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EPA Scrutinizing Utility Wastewater

steamPower plant wastewater is about to the get same kind of federal scrutiny that emissions and air pollution have received.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to revise existing standards for water discharges from coal-fired power plants to reduce pollution.

The move would cover wastewater from coal ash ponds, air pollution control equipment, and other equipment at power plants that contaminate drinking water sources and harm the environment.

Ironically, the very act of power plants reducing their emissions has caused adverse effects on water quality. The process of “scrubbing” the boiler exhaust with water can result in the toxins being released into waterways, if the wastewater is not managed properly. Only a fraction of power plants use proper wastewater treatment technologies, the EPA says.

EPA’s multi-year study of power plant wastewater discharges showed that the current set of regulations, issued in 1982, have not kept pace with changes that have occurred in the electric power industry over the last three decades.

Once the new rule for electric power plants is finalized, the new standards will be incorporated by EPA and states into wastewater discharge permits.

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