July 19, 2013
Municipal Wastewater Contaminants of Emerging Concern
POSTED BYWilliam Shane, P.E.
Municipalities may have noticed in the last few years an increased emphasis on providing expanded effluent testing when preparing their renewal applications. This testing specifically covers what EPA refers to as Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs), or more simply, pollutants of concern. According to the EPA, these pollutants “are increasingly being detected in the environment and there is concern that wastewater may be a significant source of these pollutants.”1 In many cases, they come from commonly used consumer items, such as cleaning products, automotive fluids, paints, adhesives, lawn care products, over the-counter and prescription medications, personal care products and disinfectants.2
What does this mean for municipalities? It means that when data is submitted as part of a completed application, it will be evaluated against Kentucky’s water quality standards. If the results exceed the corresponding standard located in 401 KAR 10:031, Section 6, the municipality could possibly be looking at a permit limit for this pollutant. When considering just how many pollutants of concern there are and the number of sources they come from, it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are some simple steps that can help limit a plant’s exposure. One example is to raise public awareness by conducting a drug take-back event, where residents can return unwanted or expired prescriptions instead of flushing them down the toilet.
Municipalities should be aware of this increased emphasis on pollutants of concern in order to avoid getting surprised when it comes time for a permit renewal. To find out more about pollutants of concern, visit the EPA’s website at http://water.epa.gov/scitech/cec/ or contact William Shane at the email address listed above.