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Common Wastewater Challenges and How to Solve Them

February 29, 2024

wastewater flowing from pipes

For many consumers and businesses, wastewater simply disappears down the drain and out of sight. But for industrial producers of liquid waste, such as manufacturers, oil and gas producers, chemical companies and food and beverage makers, wastewater requires careful consideration.

This byproduct of the industrial process poses challenges and opportunities that demand both innovation and responsibility, making proper wastewater management a pivotal part of safe and sustainable operations. 

Here are four common challenges that wastewater generators face and how best-in-class wastewater management techniques can solve them.


Challenge 1: Regulatory Compliance and Legal Accountability  

Ensuring adherence to stringent EPA and local regulations is critical to the success of any wastewater management program. Failure to comply invites a slew of consequences, including punitive fines, legal ramifications, potentially crippling cleanup costs and stringent oversight that can lead to operational suspensions or closures.

Stay compliant and avoid legal repercussions by implementing robust management systems and keeping abreast of evolving legislation. Your approach should begin with a meticulous analysis of the waste produced to identify specific contaminants such as metals, oils and organics. Once you’ve gained an understanding of the wastewater’s composition, you must select appropriate treatments. These might include precipitation, flocculation, clarification or evaporation alone or in combination. The right vendor can help you navigate the regulatory maze and update solutions to meet shifting requirements.


Challenge 2: Managing Complexity and Resources  

Navigating the regulatory landscape demands substantial investments in infrastructure, expert personnel and vigilant monitoring. In addition, coordinating with various service providers for wastewater treatment takes time and resources. 

Consider consolidating services under a comprehensive wastewater management provider to streamline processes and improve efficiency. A best-in-class provider will continually monitor your wastewater to ensure that it’s treated properly before being reused in operations, returned to municipal facilities for further treatment, and / or safely released into the environment.

The ideal approach is to integrate the wastewater management program seamlessly with other sustainable approaches (like recycling and renewable energy generation) to create a holistic management system that goes beyond just compliance. By improving efficiency and sustainability through well-orchestrated practices, an integrated solution provider offers multiple benefits to businesses looking to maintain their operational effectiveness while honoring their environmental commitments.


Challenge 3: Operational and Reputational Risk

Creating a hazardous workplace environment as a result of poor wastewater management can put your employees at risk and invite legal consequences, such as OSHA violations and employee litigation. In addition, perceived environmental negligence can inflict severe damage to a brand's public standing and lead to significant losses, even when base-level requirements are satisfied.

In addition to strictly adhering to legal and regulatory requirements, create communication around your initiatives. A vendor that offers in-depth reporting and communication capabilities can bring transparency to these programs that will reap benefits in terms of community support.


Challenge 4: Environmental Impact 

Merely meeting the letter of the law can mean missed opportunities around your sustainability initiatives.

Make sure any vendor you choose to work with offers a wide scope of capabilities that can best fit your needs. Technologies such as advanced water treatment and reuse, oil and metal recycling, waste-to-product processing, and a number of recovery options like fuel blending, waste-to-energy, or anaerobic digestion can prove invaluable. These solutions can repurpose residual matter from treatment to create new products, fuels or energy sources, thus closing the loop on resource usage. Some recovery options have the additional benefit of using high-temperature thermal treatments to safely neutralize contaminants, further improving your environmental impact.


A Clearer Future in Wastewater Management

Businesses today must navigate a complex regulatory, social and economic landscape where environmental stewardship can no longer be secondary to production. Embracing these challenges with a sustainable waste management strategy can not only propel your company towards compliance but also cement its status as an eco-conscious leader in its field.  

By exploring advanced wastewater management practices and understanding their implementation, your business can better position itself to align with objectives that support both your environmental and financial goals.

To learn more about what goes into effective wastewater treatment, read our article.


A major source of net carbon negative energy

8 acquisitions
For each ton of waste we recover for energy, Covanta saves 1 ton of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). In 2022, we avoided 19 million metric tons of CO2e.

A major source of net carbon negative energy

8 acquisitions
For each ton of waste we recover for energy, Covanta saves 1 ton of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). In 2022, we avoided 19 million metric tons of CO2e.

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