The U.S. EPA has announced plans to revise the existing standards for water discharges from coal-fired power plants. Earlier this year, EPA completed a multi-year study of power plant wastewater discharges. This study concluded that current regulations, which were issued in 1982, have not kept pace with changes that have occurred in the electric power industry over the last three decades. Air pollution controls installed to remove pollution from air emission sources. However, according to the EPA study, some of the equipment used to clean air emissions does so by “scrubbing” the boiler exhaust with water. Treatment technologies are available to remove these pollutants before they are discharged to waterways, but these systems have been installed at only a small number of the power plants.
As part of the multi-year study, EPA measured the pollutants present in the wastewater and reviewed treatment technologies, focusing mostly on coal-fired power plants. Many of the toxic pollutants discharged from these power plants come from coal ash ponds and the flue gas desulfurization systems used to scrub sulfur dioxide from air emissions.
Once the new rules for electric power plants is finalized, EPA and States would incorporate the new standards into wastewater discharge permits.
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