EPA Finalizes Steam Electric Power Effluent Limitation Rule

On August 31, EPA issued a finalized its 2020 Reconsideration Rule for Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) under the Clean Water Act. This rule revises the 2015 rule that established new ELGs for steam electric power plants but was legally challenged. EPA responded by developing this reconsideration rule that revises requirements for two waste streams that can help protect public health and the environment by limiting wastewater discharges into surface waters and wastewater treatment plants (that can help protect drinking water sources), and reducing costs. The new rule addresses flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water waste stream limits for existing facilities but does not revise other waste streams in the 2015 rule.

EPA considered a wide range of data, information, and stakeholder input to develop the final rule, including information from the drinking water utility sector and states on the effects of bromide discharges from steam electric power plants that can increase disinfection byproduct levels in drinking water treatment processes. In this regard, the final rule establishes voluntary incentives program (VIP) limitations based on membrane filtration (changed from the more costly thermal filtration in the 2015 rule) and provides more time (until December 31, 2028) for plants to meet new standards and limitations, if they adopt additional process changes and controls that achieve more stringent limitations on mercury, arsenic, selenium, nitrate/nitrite, bromide, and total suspended solids in FGD wastewater. For more information, visit EPA’s website.