Q&A: Industrial Wastewater
What are some common issues encountered when working with industrial wastewater treatment systems?
- Variability: Industrial wastewater can vary in terms of pollutants, contaminants, and chemical composition. This creates challenges related to designing and maintaining treatment systems that can effectively handle these fluctuations.
- Regulatory compliance: Industrial facilities must comply with specific regulations and discharge limits. Meeting these regulations can be complex and may require ongoing monitoring and adjustments to treatment processes. Violations occur when facilities exceed the permit limits.
- Personnel challenges: Skilled personnel are vital to operating wastewater treatment systems effectively, and finding and retaining experienced staff can be challenging. Compliance issues often arise during operator turnover due to lack of experience and gaps in training.
- Emerging contaminants: PFAS and microplastics are being identified in industrial wastewater and treating them effectively may require updated treatment technologies. Few, if any, regulatory guidelines are currently available for these contaminants, which creates challenges when determining effective treatment options.
Where does industrial wastewater originate?
Industrial wastewater stems from a myriad of activities, including manufacturing, chemical production, mining, power generation, food processing, and more. Each industry may produce wastewater with specific pollutants resulting from its processes, and the composition of industrial wastewater varies greatly depending on the industry and processes involved. Many industrial facilities are required to treat their wastewater before discharge; treatment processes include physical, chemical, and biological methods to remove or reduce contaminants in the wastewater.
I have an exceedance—what steps should I take?
Contact the regulatory agency responsible for issuing your permit and investigate the root cause of the exceedance. Langan’s environmental compliance team can assist with internal investigations to identify the problem, develop and implement a plan to prevent future exceedances, and help evaluate process modifications, equipment upgrades, improved monitoring, or changes in operational procedures.
The environmental compliance team can then guide the preparation and review of your corrective action plan to make sure it is submitted to the regulatory agency within the timeframe specified in your permit.
Danielle Sandella, CHMM, is a Senior Project Manager with nearly 20 years of experience in the environmental industry focused primarily on multimedia regulatory compliance. She also has specific expertise in wastewater permitting, compliance, and engineering at highly regulated facilities.
Jillian Terhune is a Project Scientist with twelve years of experience in the environmental industry focused primarily on regulatory compliance, permitting, and emerging contaminants. Jillian has managed regulatory programs in the water industry from source to tap, including drinking water, municipal and industrial wastewater and pretreatment, as well as environmental laboratory accreditation and certification.