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U.S. EPA’s Game Plan for ELGs Outlined in Preliminary Plan 15

Posted: October 29th, 2021

Authors: All4 Staff 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) released the Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15) on September 8, 2021. Section 304(m) of the Clean Water Act requires U.S. EPA to publish biennially plans for new and revised Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs), which are national regulatory standards for wastewater discharged to surface waters and publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). Preliminary Plan 15 discusses the status of U.S. EPA’s analyses, studies, and rulemakings related to ELGs since the publication of Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14 on October 24, 2019 and its finalization on January 11, 2021.

U.S. EPA is continuing to take actions to understand and reduce the risks related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In Preliminary Plan 15, U.S. EPA describes its plans for revising ELGs to address PFAS. U.S. EPA’s plans include:

  • Rulemaking to revise the Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers (OCPSF) ELGs to address PFAS discharges from facilities manufacturing PFAS and the Metal Finishing ELGs to address PFAS discharges from chromium electroplating facilities. Revisions to the OCPSF ELGs means new or upgraded treatment technologies may be required such as granular activated carbon, reverse osmosis filtration, or ion exchange.
  • Conducting detailed studies on PFAS in wastewater discharges from landfills and textile and carpet manufacturers.
  • No significant action was recommended to address PFAS discharges for the Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard facilities and Commercial Airports.

Other rulemaking priorities described by U.S. EPA in Preliminary Plan 15 include:

  • Supplemental rulemaking to strengthen the Steam Electric Power Generating ELGs. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated portions of the 2020 rule pertaining to “legacy” wastewater and combustion residual leachate and remanded them back to U.S. EPA. U.S. EPA plans to publish a proposed rule in Fall 2022. We expect the revised ELGs may be more restrictive and require upgrades to treatment technologies such as biological treatment systems and membrane treatment systems.
  • Conduct rulemaking to revise the Meat and Poultry Products (MPP) ELGs after finishing a study of the MPP Point Source Category (PSC). The study found that rulemaking may be appropriate to address high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, wastewater discharged to POTWs, and environmental justice considerations. The MPP ELGs were last updated in 2004. One possibility is that the revised ELGs for nitrogen and phosphorous could be reduced or the MPP PSC could be subject to nitrogen and phosphorous pretreatment standards.

U.S. EPA also provided the initial results of studies on certain PSCs. The preliminary results of the study indicates that further research is only needed in the Landfills Category.

As U.S. EPA begins to implement its plans for further analyses, studies, and rulemakings related to ELGs as described in Preliminary Plan 15, ALL4 will provide updates to regulatory developments for ELGs. If you have any questions on ELGs or other water issues, contact your ALL4 project manager for more information.


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