Savings Possible Through Use of Variable Effluent Limits for Advanced Waste Treatment Projects

RCED-83-57: Published: Dec 1, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 1982.

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The Water Pollution Control Act requires advanced waste treatment projects to have a pollution discharge permit to establish the variable effluent limits (VEL's) or restrictions on the amount, rate, or concentration of pollutants that may be discharged into the water.

GAO believes that potential exists for savings through the use of VEL's in the operation and construction of advanced waste treatment facilities. While reliable nationwide savings estimates are not available, a number of federal and state officials estimate that millions of dollars in operating costs can be saved each year. The use of VEL's offers state and local governments an opportunity to reduce the cost of constructing and operating municipal and industrial advanced treatment facilities while maintaining water quality. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) direction on the use of VEL's together with technical assistance to develop VEL's should help stimulate greater use at the state and local government levels.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to the EPA Office of Water Enforcement and Permits, no plans exist to issue directives regarding variable effluent use. The Office maintains that variable effluent limits are being used by EPA and the States and will continue to be used whenever EPA or the States believe that they are feasible.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct the Assistant Administrator for Water to issue a directive pointing out the possible cost savings of using VEL's and encouraging delegated states to use them to the extent possible when issuing initial or reissuing expired National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits. The Administrator should also direct EPA Regional Administrators to use VEL's to the extent possible in the 21 states where EPA administers the permit program and to work with and provide any needed technical assistance on using VEL's to the 35 delegated states.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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