to an Aug. 20 press release by the Fulton County (N.Y.) Center for Regional
Growth, dairy manufacturing has become a “Tier 1” industry for upstate New
York. “It all began in centrally-located Fulton County, where international
yogurt maker FAGE and nearby Chobani together have created more than 1650 jobs
and helped to make New York the number one yogurt manufacturing state in the
country,” according to the release. California has experienced a similar
manufacturing boom, but in craft beers instead of dairy. According to the
California Craft Brewers Association (Sacramento) website, the craft brewing industry
in California grew by 20% in 2012, and California produces more craft beer than
any other state in the union, “brewing more than 2.4 million barrels.”
With these manufacturing booms can come jobs
and an influx of tax dollars for the state. Wastewater utilities also can
benefit from these manufacturers by receiving more user fees. But the situation
can be a double-edged sword; the cost of upgrades and retrofits needed to treat
this additional, higher-strength wastewater can test a utility. In New York and
California, utilities seem to be finding a balance between new business
growth/revenue and the technological cost demands that come with handling new
sources of industrial wastewater.
From gloves to
In upstate New York, the Gloversville-Johnstown
Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility has been receiving much waste from the
dairy industry the past few years, said Manager George Bevington. The facility
is permitted to receive wastewater from 22 different industries, but dairy is
by far the largest contributor, though it hasn’t always been that way, he said.
“We’re Gloversville, which was the capital of
the glove industry, which means leather,” Bevington said. “Some of these
manufacturers have remained, but they aren’t what they used to be.” He explained
that a lot of the original equipment at the water resource recovery facility
(WRRF) that was once used to treat wastewater from the leather industry has
been repurposed for dairy.
Now the WRRF treats moderate-strength waste
aerobically and high-strength waste (whey) anaerobically, Bevington said. To do
this, the facility has undergone a few upgrades that have centered on anaerobic
digestion and solids handling. The digester was modified to accept the
wastewater and new belt presses also were added. Other upgrades to tankage, air
blowers, and pumps made pretreating the wastewater more cost-effective. “They
required several million dollars in investment,” he said.
Bevington said the WRRF also has a full
industrial pretreatment program. “We have a separate pipeline for industrial
wastewater that goes to centralized pretreatment,” he explained. “We do it
because it’s more cost-effective.”
revenue and electrical power
In California, the East Bay Municipal Utility
District (EBMUD; Oakland, Calif.) accepts industrial wastewater, mostly from
food processors, that is trucked directly to its facility, said John Hake,
associate civil engineer at EBMUD. This wastewater is used to produce biogas,
helping to make EBMUD the first WRRF in North America to produce more renewable
energy onsite than is needed to run its facility, according to the utility’s
“The high-strength wastes — for example those
with high [chemical oxygen demand] concentration, including brewery wastes —
are discharged to our digesters where they produce more biogas,” which is used
in cogeneration units, Hake said. “In addition to the electricity value derived
from digesting these wastes, we also receive a tip fee for accepting the waste.
Because we are using existing systems to treat the waste and convert to
electricity, no new technology was required.”
The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Utilities Department
also is aware of the potential benefits that wastewater from industrial
customers such as microbreweries can bring to its WRRF and the city, in
“At this time we are not taking waste from
microbrewers, but we are in position to do so and are planning to begin
reaching out to those and other industry sectors that could provide energy-rich
waste,” said David Guhin, director of utilities for the City of Santa Rosa. “We
would be doing it for the primary reason of generating additional electricity
to reduce our purchase from the grid and to support our local industries while
providing an economic development incentive for those looking to move their
businesses here,” he said.
Currently, many of Santa Rosa’s local
industries have to haul their wastes longer distances at a higher cost for
treatment, Guhin explained.
We have the capacity in our digesters to
accept this waste, Guhin said. In September, the city had a ribbon-cutting
ceremony for its new combined heat and power facility. The utility now has the
capacity to use additional digester gas and is in the process of evaluating the
infrastructure needed to construct a receiving station, he said.
regulatory definition of ‘waters of the United States’
draft study expected to be scientific basis of clarification rule on Clean
Water Act jurisdiction
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Sept. 17 made available a draft
study providing the first comprehensive link between headwater streams, which
are most of the streams in the U.S., and downstream navigable waters. This
study is expected to serve as the scientific basis for a rule developed jointly
by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify Clean Water Act
(CWA) jurisdiction over the nation’s waters and wetlands, according to a Sept.
18 BNA article.
The draft study, titled Connectivity of
Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, is being peer reviewed by the
EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB). The study states all tributary streams,
including perennial and the previously unprotected intermittent and ephemeral
streams, are physically, chemically, and biologically connected to downstream
rivers. It also finds that wetlands and open waters in flood plains of rivers
and riparian areas are connected in the same way as streams are to downstream
rivers. However, the study was unable to generalize that a connection exists
between isolated wetlands and open waters, such as playa lakes and prairie
potholes, that are located outside flood plains and downstream waters. Instead,
it said the EPA and the Corps could, on a case-by-case basis, evaluate whether
these isolated wetlands have an aggregate impact on downstream waters.
