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More than 300,000 water-using industrial plants in the United States discharge 3-4 times as much oxygen-demanding wastes as all of the sewered population of the United States. Many wastes discharged by industries are toxic to aquatic life and sometimes indirectly to man. An infamous example of the latter is mercury. The volume of industrial wastewater discharge before treatment in 1964 exceeded 13 billion gal. Indications are that over half of this wastewater volume comes from 4 major industrial groups including paper, organic chemicals, petroleum refining, and steel.
Industrial pollution problems are created by oxygen-demanding wastewater constituents, organic and inorganic settleable solids, suspended solids, flotable materials,
toxic metals or substances, nuisance-stimulating nutrients, and waste heat. Treatment and control processes are now available for most industrial wastes. Some pollutants including complex chemicals, however, present difficult abatement problems.
The magnitude of the national industrial waste problem has remained relatively unknown. There has not been until the past few weeks a detailed inventory of industrial wastes. The Environmental Protection Agency within the past year embarked upon a three-pronged program to inventory, study, and regulate this vast waste complex.
Following a test mailing to refine the questionnaire and the instructions, a voluntary national industrial wastes inventory was begun in early August 1971. A comprehensive questionnaire has been mailed to 10,000 of the major water-using industries in the United States. The inventory questionnaire was designed to collect information on quantity and quality of wastewater constituents and discharge methods. Data from the inventory will be computerized to facilitate their use. These data will be extremely valuable in all governmental activities connected with the control of industrial wastes.
The Environmental Protection Agency is in partnership with the Corps of Engineers in the administration of the River and Harbor Act of 1899. Under the provision of this Act, each industrial waste discharge to the nation's waters will be regulated by a permit issued by the Corps of Engineers. The EPA will review, evaluate compliance with water quality standards, and recommend actions on the permit requests.
Comprehensive studies on 20 major industrial categories have recently been completed. These studies defined a feasible effluent level based upon production units for an industrial category. They present the best and most comprehensive compilation of data now available on wastewater management from these industrial categories.
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