WARNING: You can be fined!

Why does the US EPA regulate the discharge of industrial wastewaters?

The Threat To Public Health & Environment:

Many businesses generate wastewater during daily operations.

If these wastewaters are disposed into shallow injection wells, such as septic system drainfields, dry wells,
cesspools, or pits, constituents from these wastewaters pass through septic systems and discharge to ground water
If these wastewaters are disposed into storm drains or sewers, they may endanger surface water such as streams,
lakes and estuaries.

The Safe Drinking Water Act:

EPA and State Underground Injection Control (UIC) programs are established to protect underground sources of
drinking water from contamination by injection wells.
EPA has found that contaminant concentrations in ground water resulting from industrial discharges may exceed the
maximum contaminant levels (MCL’s) identified in the EPA primary drinking water standards.
EPA prohibits the injection of fluids that will endanger ground water that is or could be an underground source of
drinking water.

The Clean Water Act:

EPA prohibits the discharge of wastewater into storm drains or sewers under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA):

  • EPA has recently added 25 new chemicals to the list defining a toxic waste (March 29, 1990). Industrial wastewaters contain many of these toxic chemicals.
  • If you discharge RCRA-regulated wastes into a septic system drainfield, dry well, cesspool, pit, or other injection well, you may be operating an unauthorized hazardous waste disposal unit.

What should you do?03:04:23 PM 02/27/01

You must stop discharging industrial wastes to your septic system, drainfields, dry wells, cesspools, pits, or separate storm
drains or sewers.

Stop using the well immediately for these wastes!

Facilities that use these types of disposal systems may be in violation of federal, state or local requirements and subject to monetary penalties.

Temporarily seal the floor drain or other means of wastewater entry to the injection well.

If floor drains are necessary to comply with state or local laws, the discharge point to the injection well should be blocked or disconnected. You should then use one of the following plans for alternate disposal:

  • Eliminate the wastewater, if possible, through recycling, improved housekeeping, waste minimization or other means.
  • Route all wastewater to a municipal wastewater treatment facility if available, and if it will accept your waste.
  • If a municipal treatment plant is not available, or it will not accept your waste, route the waste to a tank or container for proper accumulation disposal.

Initiate a waste minimization and pollution prevention program.

Even if you cannot eliminate the waste entirely, you may be able to reduce the volume and toxicity. This may reduce your cost, liabilities, and the regulatory burden of hazardous waste management, while preserving the environment and precious ground-water resources.

For more information or assistance read “Whom should you contact?” on the back.

Implement clean-up

In many states you will need to contact the appropriate EPA, state and local agencies regarding their closure and permit requirements.

In most instances, you will need to:

  • Pressure wash any discharge lines or piping leading to the septic system, cesspool, or dry well.
  • Clean out liquids and solids from all lines and tanks, dry wells, or pits. Dispose of the contents by acceptable methods for waste disposal.
  • Fill the dry well, cesspool, or pit with an inert material, seal with asphalt or cement, or as otherwise required by state and local authorities.

These are some of the types of businesses affected:


  • Vehicular Maintenance Shops
  • Photo Processing Shops
  • Dry Cleaning Businesses


  • Food Processing Plants
  • Manufacturing Businesses
  • Electronics Manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical Plants
  • Chemical Plants
  • Printers/Lithographers
  • Electroplating Companies

Is your business affected by federal regulations?

  1. Do you generate industrial process wastewater, contact cooling water, or used solvents?
  2. Do you use sinks or flood drains in industrial process or chemical storage areas to dispose of wastewater?
  3. Do you dispose of these wastewaters underground through a septic system, drainfield, cesspool, dry well, or other shallow injection well or into a storm drain or sewer?

If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to any of these questions, read the “What should you do?” section in this document.

Whom should you contact?

  • You should contact your trade association or product supplier who may have industry specific fact sheets describing best management practices and alternative disposal procedures.
  • For additional information about wastewater disposal you may wish to contact your municipal sewerage agency regarding hook-ups to a municipal wastewater treatment facility.
  • Also you may need to contact your state agency with responsibility for the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program or EPA regional office covering your state.

Source: US EPA, Office of Water

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Last Update – 20-Mar-97