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EPA Issues Final 2016 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan

On May 2, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Final 2016 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan (Final 2016 Plan). Pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA must publish a plan for new and revised effluent guidelines every two years. EPA is also required under the CWA to identify categories of sources discharging toxic or nonconventional pollutants for which guidelines have not previously been published. Following is an overview of some of the most relevant aspects of the Plan.

The Final 2016 Plan maintains the status quo for steam electric generating power plants, stating that they need not reduce or monitor certain discharges established under the Obama administration until 2020. Prior limits dating back to 1982 will remain in effect for wastewater containing coal combustion waste including fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas mercury chemicals, gasification and combustion residual leachate.

The Final 2016 Plan also announces the commencement of a new study that will cover management of oil and gas extraction wastewater from onshore facilities. EPA will coordinate with stakeholders to assess different conventional and unconventional oil and gas extraction wastewater from onshore facilities. The study will evaluate treatment technologies for discharge of oil and gas extraction wastewater.

EPA also plans to study whether existing regulations covering effluent are adequately robust for the following industries: iron and steel manufacturing; organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers; paper, pulp and paperboard mills; and electrical and electronic component manufacturing. This study will continue to focus on the following pollutants within these industries: lead, manganese, nitrate, phosphorous, and mercury. Ultimately, EPA will determine whether to implement new or revised effluent guidelines. Businesses within these industries should pay special attention to whether and how they may be affected by any guideline changes that may ultimately result from these studies.

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