Under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1314(m), EPA is required to publish a plan every two years that (1) establishes a schedule for the annual review and revision of existing effluent guidelines, (2) identifies categories of sources discharging toxic or nonconventional pollutants that do not already have effluent guidelines, and (3) establishes a schedule for rulemaking on those topics.
In this action, EPA announced that it will be reviewing guidelines for wastewater discharges from several industry categories, in particular, the Petroleum Refining Industry, and Centralized Waste Treatment Facilities in the Hydraulic Fracturing Industry, discussed below.
Study of Petroleum Refining Industry
The Agency announced that it will launch a detailed category review of Petroleum Refineries (40 CFR Part 419) and their wastewater discharges. EPA’s continued category review of refinery discharges and new and revised air regulations indicate “that implementation of wet air-pollution controls, as well as a changes in feedstock, may result in an increased discharge of metals from petroleum refineries.” Specifically, EPA is concerned with the discharge levels and concentration of dioxin and heavy metals, and seeks to determine the source and treatment options for these discharge. This study is expected to bring a new wave of effluent limitations guidelines and standards (“ELGs”), that will be used with other water-quality based control limits to meet water quality standards at the state level.
Study of Centralized Waste Treatment (“CWT”) Facilities in Hydraulic Fracturing Operations
In areas where underground injection of process water is unavailable, hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as “fracking”) operations often send used water to CWT facilities for treatment and re-use in drilling operations, or for discharge to publicly-owned treatment works (“POTWs”) or surface waters. This process, which is increasingly being used across the industry, is beneficial in that it provides an alternative option to underground injection, which has been traced to increased seismic activity and eases the strain on fresh-water supplies through water re-use in later operations. However, EPA is concerned that some CWT facilities do not have adequate treatment for these wastewaters as demand for treatment rises, and is launching a study into the extent to which CWTs accept process wastewater, and which technologies are available to further limit environmental impacts.
Other Aspects of the Proposed Plan
EPA announced it will continue its Preliminary Category Review of Metal Finishing, which was initiated in 2012. EPA is concerned that these facilities may be potentially discharging high concentrations of metal to publically owned treatment works (POTWs), and is seeking comments regarding the potential discharges at these facilities.
EPA is collecting data and information on the potential industrial wastewater discharge hazards associated with nanomaterials manufacturing and formulating. EPA requests public comment and stakeholder input relating to any information or data available on the wastewater hazards and discharges associated with the manufacture of nanomaterials and their use in manufacturing or formulating products.
EPA is also announcing a final decision, for the Meat and Poultry Products industry and for the Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard industry which EPA has been investigating for the past two years, that no further review is necessary since EPA has resolved the wastewater discharge issues in both industries and determined an effluent guideline revision is not warranted at this time.
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