Federal Regulations and Laws

In the United States, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 to achieve a goal of "fishable and swimmable" surface waters. It covers regulations of wastewater discharges [12]. Most industries must meet discharge standards for various pollutants. Specific methods of control such as pollution prevention are not specified. Many facilities use pollution prevention as a means of reducing the cost of compliance with federal regulations. State and local authorities also have responsibilities to implement the provisions of the CWA. These authorities must enforce the federal guidelines at a minimum, but may choose to enforce more stringent requirements. Some localities include pollution prevention planning requirements into discharge permits [12].

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA, also known as SARA Title III) requires certain companies to submit an annual report of the amount of listed "toxic chemicals" entering the environments. Source reduction and waste management information must be provided for the listed toxic chemicals.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) to RCRA require that the reduction or elimination of hazardous waste generation at the source should take priority over other management methods such as treatment and disposal. Hazardous waste generators are required to certify on their hazardous waste manifests that they have programs in place to reduce the volume or quantity and toxicity of hazardous waste generated to the extent economically practicable. Materials that are recycled may be exempt from RCRA regulations if certain conditions are met.

The Water Quality Act of 1987 further strengthened the CWA, and amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act required numerous treatment facility upgrades. Although all these acts are dramatic in their protection of US citizens against waterborne diseases and the improvement of water quality, they placed little emphasis on source reduction or elimination of the root cause of pollution.

To address this issue of the need of regulation upgrading, the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 was passed. It formalized a national policy and commitment to waste reduction, functioning primarily to promote the consideration of pollution prevention measures at the federal government level. This act crosses media boundaries by establishing a national policy on pollution prevention, including programs that emphasize source reduction, reuse, recycling, and training. All these areas are key to the successful implementation of a P2 industrial wastewater management program [1], According to the act, the USEPA should review existing and proposed programs and new regulations to determine their effect on source reduction [12]. Source reduction activities among the USEPA programs and other federal agencies are coordinated. It provides public access to environmental data and fosters the exchange of source reduction information. It establishes pollution prevention training programs for Federal and State environmental officials. Finally, the USEPA is required to facilitate adoption of source reduction by businesses, as well as identify and make recommendations to Congress to eliminate barriers to source reduction.

Since 1990, the USEPA has implemented a diverse set of programs and initiatives to meet their obligations defined by the law. A series of achievements has been reported, including 33/50, Climate Wise, Green Lights, Energy Star, WAVE, the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program, Indoor Air, Indoor Radon, Design for the Environment, the Environmental Leadership Program, and the Common Sense Initiative [12]. For example, reduction of a series of key pollutants was achieved through the 33/50 programs [13]. The Program targeted 17 priority chemicals (e.g., benzene, tetrachloroethylene, and toluene) and set as its goal a 33% reduction in releases and transfers of these chemicals by 1992 and a 50% reduction by 1995, measured against a 1988 baseline. Its primary purpose was to demonstrate whether voluntary partnerships could augment the USEPA's traditional command-and-control approach by bringing about targeted reductions more quickly than would regulations alone. The program sought to foster a pollution prevention ethic, encouraging companies to consider and apply pollution prevention approaches to reducing their environmental releases rather than traditional end-of-pipe methods for treating and disposing of chemicals in waste. The 33/50 Program achieved its goal in 1994, one year ahead of schedule, primarily through program participants' efforts. Facilities also reduced releases and transfers of the other 33/50 chemicals by 50% from 1988 to 1995 [13].

Traditionally, environmental laws and regulations have controlled the releases of pollutants and wastes. Only in recent years have laws and regulations gradually covered the production of certain environmentally unfriendly products and services that also caused environmental pollution. For example, DDT, CFCs, asbestos, leaded gasoline, certain kinds of plastics, medicines, cosmetics, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have been restricted in production. Similarly, consulting services in designing products and process, in equipment manufacturing and supply, and in education and training reduce significantly adverse impacts of the environmental quality.

Effective pollution management requires cost-effective regulations and standards, followed by a combination of incentives and partnership approaches, and monitoring activities to enforce the standards. Some targeting will be required toward the most polluting subsectors or the most polluted regions. If there is sufficient institutional capacity to implement industry-specific or other-specific programs, government agencies may also provide information and other incentives to encourage the adoption of new and emerging preventive technologies for various pollution sources to protect the environmental and natural resources.

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