ZERO DISCHARGE NOW
What is zero discharge?
The working definition of zero discharge is no liquid effluent discharge into the environment. No pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere. Concentrated wastes are recycled as raw materials to process or solidified for sale. Instead of trying t limit the amounts of pollutants discharge, zero discharge promotes the elimination of discharge streams altogether through recycling and reuse.
How is it accomplished?
Technology is now available that will allow industrial plants to achieve zero discharge and produce no permitted effluent. With the use of such sophisticated technologies as reverse osmosis, multistage evaporators, wastewater cooling towers, chemical precipatory and crystallizers, zero discharge can be accomplished at reasonable costs.
An average petrochemical plant spends about 2 percent of its capital budget for wastewater treatment. For an additional two to three percent, most plants can go zero discharge. While the design of each production facility’s zero discharge system will be different, a combination of zero discharge techniques can produce zero discharge. “Any plant can go zero discharge, “ now says Dr. Jack Matson of Pennsylvania State University
How long has zero discharge been around?
In countries where water is a precious commodity, Singapore, China, India, Saudi Arabia, water reuse has been practiced for many years. In the uSA, the re-use of treated municipal wastewater as cooling tower makeup and utility water was successfully done in l944 at the Cosden Petroleum Corporation in Big Springs, Texas. South Africa designed a water reuse system that essentially zero discharge for the enormous Sasol plants l and ll.
How does the federal government view zero discharge?
Zero discharge was written as the national goal in the l972 Amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act). The goal states, “…it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by l985.” In the early l980’s however, this provision was gutted.
In the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements (l978), the International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes ‘committed US and Canadian federal governments to virtually eliminate the discharge of persistent toxic substances within the philosophy of zero discharge.” Article ll/Annex 12,2 (a) (ii). Lake Superior is the first target for zero discharge under this initiative.
In the case Chemical Manufacturers Association, et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, March l989, Judges Alvin Garza and King stated, “The failure of EPA even to consider recycling, then, was arbitrary and capricious. We therefore remand these limitations to the EPA for consideration of whether zero discharge limits would be appropriate for new plants in the OCPSF industry because of the existence of recycling.”
In July 7, l994, Deputy EPA Administrator for Water, Robert Perciaseppe, committed his agency’s ‘full support” for an agreement between Texas shrimper, Diane Wilson and Formosa Plastics, Texas Corporation. The agreement, signed by ms. Wilson, representatives from Formosa, EPA region 6, the Texas natural Resource Conservation Commission and Houston attorney, Jim Blackburn, established “ the goal of zero discharge” from Formosa’s $l.6 billion Point Comfort, Texas plant expansion.