More than 300,000 water-using industrial plants discharge three to four times as much oxygen-demanding wastes as all of the nonindustrial wastes discharged to sewerage in the United States. Many wastes discharged by industries are toxic to aquatic life and, perhaps indirectly, to man. The volume of industrial wastewater discharge in 1968 exceeded 14 trillion gal before treatment. Indications are that more than half of this wastewater volume comes from four major industrial groups: paper, organic chemicals, petroleum refining, and steel.
Industrial pollution problems are created by oxygen-demanding wastewater constituents, organic and inorganic settleable solids, suspended solids, floatable materials, toxic metals or substances, nuisance-stimulafing nutrients, and waste heat. Treatment and control processes are now available for most industrial wastes; however, some pollutants, including complex chemicals, present difficult abatement problems.
The magnitude of the national industrial-waste problem has remained relatively unknown. There has not been until very recently 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.
A voluntary national-industrial-wastes inventory was begun in early August 1971, following a test mailing to refine the questionnaire and the instructions. 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 infor-mation on quantity and quality of wastewater constituents and discharge methods. Data from the inventory will be computerized to facilitate their use, and they should prove 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 make a 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 define a feasible effluent level based on 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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This publication consists of papers based on oral presentations at a symposium of the same name co-sponsored by the United States Geological Survey and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. A wide range of technical issues are covered, as well as regulatory and liability concerns. Documentation of two areas in Colorado where earthquakes had resulted from subsurface fluid injection set the stage for modern debates regarding possible similar results elsewhere. A wide range of fluid compositions are subject to subsurface waste disposal. The largest volumes are brines separated during the production of oil and gas wells, but acid-water and industrial wastes of all types can be disposed in significant quantities in local areas. Large hydraulic fracture treatments never recover all of the injected fluids, and the chemical additives in the fluid that remains underground can be a concern. The subsurface injection of radioactive waste is a topic for three of the papers. The possible need for sequestration of carbon dioxide was not a significant concern at the time and was not covered, but many of the papers provide insight into the issues related to modern proposals. When fluids are injected under pressure into subsurface aquifers, they interact in numerous ways. The fluids can potentially migrate for long distances and potentially interfere with other uses for the native aquifer fluids. If the aquifer cannot transport all of the fluids away, the buildup in pressure can cause fracturing of the rock. Differences in composition between the injected and native fluids can cause chemical reactions to occur; in some cases these can be desirable in that they can immobilize certain solutes in mineral form. The long-term environmental consequences are a common theme in many of the papers because of the recognition that the disposed fluids would become a permanent fixture in subsurface aquifers and could have long-term consequences for their future utilization.