By Miguel Rodas, Njie Takere, Susana Vargas
LA Sanitation (LASAN) administers four environmental programs for the City of Los Angeles: Clean Water, Watershed Protection, Solid Resources, and Environmental Quality (Liveability). LASAN’s Industrial Waste Management Division, which administers the City’s Source Control and Pre-Treatment Program, launched an innovative program called LA Industry to demystify regulations and create collaborative business-friendly pathways to help achieve sustainability in the environment and economy. We recognize that the success of our local businesses is crucial to a healthy and vibrant city; we are committed to the continued growth, retention, and success of businesses in the City of Los Angeles. In alignment with LASAN’s effort to explore strategies and opportunities for businesses to strive economically, this article seeks to inform metal finishing facilities in LA on methods of increasing their regulatory compliance rates.
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is a legislation entity that aims at eliminating or reducing pollutants that get into the nation’s water bodies as a requirement to achieve high quality, fishable, and swimmable waters. The Los Angeles Municipal Code’s (LAMC 64.30) industrial waste control ordinance states, “It is the policy of the City of Los Angeles to ensure that the highest and best use of the Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) is for the collection, treatment, and disposal of domestic wastewater”(1). This means that POTW’s sewer systems are designed to collect and treat domestic wastewater only, thereby relegating its treatment of industrial wastewater an added bonus. Hence, any facility generating industrial wastewater needs to obtain an industrial wastewater permit governed by the industrial waste control ordinance and administered under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Board.
As stated above, because these POTW’s are not designed to treat industrial wastewater containing toxic pollutants, Industrial Users (IUs) are required to employ best management practices that help reduce or eliminate such pollutants. It is important to note that the goal of the CWA is to eliminate, reduce or change pollutants to a lesser contaminating state before they reach US waters. The National Pretreatment Program, published in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) part 403, provides the regulatory basis that requires IUs to comply to pretreatment standards in order to fulfill CWA goals. These are to:
1) Prevent interference with POTW operations and sludge disposal
2) Eliminate pollutants that may pass through the POTW and eventually end up in US waters
3) Improve opportunities to recycle and reclaim municipal and industrial wastewaters and sludges (2).
Pretreatment Compliance Inspection (PCI)
Pretreatment Compliance Inspection, also known as an audit, is an oversight mechanism used by regulators to evaluate the compliance of approved pretreatment programs. Below are some of the things inspectors need to know for pretreatment compliance inspections:
a) Review POTW’s records on monitoring, inspections, and enforcement activities of its Industrial Users to increase effectiveness of inspection audits. The pretreatment regulations in 40 CFR 403.8 (f) (1) (v), require the control authority, which refers to the POTW carrying out all inspections, surveillance, and monitoring of IUs within its service area and determines the compliance of its permittees.
b) Inspectors ensure that the POTW implements its Enforcement Response Plan (ERP) and are authorized to issue a Notice of Violation (NOV) if not in compliance.
c) Incorrect application of categorical pretreatment standards would also be noted. For example, an IU performing electroplating operations is subject to categorical effluent guidelines; failure to identify and therefore categorize such will cause the POTW pretreatment program to be noted as deficient (3).
Introducing the 6Ps
LASAN’s Industrial Waste Management Division (IWMD) has developed inspection forms to be used during routine inspections. The 6Ps model serves as a navigational tool for IWMD inspectors and stands for Products, Processes, Pollutants, Pretreatment System (PTS), Parameters, and Plan of the Shop. An application of this model can be seen when a metal finishing facility engaged in the manufacturing of products, utilizing one or more processes, generates pollutants that will have to be treated in a pretreatment system before it is discharge into a POTW to meet limiting parameters outlined in the control mechanism, otherwise known as an industrial wastewater permit. These Ps are not mutually exclusive, but form a collective of a single unit. If an IU decides to offer another process at the shop, this change may add a new pollutant, which can affect the PTS and other parameters in the permit. Such changes may alter the documented schematic or process flow diagram depicted in Plan of the Shop.
