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EPA issued an important policy decision regarding pollutant discharges from industrial laundries. EPA is withdrawing a 1997 proposed rule and not establishing new regulations for this industry. EPA's primary basis for this conclusion is that the indirect discharges from industrial laundries contain very small amounts of toxic pollutants that are not removed by publicly-owned treatment works.

Characterizing Industrial Laundry Discharges - Preliminary Information

Based on information from the late 1980's, EPA identified industrial laundries as a potential source of hazardous waste solvents discharged to publicly-owned treatment works (sometimes called municipal treatment plants, or POTWs). The primary source of the hazardous wastes were solvent-laden rags from the automotive and printing industries. With over 1,700 industrial laundries, EPA saw the potential for large amounts of hazardous waste discharges and in 1992, EPA entered into a Consent Decree requiring proposal and final action of technology-based standards for wastewater discharges from industrial laundries.

A Proposed Rule, the Reaction, and Revised Findings

EPA, POTWs, and the industrial laundries industry coordinated extensive data collection and analysis in the early 1990's. At that time, the conclusions supported proposing national regulations.

  • Nearly 90% of the industrial laundries lacked advanced wastewater treatment.

  • Discharges to POTWs waters contained significant levels of volatile organic pollutants that were not treated by POTWs.

  • The likely outcome of the proposed pretreatment standards would have been for most facilities to install advanced wastewater treatment.

Comments on the proposal and subsequent data collection resulted in the following conclusions:

  • Laundry discharges are not as toxic as estimated at proposal.

  • POTWs provide better treatment of the toxic pollutants remaining in laundry discharges than estimated at proposal.

  • Individual local problems are not prevalent; past problems have been resolved by local pretreatment authorities.


EPA's Final Action

After careful consideration, EPA decided not to promulgate national categorical pretreatment standards for industrial laundries. The discharges to POTWs are not a national problem warranting national regulation. To the extent that isolated problem discharges occur, existing pretreatment authority allows local POTWs to respond to problems effectively.

The better way to control effluent discharges of certain organic pollutants, including solvents, is to remove them before they are washed. EPA's Office of Solid Waste (OSW) plans to address the amount of waste solvents being sent to laundries in a future rulemaking. Industrial laundries and their customers can pursue pollution prevention opportunities that might be beneficial to the environment, and reduce pollutants to water, air, and land.

EPA confirms these conclusions in a Federal Register notice that withdraws the 1997 proposed rule. The same notice explains EPA's conclusions.

Additional Information

For additional information concerning this final action, contact Marta Jordan, Office of Water, Engineering and Analysis Division (4303), U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC, 20460, (202) 260-0817. View the complete text of the Federal Register notice for more complete information on how to obtain additional information and how to review the complete public record for this action.

Thursday, June 3, 1999