Water Pollution Control Technology Standards (US)


By Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida, FL


In the US, water pollution control is achieved through the application of one of several different standards at the federal level through the Clean Water Act/Federal Water Pollution Control Act (see the entry in this dictionary: Clean Water Act). General Clean Water Act guidelines for pollution are established effluent guideline standards . A technical discussion of these control standards can be found on the US EPA website (Effluent Limitation Guidelines).

The specific control technology standards that apply vary and are guided by Clean Air Act rules. These rules call for the use of different standards to meet different conditions. These include:

1. Best Practicable Control Technology (or BPT; 33 U.S.C. § 1311(b)(1)). BPT is the minimum standard of control that can be applied to control the emission of a given class of industrial pollutants. These control solutions must be cost effective and attainable under normal conditions. Under law, individual dischargers that fail to meet BPT standards must cease operation.

2. Best Conventional Pollution Control Technology (or (BCT; 33 U.S.C. § 1314(a) (4) (1996)). More stringent than BPT, BCT sets standards for conventional pollutants that balances the costs of control and compliance against the ecological and health benefits that would be derived from implementing a control measure. The EPA is required to show that BCTs are cost efficient using cost-benefit models that examine the cost of compliance against cost savings from protecting public health.

3. Best Available Control Technology Economically Practical (or (BAT; 33 U.S.C. § 1317 (a) (2)). BAT is the most stringent water pollution control standard. BATs are set for a class of point source pollution dischargers of both toxic and nonconventional pollutants. BATS are derived from EPA assessment of best-performing facilities with regard to water pollution emissions. To limit costs and facilitate installation of BAT technology, required BAT must consist of control technology already on the market. The installation of such technology must also be economically feasible, and firms or facilities unable to meet these requirements may apply for an exception under the economic feasibility criteria. Specific BAT requirements for toxin are not based on industry performance, but rather are based on health studies that examine the effect of exposure to toxins on public health and a showing of probable adverse public health effects. Unlike other water pollution BAT requirements, BATs for toxins cannot be avoided due to economic considerations, and do not require the EPA to conduct cost-benefit analysis before inplmenting a toxic BAT requirement.

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