In addition, EPA on Sept. 17 sent a proposed
rule that would clarify CWA jurisdiction over the nation’s waters and wetlands
to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency
review. At the same time, it withdrew draft guidance on the issue that had been
at the White House since 2012.
These activities signify action on the part
of EPA to try to clarify the issue of jurisdiction in the CWA. Under the Act,
the EPA and/or delegated state authorities issue permits under the Sec. 402
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, while the Corps issues
Sec. 404 dredge-and-fill permits for construction and other development
What the study
This study could serve as basis to allow the
agencies to assert jurisdiction in a broad-based fashion over ephemeral and
intermittent streams. Currently the agencies are forced to try to find a
significant nexus for each non-navigable tributary in question with downstream
navigable waters as set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Rapanos v.
United States, 547 U.S. 715, 62 ERC 1481 (2006). (For more information on
how the agencies apply the “significant nexus” test, refer to the Clean Water
Act Jurisdiction guidance document issued Dec. 2, 2008, by the EPA and the U.S.
Department of the Army.)
The study is a review
and synthesis of scientific literature related to physical, chemical, and
biological connections from streams, wetlands, and open waters to downstream waters
such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans. The report contains more than
1000 peer-reviewed publications and summarizes the current scientific
understanding of the connectivity of small or temporary streams, wetlands, and
certain open waters, evaluated singly or in aggregate, and the mechanisms by
which they affect the function or condition of downstream waters.
The goals of the report are to provide a
context for considering the evidence of connections between rivers and their
tributary waters, summarize current understanding about these connections and
associated downstream effects, and discuss factors that influence the degree of
connectivity or the magnitude of a downstream effect. Various industry
reviewers of the draft report seem to agree that this study seems to lay the
technical foundation for a rule allowing EPA to regulate all waters.
The draft rule being sent to the OMB and not
yet made public, “is limited to clarifying current uncertainty concerning the
jurisdiction of the CWA that has arisen as an outgrowth of recent Supreme Court
decisions … [and will provide] greater clarity on which waters are not subject
to CWA jurisdiction and greater certainty on which activities do not require
The announcement by EPA does not seem to indicate
changes to the regulatory exemptions and exclusions, but does list several
additional exclusions that EPA says are included in the draft proposed rule.
These exclusions listed in the proposed rule being sent to OMB are
drainage, including tiles, and irrigation ditches excavated on dry land;
irrigated areas that would be dry if irrigation stops;
lakes or ponds used for purposes such as stock watering or irrigation;
artificially flooded for rice growing;
ornamental waters created for primarily aesthetic reasons;
depressions created as a result of construction activity; and
excavated in uplands for fill, sand, or gravel that fill with water.
Ephemeral and intermittent streams also could
fall under federal protection. Although the study may help establish
jurisdiction, some observers state that it may not necessarily mean new permits
since there will still exist a need to show proof of a discharge of a pollutant
where it is an “addition” of a “pollutant” from a “point source” into a “water
of the United States.”
The issue of
jurisdiction over water and wetlands and what is a water of the U.S. has been
complex and confusing. Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions have tried to clarify
or set Clean Water Act Jurisdiction. The first was Solid Waste Agency of
Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S.
159, 51 ERC 1833 (2001), and the second was Rapanos.
The Court in SWANCC said the agencies
couldn’t assert jurisdiction over geographically isolated wetlands as waters of
the U.S. merely because they served as habitat for migratory birds.
In Rapanos, the Supreme Court split on
defining a standard to establish jurisdiction. Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a
concurring opinion, which said the agencies must prove on a case-by-case basis
that a particular water or wetland has a “significant nexus” to a navigable
water. Meanwhile, Justice Antonin Scalia’s plurality opinion said the CWA
should apply to waters and wetlands with a “continuous surface” connection to
navigable waters. Kennedy said he articulated the significant nexus standard to
allow the agencies to assert jurisdiction over intermittent and ephemeral
streams and wetlands without a direct connection to navigable waters, according
to a BNA report on Sept. 26, 2013. The study seems to be asserting a broad
jurisdiction over categories of waters without the case-by-case “significant
nexus” determinations currently required. This worries some because it may
allow regulators to consider isolated wetlands and waters located in uplands to
be considered waters of the U.S., which is not currently the case under a 2003
memorandum following the SWANCC decision.
Finally, the draft connectivity study finds
the data are insufficient to conclusively link isolated wetlands, but the
proposed rule is expected to establish a set of factors for determining whether
all other wetlands possess sufficient connectivity to downstream waters to
assert federal jurisdiction over them, says the Sept. 26, 2013, BNA report.
The EPA study is being reviewed by the
independent SAB and EPA is welcoming public comments. A public docket for
comments on the study is closed and the SAB Panel was scheduled to review it
Dec. 16–18. WEF is planning to comment on the draft rule when it is published
in the Federal Register after OMB releases it.
— Claudio Ternieden,
2013 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.