Evaluating Compliance

The ultimate goal of any wastewater treatment system is to comply with regulations in a cost-effective manner. Common outlets for wastewater discharges are as follows:

Discharge to Surface Water. Effluent from wastewater treatment operations is piped directly to a surface water body and is subject to NPDES regulations. Effluent limitations depend on the ambient water quality criteria, the condition of the receiving stream, and the amount of mixing available. Discharge to surface water is usually a viable outlet for effluents containing benign contaminants or being treated to a level guaranteeing that the receiving stream is not impacted.

Discharge to the Sewer. Effluent from wastewater treatment operations is sent to the sewer, which is connected to a POTW. The wastewater is subject to municipal pre-treatment regulations. Typically this outlet is good for effluents containing constituents that the POTW can effectively degrade, principally biodegradable organics of moderate strength. The capacity of the POTW to accept the waste must be considered.

Offsite Disposal. Effluents and other residues (sludge) from wastewater treatment operations are transported to an offsite treatment facility. The handler determines the level of pretreatment required for off-site disposal. This method is appropriate for low-volume, high-toxicity effluents and residuals. Effluents and residuals in this category are usually prohibited from discharge through other outlets (NPDES outfalls or municipal sewers).

Compliance evaluations can have either of the following forms:

Assessment of whether a plant's wastewater treatment operations are meeting effluent discharge limitations. If a facility is consistently not in compliance on a critical NPDES permit parameter, such as a primary pollutant concentration, this noncompliance is more urgent than an occasional minor deviation from a composite parameter such as BOD. The former situation requires immediate revision of a facility's wastewater management strategy, involving significant modifications or even complete replacement of existing treatment units.

Feasible and Cost-Effective?

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