EPA Streamlining Pretreatment Program Rules

Finalized on Oct. 14, 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made changes to the Federal Pretreatment Program...

by Jay Collert, CHMM, CET

Finalized on Oct. 14, 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made changes to the Federal Pretreatment Program that are now having an effect on Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) as well as industrial dischargers to affected POTWs. While the agency gave POTWs a year to introduce the changes to their programs, those changes are just now starting to show up in pretreatment permits to industrial dischargers. And, as all new programs go, modifications to the program will inevitability occur for many years to come.

Basic Changes

The Streamlining Rule revises several provisions of the General Pretreatment Regulations (40 CFR Part 403). The Pretreatment Program requires industrial dischargers to use treatment techniques and management practices to reduce or eliminate discharge of harmful pollutants to sanitary sewers. The Streamlining Rule was designed to reduce the overall regulatory burden on both Industrial Users (IUs) and Control Authorities without adversely affecting environmental protection.

The rule provides the Control Authority with the flexibility to reduce the burden of technical and administrative requirements without undermining environmental objectives of the Pretreatment Program. These changes, listed below, allow the authority to focus oversight resources on IUs with the greatest potential for affecting POTW operations or the environment:

  • Control Authorities may authorize an IU subject to categorical Pretreatment Standards to reduce sampling of a pollutant if the IU demonstrates a given pollutant is neither present nor expected to be present in the discharge. [§§ 403.8(f)(2)(v) and 403.12]
  • They may authorize use of equivalent concentration limits in lieu of mass limits for Categorical Industrial Users (CIUs) in certain industrial categories. [§ 403.6(c)(6)]
  • They may issue general control mechanisms to groups of Significant Industrial Users (SIUs) that are substantially similar. [§ 403.8(f)(1)(iii)]
  • They may reduce oversight of certain CIUs based on percentage of contribution to the POTW.
  • And they may reduce oversight of certain IUs that may be reclassified as Non-Significant Categorical Industrial Users (NCSIUs).

In finalizing the Streamlining Rule, the EPA is also working to improve effectiveness of the Pretreatment Program. The rule:

  • Provides greater flexibility in the use of certain sampling techniques.
  • Allows in certain circumstances Control Authorities to express CIUs’ concentration-based categorical Pretreatment Standards as equivalent mass limits. [§ 403.6(c)(5)]
  • Clarifies that POTWs may use Best Management Practices (BMPs) as alternatives to numeric limits that are developed to protect the POTW, water quality, and sewage sludge.
  • Clarifies the definition of significant noncompliance (SNC) as it applies to violations of instantaneous and narrative requirements, and late reports.
  • Makes other miscellaneous changes designed to maintain consistency with the NPDES regulations or to correct typographical errors.

Conclusion

The EPA has identified the 13 rule changes more stringent than existing provisions in 40 CFR Part 403, and therefore may require changes to the appropriate state or POTW authorities. As a result of these changes, POTW authorities will hopefully have more flexibility in regulating and managing the program and IUs will have some relief from the regulatory burden of the Federal Pretreatment Program. To read the changes this final rule made to the pretreatment regulations (40 CFR Part 403), go to www.epa.gov/npdes/regulations/streamlining_part403.pdf.

About the Author: Jay Collert is a nationally recognized environmental trainer and consultant with the Aarcher Institute of Environmental Training LLC, based in Houston, TX. Since 1994, he has focused on helping companies understand and comply with the complexities of environmental regulations. Contact: 713-802-2928, jcollert@aarcherinstitute.com or www.aarcherinstitute.com

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