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.