Pressing Onward: A Dewatering Blog

The Evolution of Wastewater Treatment Regulations that Influenced Dewatering Systems

By Bob Bosgraaf

Our filter press business was founded on serving customers that primarily use our equipment for waste treatment. The law requires that most wastewater generated by industry is treated, often times using filter presses and dewatering systems, before being released into the environment. Many laws regarding wastewater treatment have been put in place to establish environmental regulation and protect public health.

There were two seminal events in the establishment of environmental regulation in the U.S.: the Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969 and Love Canal.


The Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969


Prior to 1969 the Cuyahoga River, which empties into Lake Erie, had long been recognized as the most polluted river in the U.S. Portions of the river were so polluted that they were totally devoid of fish and other aquatic life.

In June 1969, industrial waste discharged into the Cuyahoga River caught fire, and not for the first time. Since the mid-1800’s the river had caught fire at least 13 times. One fire in 1952 caused more than $1,000,000 in damage to boats, marinas and riverside businesses in the Cleveland area.

The fire of 1969 and the subsequent coverage of the event in Time magazine brought industrial environmental pollution to the front of the Nation’s consciousness. The fire helped spur a myriad of water pollution control activities and resulted in the passage of the Clean Water Act, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Three years after the Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969, the Clean Water Act was passed. The objective of the act was to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters by preventing point and nonpoint pollution sources. The act introduced the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which is a permit system for regulating point sources of pollution. NPDES requires industrial facilities in the U.S. to treat their wastewater prior to discharge and is the main driver for investment in wastewater treatment.


Love Canal


In the mid-1970's, the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York became the subject of national and international attention after it was revealed that the site had been used to bury 21,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical Company (now Occidental Petroleum Corporation).

In 1978, reporters for the Niagara Falls Gazette conducted an informal door-to-door survey to find out if the chemical dumping had caused any health problems for people in the neighborhood. They found an alarming number of children in the area had been born with defects and anomalies such as enlarged feet, heads, hands and legs. The New York State Health Department followed suit and conducted their own investigation. They found abnormal incidences of miscarriages.

News articles written about Love Canal referred to the neighborhood as "a public health time bomb," and "one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history."

In 1979, the EPA said, “Love Canal can now be added to a growing list of environmental disasters involving toxics, ranging from industrial workers stricken by nervous disorders and cancers to the discovery of toxic materials in the milk of nursing mothers."

In 1980, as a result of the public outcry regarding Love Canal, the United States Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or the Superfund Act.

The Superfund Act aims to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances as well as broadly defined "pollutants or contaminants". The act granted the EPA and state governments the authority to clean up "releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or welfare or the natural environment."

As of February 2014, there were 1,322 Superfund sites listed on the National Priority List. One of these sites that many of us are familiar with is the Hudson River cleanup of PCB-laden sediment. It is because of environmental regulations (like the Superfund Act and others discussed above) and the need to comply with them, that industries across many vertical markets  have approached us for our filter press and dewatering options. For example, Eleven of our JWI ™ 2M x 2M J-Press® filter presses are being used in the Hudson River cleanup effort.


Looking Forward

While environmental compliance is regulated by law, many see it not only as a moral and ethical obligation, but also as good business. As the fields of dewatering and wastewater treatment move forward through the 21st century, we want Evoqua to continue to be a leader in, “taking care of the world’s water”.

Want to learn more about our J-Press® filter presses, like the ones used in the Hudson River cleanup efforts? Download our FREE guide, 9 Reasons to Build Your Case for Evoqua's JWI J-Press® Filter Press.

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