Will EPA Relax Its Mandatory Secondary Treatment Requirement—

by Eugene E. Dallaire, Assoc. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, New York, NY 10017,


Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1979, Vol. 49, Issue 6, Pg. 88-93


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: In the Clean Water Act of 1977, Congress said that under some circumstances communities discharging to marine waters might not have to provide full secondary treatment. At the present time, cities such as Boston, Seattle, San Diego, and numerous cities along the West Coast and in Alaska are in the process of applying for an exemption from secondary treatment. EPA agrees that the oxygen demand the waste puts on the marine receiving waters is not the issue: there is ample dispersion of the wastes so this is not a problem. But EPA argues that it is important to remove heavy metals and toxic materials, and that secondary treatment removes some of them. Cities like New York and Seattle argue that sewage plant effluents account for only a small percent of these substances entering bay waters. The stakes will be high. In New York City alone, the waiver could save over $1.5 billion in initial capital costs — not to mention the savings in operating costs.

Subject Headings: Waste treatment | Sewage | Federal laws | Heavy metals | Waste disposal | Hazardous wastes

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