Dealing with Tighter Wastewater Treatment Guidelines
By Brad Buecker
Many industries are facing tighter National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) guidelines, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental departments in different states address wastewater issues in more detail. Many of these changes are occurring in the power industry, and thus a review of new developments in this industry offers a good overview of challenges that many plant personnel face. The Old Days When this author began his utility career at City Water, Light & Power in 1981, NPDES guidelines focused upon a small set of primary impurities in wastewater discharge streams. These included total suspended solids (TSS), oil and grease (O&G), pH, and free chlorine (or other oxidizing biocide). A common guideline is shown below in abbreviated form in Table A. Many power plants then were equipped with once-through cooling, so the only impurity of concern with regard to cooling water discharge was chlorine (or other oxidizing agent) residual. At coal plants, other streams such as coal pile runoff or ash pond discharge could generate the other impurities listed, but treatment techniques were typically straightforward. Now, the story is radically changing.
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