Effluent guidelines

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Effluent guidelines (also referred to as Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs)) are U.S. national standards for wastewater discharges to surface waters and publicly owned treatment works (POTW) (also called municipal sewage treatment plants). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues effluent guidelines for categories of industrial sources of water pollution under Title III of the Clean Water Act (CWA).[1] The standards are technology-based, i.e. they are based on the performance of treatment and control technologies (e.g., Best Available Technology). Effluent guidelines are not based on risk or impacts of pollutants upon receiving waters.[2]

Regulated pollutants range from acenaphthene to zinc, with maximum allowed contamination levels in discharge water (wastewater) varying by industry. The agency regulates only pollutants for which there are approved analytical testing methods. EPA has published many methods in regulations,[3] and has approved the use of other methods published by peer-reviewed sources, such as Standard Methods.[4] In the early years of the program (1970s-1980s) the agency published methods for a list of 126 "priority pollutants," consisting of various toxic pollutants.[5] Subsequently the agency has issued methods and regulated pollutants beyond those in the initial priority list.[6]

Since the mid-1970s, the EPA has promulgated ELGs for 58 industrial categories, with over 450 subcategories. According to the EPA, Effluent Limitation Guidelines currently control pollution from close to 60,000 industrial facilities and annually prohibit the discharge of 700 billion pounds of pollutants into U.S. surface waters.[7]

Effluent guidelines are implemented in water discharge permits issued to facilities through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CWA section 301(b), 33 U.S.C. § 1311(b); sec. 304(b), 33 U.S.C. § 1314(b); sec. 306, 33 U.S.C. § 1316; sec. 307(b), 33 U.S.C. § 1317(b), sec. 307(c), 33 U.S.C. § 1317(c).
  2. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C. (2013). "Industry Effluent Guidelines."
  3. ^ EPA. "Guidelines Establishing Test Procedures for the Analysis of Pollutants." 40 C.F.R. 136 Code of Federal Regulations.
  4. ^ Clescerl, Leonore S.(Editor), Greenberg, Arnold E.(Editor), Eaton, Andrew D. (Editor). Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (20th ed.) American Public Health Association, Washington, DC. ISBN 0-87553-235-7. This publication is also available on CD-ROM and online by subscription.
  5. ^ EPA (2013). "Priority Pollutants."
  6. ^ EPA (2013). "Clean Water Act Analytical Methods."
  7. ^ U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C. (September 2012). "EPA Has Improved Its Review of Effluent Guidelines but Could Benefit from More Information on Treatment Technologies." Report No. GAO-12-845.
  8. ^ EPA (2012). "Industry Effluent Guidelines: Frequent Questions."

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