulations as well as state-specific rules. The stormwater state regulations tool gives you access to:

  • Detailed explanation of how your state implements stormwater regulations
  • Links to permit applications (notice of intent or NOI) and instructions
  • Local/state agency points of contact, where you can find personal assistance
  • Links to guidance documents

Hazardous/Toxic Waste - Certain provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) impact construction and demolition projects. For example, hazardous wastes, such as spent paint solvent, must be managed according to RCRA regulations, which are typically enforced by state environmental agencies.  Depending on your situation you may need to:

  • Obtain an EPA identification number
  • Follow waste storage rules
  • Use the state/federal manifest system for shipping the waste to a recovery/disposal site
  • Maintain records

Demolition and remodeling projects may force a contractor to deal with special hazardous and/or toxic wastes such as lead in paint or piping, mercury in thermostats and fluorescent lights, or asbestos in old roofing, flooring and insulation. For each of these materials, CICA Center provides an overview of the rules and a state locator to get specific information for your local project.

Protecting Wetlands - At one time, wetlands were thought of as wastelands. However today, there is a much greater understanding of the roles wetlands play in our ecosystems, including maintaining our water quality, storm buffering and offering a breeding ground and/or habitat for fish, wildlife and plants. Along with this awareness has come environmental regulations, and wetlands are now strictly protected against impacts from construction. Although there are numerous federal and state laws that affect wetlands, the Clean Water Act (CWA) is the main regulatory tool. This law gives special authorities to the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and state environmental agencies. Before construction activities can commence within waterways or wetlands, a "404 permit" must be issued. The application process varies somewhat from state-to-state because it involves both the Corps and state agencies.

CICA Center provides a plain language discussion of wetlands regulations and detailed information on how the regulations are applied in each state. There are also links to regulations and points of contact that can help you with the permitting process.

Protecting Endangered Species - Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates impacts to endangered species. A permit is required if a construction project will result in "incidental take" of threatened or endangered species.  The burden is on the owner and/or builder to decide if an incidental take permit is needed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as many state fish and game agencies offer services to help you determine whether your proposed project is likely to result in a take and whether a permit is an option to consider. The U.S. Fish and