Figure 1 6Ps Model System
The 6Ps model system allows inspectors and IUs to pay attention to critical aspects of the process. In addition to the 6Ps model representing a management system easy to implement due to its practicality, a change in one P implies a response from the other Ps due to their codependence on each other. Neglecting one of the Ps of the 6Ps model may trigger non-compliance issues. This model is not only a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) tool for inspectors during routine inspections, but can also be useful for IUs to stay in compliance and help them be better prepared for inspections.
Consider the process of metal finishing which changes the surface of metals to enhance the corrosion-resistant properties, decorative appearance, electrical conductivity, or durability of a metal (4). In order to receive a metal finish, metal parts are first immersed into an alkaline or acidic chemical solution for cleaning and then rinsed by either a “drag-out” or “rinse water” method. Other pollutants, excluding metal remnants found in rinse solutions, are oils & grease, organics, inorganics, and dirt. Inspectors and IUs require some training to be able to detect all the visible and invisible pollutants found in waste streams. A common practice that helps in this identification process is metal precipitation upon the addition of a unique solvent like caustic soda. According to Dr. Kenneth Kerri, pioneer water educator and founder of the Office Water Programs, adequate pretreatment before discharge to wastewater collection systems is important in preventing toxic, corrosive, flammable, and explosive threats from damaging collection systems, treatment plants, and posing safety hazards to operators and the general public (5).
Evaluation of the Pretreatment System is the most important aspect of an inspection. The treatment system can be inspected against established standards for providing adequate treatment. This standard is set in 40 CFR 403.3, which calls for the reduction, elimination, or alteration of the nature of pollutants in wastewater prior to discharge (6). Consider the reduction of hexavalent chromium to meet effluent control limits. This process is achievable in two steps. Initially, hexavalent chromium (Cr⁺⁶) is reduced to trivalent chromium (Cr⁺ᶾ) and then Cr⁺ᶾ is precipitated out of solution as a metal hydroxide. Hydroxide ions are available by the addition of sodium hydroxide to form a non-toxic precipitate (a solid that comes out of solution, which is visible at bottom of the container) (7).
In practice, inspectors and IUs are to track if the reaction of chromium reduction comes to a completion using a pH/ORP meter, sulfuric acid, and sodium metabisulfite (SMBS). Sulfuric acid is added to wastewater to ensure its pH is between 2 – 3 and the ORP meter should be set to a reading range of 200 – 300 mv. SMBS is then added to the acidic wastewater solution to serve as the electron donor for Cr⁺⁶ to Cr⁺ᶾ reduction. In the absence of SMBS, wastewater cannot be treated. The next step in the treatment of wastewater is to raise the pH from 2 – 3 to 7.5 – 8 by adding caustic soda that aids in the precipitation of chromium (III) hydroxide. For maximum efficiency, flocculent is added to the solution and allows the precipitate to collect at bottom of tank as sludge (8). The final step is pumping the sludge through a filter press to remove water and dry it to specifications of lawful shipment as a hazardous waste. The Plan of the Shop is affected by every change in processes. Should an IU decide to add a new finishing process to the metal part, a new solution tank and associated rinses need to be depicted in the process flow diagram. Existing permits would likely have to be modified to reflect the new limiting parameters.
1) City of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) 64.30: A (1).
2) Objectives of General Pretreatment Regulations: 40 CFR 403.2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/403.2
3) Guidance for Conducting a Pretreatment Compliance Inspection, US EPA, (September 1991): page 2.
4) US EPA: Metal Finishing Effluent Guidelines
5) Kenneth Kerry, Treatment of Metal Wastestreams, (Sacramento,1990):section 5.2
6) US EPA: Industrial user Inspection and Sampling Manual for POTW https://www.epa.gov/compliance/industrial-user-inspection-and-sampling-manual-publicly-owned-treatment-works
7) US EPA: Guidance Manual for Electroplating and Metal Finishing Pretreatment Standards https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/documents/electroplating-and-metal_finishing_pretreatment-guidance_feb-1984.pdf
8) DTSC: Electroplating Facility Inspection Manual: Emphasis on Cyanide Plating Facilities. (January, 2009) http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/upload/Electroplating_Manual2009.pdf