Why Companies Are Paying User Fees For Industrial Wastewater Treatment

Author: Sara Peters | January 17, 2019 |

Getting big bills from your municipality for wastewater? Wondering why? Municipal wastewater treatment facilities are usually not equipped to handle the varying types of discharge from industrial facilities. From paper mills to chemical manufacturers, to dairies, the differences between the wastewater discharged are vast. If wastewater from your facility isn't pretreated, get ready for fees. Here's why.

Municipalities need industrial wastewater users to pretreat their discharge in order to:

  • Prevent the introduction of pollutants into a publicly owned treatment works that will interfere with its operation, including interference with its use or disposal of municipal sludge,
  • prevent the introduction of pollutants into a POTW that will pass through the treatment works or otherwise be incompatible with it, and
  • improve opportunities to recycle and reclaim municipal and industrial wastewaters and sludges.

Municipalities set limits for organic and solids loadings along with discharge restrictions for toxins, metals, and fats, oils and grease (FOGs). If high strength waste or restricted discharges are sent to the municipality, the costs to treat them are passed to the specific industrial customer in the form of user fees. They may also be met with fines from regulatory agencies. User fees are applied based on 3 factors:

Organic Loading

Organic loading is represented as BOD, or the amount of oxygen needed to fully oxidize organics and is typically tested as mg/l and calculated as pounds/day. High organic loading is costly for the municipality to treat.

Solids Loading

Typically represented as TSS, solids loading is a measurement of the suspended solids in the wastewater. Like organic loading, solids loading is tested as mg/l and calculated as pounds per day. A high degree of solids is also costly for municipalities to remove and dispose of. Therefore, they're happy to pass the costs to a manufacturer.

Hydraulic Loading

This is the measurement of the volume of wastewater sent to the treatment plant. Hydraulic loading is measured in gallons per day. Manufacturers discharge varying amounts of wastewater and municipalities will charge to treat the waste accordingly.

pH Levels

This is the most commonly treated factor for industry and is easily controlled by a chemical addition to the monitored discharge to the municipality. 

Additional Factors

As stated above, there are additional items that can affect the bill like toxins, fats, oils, greases, and metals. Manufacturers should also monitor phosphorus, pH, chloride or ammonia levels to ensure the wastewater discharged will not "shock" the municipality's system. This would surely bring on extra fees.

If you're getting big bills for industrial wastewater usage now, it doesn't have to be this way forever. Look at your statement and review your permit. Completely understand the parameters outlined in your permit and compare with the wastewater discharged today. Where are the biggest opportunities for improvement?

If the guidelines described in the wastewater discharge permit are unclear or unspecific, ask for clarification from the municipality. Ask them to be as specific as possible about their requirements for your organization so targets can be set for wastewater discharge going forward.

Think you might need help navigating wastewater user fees and employing a strategy to reduce them? Check with an engineer in your area that is experienced in industrial wastewater. Your municipality may have suggestions for someone to talk to. An investment in pretreatment on the your end can lead to major savings on the wastewater bill, and profits back in the company's pocket.

Not sure where to start with industrial wastewater treatment? Ask us about it! We gladly provide technical assistance to businesses and municipalities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and upper Michigan. 

Sara Peters

Sara Peters

Sara leads Crane Engineering's blogging team, coming up with fresh stories and insights for our readers to apply to their every day work.

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