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What Is "Wastewater Pretreatment"?

Definition of wastewater pretreatment and what it encompasses.

Commercial and industrial facilities utilize pretreatment to remove harmful pollutants before they are discharged to a sewer system under the control of a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) . Pretreatment is also defined in Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) Subsection 403.

Objectives of TCEQ’s Pretreatment Program

By placing controls or limits on levels of certain pollutants in wastewater discharged to your sewer system, you:

  • prevent interference with the operation of your Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)

  • prevent the introduction of pollutants that could pass through your WWTP untreated and into the receiving body of water

  • improve opportunities for reuse or recycling of wastewater and sewage sludge

  • prevent the introduction of pollutants that could cause health or safety problems to the public or the environment

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Meeting These Objectives

TCEQ's pretreatment program is part of the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES). program to control and reduce the amount of pollutants released into the environment.

Wastewater from homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities is collected and transported through a series of pipes—that is, a collection system—to WWTPs. The WWTPs remove harmful organisms and contaminants from the wastewater before discharge into the receiving creek, river, or lake.

Most POTWs are designed to treat sanitary (domestic) wastes from households but not to treat toxic pollutants from industrial or commercial facilities. These toxic pollutants may cause serious problems at POTWs. These problems may be prevented by recycling, waste minimization, chemical substitution, pretreatment, or other best management practices.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the General Pretreatment Regulations under 40 CFR Part 403 to set responsibilities for federal, state, and local governments, industries, and the public to achieve the National Pretreatment Program objectives.

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TPDES Permit: Pretreatment Requirements

The Contributing Industries and Pretreatment Requirements section of the TPDES permit includes pretreatment requirements for all POTWs regardless of whether or not they have an approved TPDES pretreatment program.

A POTW not required to implement an approved pretreatment program should consider developing a local pretreatment program to:

  • Protect the receiving stream

  • Correct existing problems at the POTW and the collection system

  • Prevent potential problems at the POTW and the collection system

  • Increase sludge disposal options

  • Protect the POTW and its personnel

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If You Discover Changes

Your permit also requires you to notify us whenever you become aware of a substantial change in the characteristics of your plant's influent.

Even though your permit does not require you to establish an approved pretreatment program, it is still a good idea to have a local pretreatment program that has the key elements of an approved program.

Contact the Pretreatment Program if you have any questions.

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