Metal Finishing 171 Industry Profile

The category of metal finishing includes manufacturers that take raw metal stock and subject it to various treatments to produce a product at, or closer to, its finished stage. Manufacturers classified as metal finishers perform similar operations that fall under a variety of standard industrial classification codes, including fabricated metal products; machinery, except electrical and electronic machinery, equipment, and supplies; transportation equipment; measuring, analyzing, and controlling instruments; photographic, medical, and optical goods; watches and clocks; and miscellaneous manufacturing industries.5 The processes used to treat raw metal stock and, correspondingly, the wastes produced are the common link among the metal finishing category members. Some of these processes are especially amenable to BMPs; that is, implementation of BMPs is relatively easy and results in a significant reduction in the discharge of pollutants. Listed below are processes common among metal finishers and the targeted pollutants that enter wastewater streams.5

1. Electroplating. Typical wastes produced include spent process solutions containing copper, nickel, chromium, brass, bronze, zinc, tin, lead, cadmium, iron, aluminum, and compounds formed from these metals.

2. Electroless plating. The most common wastes produced are spent process solutions containing copper and nickel.

3. Coating. Depending on the coating material that is being applied, wastes of concern include spent process solutions containing hexavalent chromium, and active organic and inorganic solutions.

4. Etching and chemical milling. Typical solutions used in etching and milling that ultimately enter the wastestream and are of concern include chromic acid and cupric chloride.

5. Cleaning. Various organic and inorganic compounds enter the wastewater stream from cleaning operations.

The sources of the targeted pollutants are process solutions and raw materials that enter the wastewater stream primarily through rinsing or cleaning processes. A work piece that is removed from a process or cleaning solution is typically subjected to rinsing directly afterwards, carrying excess process contaminants, referred to as dragout, into the rinse tank. The dragout concentrates pollutants in the rinse tank, which is typically discharged into the sewer system.

Another pathway by which targeted pollutants enter the wastewater stream is through the disposal of spent batch process solutions into the sewer system. Spent solutions consist of aqueous wastes and may contain accumulated solids as well. Spent solutions are typically bled at a controlled rate into the wastewater stream. Other sources of pollutants in wastewater streams include cleanup of spills and washdown of fugitive aerosols from spray operations.

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