By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: July 26, 2023

What Does Effluent Mean?

Effluent is wastewater discharged from water treatment plants, sewers, or industrial facilities.

Wastewater is generally only considered an effluent if has made its way to surface waters. As such, that wastewater is no longer considered effluent when it is being treated or reclaimed.

Safeopedia Explains Effluent

Effluent is a form of water pollution and industries are responsible for managing the release of effluent from their facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effluent guidelines are considered national regulatory standards for the discharge of wastewater to surface waters and municipal sewage treatment plants.

One of the most contaminated and complex effluent streams is landfill leachate, which is very difficult to treat. It is a result of rainwater or groundwater mixing with municipal and industrial waste in landfills.

Landfill leachate is very harmful to flora and fauna in surrounding communities since it can spread disease. It is important, therefore, to prevent this wastewater (and wastewater from other similar facilities) from reaching clean bodies of water.

Regulations for Industrial Effluents

Effluents discharged from industries such as process and manufacturing plants are required to meet strict environmental standards.

The EPA guidelines for the discharge of wastewater are issued on an industry-by-industry basis. They represent the greatest reduction in pollutants that is economically achievable within a given industry.

EPA regulations for industrial wastewater discharge set technology-based numeric limitations for specific pollutants at several control levels:

  • BPT – Best Practicable Control Technology Currently Available
  • BCT – Best Conventional Pollutant Control Technology
  • BAT – Best Available Technology Economically Achievable
  • NSPS – New Source Performance Standards
  • PSNS – Pretreatment Standards for New Sources
  • PSES – Pretreatment Standards for Existing Sources
  • BMPs – Best Management Practices

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