EPA Releases Preliminary Effluent Guidelines as Part of New Rulemaking Initiatives

4 waste-water storage tanks

October 21, 2021

Categories included per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), nutrients & other wastewater discharge limitations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 for various industry categories. Preliminary Plan 15 summarizes EPA's 2020 review of effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and pretreatment standards pursuant to Section 304(m) of the Clean Water Act. Actions proposed will affect discharges of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), nutrients, and other wastewater discharge limitations.

ELGs are national regulations to control certain industrial wastewater discharges and municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges. These technology-based and industry-specific standards are the highest pollutant reductions EPA believes economically achievable for an industry. ELGs do not require a facility to install the technology identified by EPA; however, the regulations do require dischargers to achieve the regulatory standards developed based on the model technology.

Once adopted, these standards are incorporated into the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for direct discharges. They are also applicable to indirect dischargers as part of pre-treatment programs that regulate significant industrial and commercial users.

As presented in EPA's announcement, Preliminary Plan 15 outlines the initiation of rulemakings to revise limitations for PFAS in discharges from the Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers (OCPSF) category and the Metal Finishing category (chromium [electro]plating operations) and to conduct detailed studies of PFAS discharges from the Landfills and Textile Mills categories. Preliminary Plan 15 also outlines the initiation of rulemaking and completion of a detailed study of the Meat and Poultry Products (MPP) category and initiation of a proposed Supplemental Rulemaking for the Steam Electric Power Generating category.

The announcement further notes that "Preliminary Plan 15 also provides initial results from EPA's studies of multiple categories, including the Metal Products and MachineryExplosives Manufacturing, and Landfills industries, and provides an update on the PFAS Multi-Industry Study."

How Exponent Can Help

Exponent's consultants have expertise in helping clients navigate federal and state regulatory requirements related to wastewater discharges and NPDES compliance. Our team has substantial experience in wastewater characterization for all types of pollutants, best available treatment technologies, and realistic achievable outcomes with regards to numerous industry categories including those affected by Preliminary Plan 15. Exponent has additional expertise in negotiating permitting requirements, evaluating appropriate chemical analysis and reporting requirements, performing toxicity reduction evaluations, and evaluating treatment options and discharge scenarios, including the assessment of the appropriate dilution and mixing zone scenarios. Our extensive knowledge of wastewater discharges and the NPDES program allows us to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions for regulatory compliance issues that our clients face at the federal or state level.