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Plain English Guide to Regulations
Wastewater Discharges

How to Comply

water worksThis compliance tool is intended mainly for electroplating and metal finishing manufacturing facilities that discharge process wastewater to a city sewer system (referred to as a publicly owned treatment works, or POTW). These facilities are termed indirect dischargers. Indirect dischargers must obtain a permit and meet national pretreatment standards, both general and specific, which are enforced by the POTW, a state agency, or the regional EPA office, depending on your location.  Contact your POTW to find out which agency is the “Control Authority” for your area. 

If your facility discharges to a water body (stream, river, bay, etc.), it is a direct discharge facility. Direct dischargers are regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) under which state environmental agencies issue a separate permit to each discharger containing specific discharge limitations, reporting requirements, and compliance schedules (for the few states that do not have the authority, EPA regional offices issue the NPDES permits).

While local sewer authorities must enforce the Federal discharge limits as a minimum, they have the authority to impose discharge standards which are more stringent that the Federal limits.  The enforcement of lower local limits are today more common than the Federal limitations.

Electroplating and metal finishing manufacturing facilities that discharge wastewater should already be in compliance with federal regulations. New sources must comply with these regulations before they begin discharging wastewater from manufacturing operations.  If you are expanding your facility or constructing a new facility, contact your control authority.  Below is a short procedure that will assist you in determining which regulations apply, which agency you should report to, and your specific responsibilities.

  1. Determine which federal regulations are applicable to your facility.
  2. Contact your wastewater regulatory agency.
  3. Determine your permitting requirements, discharge limitations, and monitoring, reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
  4. Determine if you are required to have a storm water permit and/or need an oil spill control and countermeasure plan.

Applicable Federal Regulations

Wastewater discharges from independent electroplating and metal finishing manufacturing operations are governed by regulations developed under the Clean Water Act of 1977. Of particular are the following two categorical pretreatment standards:

Additionally, all indirect discharge electroplating and metal finishing facilities must comply with the General Pretreatment Regulations.

For details of the federal regulations, click HERE.




The information contained in this site is provided for your review and convenience. It is not intended to provide legal advice with respect to any federal, state, or local regulation.
You should consult with legal counsel and appropriate authorities before interpreting any regulations or undertaking any specific course of action.

Please note that many of the regulatory discussions on STERC refer to federal regulations. In many cases, states or local governments have promulgated relevant rules and standards
that are different and/or more stringent than the federal regulations. Therefore, to assure full compliance, you should investigate and comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations.