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Environmental Blog

  • 21
  • October
  • 2015

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EPA Updates Effluent Guidelines, Adds New Requirements for Power Plant Wastewater Discharges

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the first time set federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants, including mercury, lead and selenium. EPA issued these new regulations because, without them, the regulations (last updated in 1982) did not address treating dissolved pollutants in power plant wastestreams. EPA estimates that 134 of the approximately 1,080 steam electric power plants in the U.S. will have to make new investments to meet the requirements of the new effluent limitation guidelines, with compliance costs estimated to be $480 million per year.

The new rule aims to address new wastestreams at electric power plants generated by new technologies and new pollution control requirements implemented over the last 30 years. However, the new requirements do not apply to plants that are oil-fired or smaller than 50 megawatts.

The final rule establishes new or additional requirements for wastewater streams from the following processes and byproducts associated with steam electric power generation: flue gas desulfurization, fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas mercury control and gasification of fuels such as coal and petroleum coke.

For the flue gas desulfurization wastestream, the rule phases in new, more stringent effluent limits for arsenic, mercury, selenium, and nitrogen for wastewater discharged from wet scrubber systems. The rule encourages plants to commit to meeting even more stringent limits for pollutants in the flue gas desulfurization wastewater, plus a limit on total dissolved solids, based on evaporation technology, by giving until the end of 2023 to meet the more stringent limits.

The rule also establishes zero discharge pollutant limits for ash transport water and flue gas mercury control wastewater, as well as stringent limits on arsenic, mercury, selenium and total dissolved solids in coal gasification wastewater, based on evaporation technology. The rule also includes even more stringent controls for any new coal or petroleum coke plants that may be built in the future.

The agency chose an effective date of November 1, 2018, so that implementation could be coordinated with the coal combustion residuals rule that was issued at the end of 2014. As a result of these implementation deadlines and incentives in the final rule, companies will face difficult investment decisions relating to fuel flexibility and waste management at their steam electric power plant facilities. You can find more information about the final rule here.

Posted at 10/21/2015 5:20 PM

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