WASHINGTON(October 27, 2005) -- After months of negotiations, a top U.S. environmentalgroup and a national wastewater utility trade association today announced aplan to protect the public from exposure to inadequately treated sewage. (For acopy of the plan, click here.)
The NaturalResources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Association of Clean WaterAgencies (NACWA) drafted the plan as an alternative to an EnvironmentalProtection Agency proposal that would have allowed wastewater facilities to dischargeinadequately treated sewage into waterways virtually anytime it rains.
Last April, EPA-- in response to the heated controversy sparked by its proposal -- encouragedNRDC and NACWA to work together to solve the problem. A month later, EPAwithdrew the proposal just hours before Congress prohibited the agency fromfinalizing it, setting the stage for the two groups to devise a betterapproach.
"We put ourheads together and came up with a workable plan that will protect publichealth," said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project."Now the EPA should endorse it and put it in place."
Withdrawn EPAProposal Would Have Exacerbated Sewage Problem
The agency’sso-called "blending" proposal, would have let sewer operatorsroutinely mix inadequately treated sewage with fully treated sewage beforedischarging it downstream, allowing facilities to bypass the crucial"secondary treatment" step that removes most of the viruses,parasites and other pathogens, as well as toxic chemicals, from sewage。
The Clean WaterAct allows facilities to release partially treated sewage only during extremeweather events when it is not possible for a system to fully treat the entireflow, but EPA’s proposal would have allowed sewage dumping virtually wheneverit rains, even if full treatment were feasible. EPA’s proposal only would haverequired primary treatment, which merely screens out solids from sewage.
Health expertsestimate that there are 7。1 million mild-to-moderate cases and 560,000moderate-to-severe cases of infectious waterborne disease in the UnitedStates annually。 Many of these cases are caused by exposure to sewage。
Untreated sewagecontains a variety of dangerous pathogens, including bacteria (such as E coli),viruses (such as hepatitis A), protozoa (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia)and helminth worms. The pathogens in sewage can cause illnesses ranging fromdiarrhea and vomiting and respiratory infections to hepatitis and dysentery.Small children, the elderly, cancer patients, and others with impaired immunesystems are the most likely to get sick.
Besides theobvious health threat, EPA’s original proposal would have serious long-termenvironmental and economic consequences, said Stoner。 More sewage in ourwaterways would close beaches, kill fish and destroy shellfish beds。 Sewage isthe second largest known cause of U。S。 beach closures and advisoriesevery year。
New Plan WouldBetter Protect Public Health
The plan thatNRDC and NACWA negotiated would require wastewater facilities to upgrade and repairtheir leaky sewage systems to protect public health。 It would requirefacilities to fully treat sewage unless EPA and a state environmental agencydetermine there is no feasible way to do so。 It also will require facilities tonotify the public and environmental agencies every time they dischargeinadequately treated sewage。
"The publicmust be warned when treatment facilities dump sewage into their localwaterways," said Stoner. "This plan will make sure thathappens."
The plan alsowould require EPA to take enforcement actions, including levying fines andpenalties, against sewer authorities that fail to fix their leaky systems orupgrades their facilities.
World sales ofwater and wastewater treatment chemicals were over $17 billion last year andwill reach $22 billion in 2010. Nevertheless, the market is splintered withtens of thousands of companies supplying a wide range of products. These arethe conclusions reached by the McIlvaine Company in its online, Water andWastewater Treatment Chemicals World Markets.
The largestsupplier, Nalco, achieved only a 7 percent market share worldwide. GE Water,the next largest, only garnered 3.5 percent of the market.
Twenty companiesachieved sales in this segment in 2004 of over $100 million. This means salesaverage is less than $1 million per year.
The industry iscomposed of companies who buy commodity chemicals in bulk and then blend andpackage these chemicals along with service.
“Corrosioninhibitor” is the biggest single product category, representing 18 percent ofthe total. Other products in order of sales revenue are organic flocculants,inorganic flocculants, scale inhibitors, oxidizers and biocides, pH adjusters,odor control, ion exchange, activated carbon, chelates and defoamers.
Municipalwastewater plants are the largest purchasers (17 percent of the total) followedin order by power generators, municipal water treatment plants, refineries,pulp and paper mills, oil and gas producers, food processors, metal workingcompanies, chemical producers, electronics manufacturers, and mines.
For moreinformation on Water and Wastewater Treatment Chemicals: World Market, go tothe McIlvave website.