On September 30, EPA released its long-awaited (long-feared?) final rule governing wastewater discharges from steam electric generating facilities. The trade press is presenting the rule as a victory for environmentalists (The Law360 headline was “Enviros Score Major Win in Final EPA Effluent Rules”) and I think that that’s probably a fair description.
Here is the quick summary of just the more important aspects of the rule for existing sources:
- The most stringent aspects of the rule apply to coal-fired plants with a nameplate capacity great than 50 MW (there are less stringent requirements for oil-fired facilities and smaller coal-fired facilities)
- For fly ash transport water, bottom ash transport water, and flue gas mercury control (FGMC) wastewater, Best Available Technology Economically Achievable, or BAT, means
- A numeric TSS limit, and
- A zero discharge limitation for pollutants from these wastewaters
- For flue gas desulfurization wastewaters, BAT means
- A numeric TSS limit and numeric limits on mercury, arsenic, selenium, and nitrate/nitrite in the FGD discharge
For new sources, the rule imposes:
- A zero discharge standard for all pollutants in fly ash transport water, bottom ash transport water, and FGMC wastewater
- Numeric standards on mercury, arsenic, selenium, and TDS in FGD wastewater discharges
- Numeric standards on mercury and arsenic in the discharge of combustion residual leachate.
The rule also imposes standards on discharges from new and existing facilities to POTWs.
Finally, EPA did provide an extra year to comply, moving the initial date from 2017 to 2018, to allow facilities to coordinate compliance between this rule and the coal combustion residuals rule issued late last year.
This may not be the Clean Power Plan, but it’s fairly important to coal-fired facilities.