IPP helps firms remove wastewater safely

BOULDER – Ever since the EPA introduced the Clean Water Act in the early ’80s, industries producing wastewater have been required to dispose of it safely.

Industrial waste is generated in much larger amounts and is more harmful than household wastewater; therefore, it is necessary to monitor and control its disposal. Many companies generate wastewater through the use of water as a cooling or cleaning agent or in the production process itself.

While it’s easy to picture manufacturers as the only source of damaging wastewater, restaurants, dental offices and photo finishers also can contribute. Their grease, oil and chemicals can clog and damage sewer system pipes. Wastewater also impacts the environment. If Boulder’s wastewater contaminants were to pass untreated, Boulder Creek would become intolerably polluted. In fact, if no one took special precautions, the amount of wastewater generated would “overwhelm the treatment plant,´ said Ridge Dorsey, head of the Industrial Pretreatment Program (IPP) for Boulder’s Department of Public Works.

As head of the utilities department’s pretreatment program, part of Dorsey’s job is to monitor industrial wastewater disposal and to assist companies in proper disposal. Boulder’s wastewater plant is not equipped to process acutely toxic or hazardous materials. Preliminary treatment removes coarse materials such as rags, sand and gravel. Subsequent treatment processes utilize microorganisms to break down organic matter and ammonia.

Toxic waste material has the potential to impair treatment operations by damaging the microorganisms and passing into Boulder Creek untreated. Solids, which settle out of the system, are treated and converted to biosolids. These can be used to amend soils and are applied to farmland according to Colorado Department of Health regulations. Excess concentrations of heavy metals entering the wastewater system may render the biosolids unsuitable for this application.

The IPP supports Title 11, Chapter 3 of the Boulder Revised Code (“Industrial and Prohibited Wastewater Discharges”). This ordinance not only lists prohibited substances, but also precise limitations on permitted pollutants. The IPP also falls under the federal Resource

Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations, found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations. RCRA also lists prohibited substances and limits for pollutants.

Boulder’s industrial community has been very committed to sticking with the EPA’s rules, Dorsey said. The EPA approved the city’s program in January 1983. Being a responsible corporate citizen is “part of business these days,” he said.

As a regulatory committee, the IPP encourages companies to reduce, reuse and recycle, the same philosophy by which responsible homeowners live.

To prevent waste, the IPP encourages process modification by changing and refining processes, reducing the dangerous properties of hazardous materials and improving methods for material handling and equipment maintenance. The IPP also offers alternatives to disposal such as reusing waste, a kind of “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” approach, Dorsey said. One company, for example, may generate high-nickel content wastewater that another company

could use in its production. Recycling can be as simple as sending cardboard scraps to a recycling center, or selling metal shavings to a scrap dealer.

The IPP frequently steers companies toward environmental groups such as Boulder-based Partners for a Clean Environment. PACE takes a multimedia approach to environmental protection, helping companies preserve air, water and material resources. PACE evaluates processes and raw material use to help companies use less and re-use where possible. A brewery, for instance, may recycle hops by-product for mulch.

As for the IPP, it approves companies’ applications for industrial discharge permits. To obtain a permit, the industry must be subject to federal categorical pretreatment standards and its daily process wastewater discharge exceeds 25,000 gallons per day.

Obtaining an industrial discharge permit authorizes the holder to discharge to the city wastewater utility. Permits may limit discharge volumes and also specify requirements for

sampling and reporting discharge processes.

To obtain a Wastewater Classification Survey, or permit application, companies must call the IPP at (303) 441-3151. In the future, forms will be available at www.boulderwater.com, the IPP’s informational Web site.