Reduce Wastewater Volumes to Improve Safety and Lower Hazardous Waste Costs

Wastewater has increasingly become an aspect of environmental health and safety that manufacturers and fabricators are seeking to improve. And with good reason.

Water is used in many industrial processes including rinsing, cooling, dilution, and more. Not cleaning or filtering used water not only depletes global water resources that are projected to suffer severe shortages by 2050, but also contributes to operational water costs that are increasing at a rate of more than 6% annually.

Additionally, industrial wastewater often becomes contaminated with substances that classify them as hazardous waste, which results in many safe handling, storage, and disposal challenges. With that in mind, here are three things to consider when improving your site’s hazardous wastewater management:

1. What kinds of hazardous waste is your facility producing?

There are three types of hazardous waste:

  • Severely toxic hazardous waste: Any waste that exhibits the characteristic of severe toxicity by containing 1 part per million or more of a severely toxic substance.
  • Acute hazardous waste: Those wastes that pose a threat to human health and the environment even when they are properly managed.
  • Non-acute hazardous waste: All hazardous wastes that are not acute hazardous waste or severely toxic hazardous waste.

Depending on the chemical composition of the hazardous waste, it may become volatile and unstable, react violently with water, produce toxic gases, or even detonate or explode. Peroxides, cyanides, sulfides, perchlorates, metallic sodium, and picric acid are examples of reactive hazardous waste. Other dangerous characteristics of hazardous waste include its ability to ignite or corrode.

Common examples of hazardous wastewaters include plating wastewater and cooling water containing heavy metals, etching and pickling wastewaters used for surface treatment, and process waters containing ignitable solvents.

2. How much hazardous waste does your facility generate and how long can it be stored?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies hazardous waste generators into three categories. The classification determines which regulations apply to the generator. Here are the quantities of non-acute hazardous waste, acute hazardous waste, and acute hazardous waste spill clean-up material that determine which category your facility falls into:

Generator Classification Non-acute Hazardous Waste per Month Acute Hazardous Waste per Month Acute Hazardous Waste Spill Clean-up Material per Month
Large Quantity Generator (LQG) 2,200 lbs. (1,000 kg) or more (includes imported quantities of hazardous waste) More than 2.2 lbs. (1 kg)  More than 220 lbs. (100 kg)
Small Quantity Generator (SQG) 220 lbs. to 2,200 lbs.(100 kg to 1,000 kg) No more than 2.2 lbs. (1 kg)  No more than 220 lbs. (100 kg)
Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) Less than or equal to 220 lbs. (100 kg) Not Applicable Not Applicable

Proper on-site storage and management of hazardous wastes reduce the risk of spills and employee exposure. As such, the EPA also establishes accumulation time limits for each of the three generator classifications. The time limit for LQG to accumulate hazardous waste without a permit is 90 days. The time limit for SQG is 180 days (or 270 days if transporting more than 200 miles). VSQG do not have an accumulation time limit.

To meet compliance requirements and keep operators safe, metalworking companies should track the time frame in which the hazardous waste is being stored, when hazardous waste containers were labeled, and where they are stored. Learn more in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Regulatory Summary and Hazardous Waste Listings User-Friendly Reference Document (PDF).

3. Is your facility treating and recycling industrial wastewater on-site to avoid the buildup of hazardous waste?

Wastewater disposal costs are expensive. Treating, reducing, and reusing wastewater on-site decreases up to 98% of oily water volumes, lowers haul-away costs by as much as 90%, protects the environment, and cuts financial risks associated with fines from exceeding discharge limits.

However, there is not a universal wastewater treatment solution that works for every company because regulations, water costs, and applications differ from operation to operation. Partnering with an expert in industrial wastewater treatment to analyze both your site’s application and wastewater is the first step to shrinking the amount of hazardous waste your facility needs to manage.

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