Industrial stormwater treatment

Pollutants carried in surface water runoff can put industrial businesses in breach of compliance with environmental regulations and permits. What do you need to know about industrial stormwater, and what can you do about it?

What is industrial stormwater?

Industrial stormwater is any surface water runoff that derives from an industrial business or facility. In the US any commercial business operating under an Industrial General (IG) Permit must comply with the state-specific regulations that specify which pollutants and in what amounts can safely be discharged from the site.

Businesses operating under this permit can range from metals processing plants or scrapyards, recycling or waste disposal businesses, transportation companies, ports, distribution centers and more.

Industrial Stormwater Treatment Flocculants

Why is industrial stormwater significant?

The byproducts of various manufacturing practices can be sources of damaging or hazardous waste that, left untreated, can cause significant harm to the ecosystems of receiving water bodies of water.

The type and concentration of pollutants contained within a facility’s stormwater can vary greatly from site to site. Each site’s stormwater is a unique cocktail of pollutants and must be treated as a whole to achieve the best outcome in removing any one, particular pollutant. 

We offer a free industrial stormwater test to help businesses to understand what's in their water—and how to remove it. 

What pollutants are found in industrial stormwater?

In addition to the pollutants that are found in all built environments such as sand, grit and other solids (often referred to as TSS, or Total Suspended Solids), industrial businesses present potential sources of more hazardous pollutants. 

Examples of industrial stormwater pollution:

  • Heavy metals (zinc, iron, lead, aluminium, mercury)
  • Hydrocarbons (oil, gasoline)
  • BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) (nutrients, organic matter)
  • Chemicals (pesticides, solvents, polymers)
  • TSS (grit, sand, inorganic matter)

The exact nature of the pollution present in industrial surface water runoff will depend on the type of business and its operations. Businesses will benefit from undertaking a stormwater analysis to characterize the nature of their pollution risk. 

How is industrial stormwater pollution regulated?

In the United States, industrial facilities that discharge stormwater directly into the natural environment must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In most cases these permits are issued by state environmental protection agencies under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The NPDES permit imposes limits on what pollution can be discharged, and at what levels, and requires businesses to monitor and report on discharge.

If a facility breaches its discharge limits it may face financial and legal penalties, brought either by the EPA and equivalent state agencies or by the general public. Businesses that discharge into a sewer network may need an equivalent permit from the organization that manages the sewer system. 

In the European Union, water quality is governed by the EU Water Framework Directive. Implemented at a national level by EU member states, it provides a legislative framework aimed at reducing pollution to and managing the quality of water, including groundwater. Industrial businesses that discharge liquid effluent or waste water typically require an environmental permit

How can we reduce industrial stormwater pollution?

There are only two ways to reduce the amount of water pollution that is discharged by an industrial facility: prevention and capture.

1. Prevent pollutants from entering surface water

The first way to reduce industrial stormwater pollution is by preventing pollutants from entering surface water. This may be achieved through better storage of potential pollutant materials, and through improved flood protection measures. 

However, it is unlikely that it will be possible to prevent all pollutants from entering surface water. Low-level leakage, contamination by people or vehicles or accidental spillages mean that there is always a risk that pollutants will be present on surfaces exposed to stormwater. 

2. Capture surface water pollutants before they are discharged

As it is unlikely to be possible to remove all risk of surface water pollution, businesses should assume that there will be a persistent low level of discharge as well as an unavoidable possibility of unintended larger discharges. In order to protect the environment and mitigate against legal and financial penalties they should put in place safety measures to capture these pollutants. 

Stormwater separators and filters provide a reliable safety net that catches harmful pollutants before they are able to reach a sewer network or the natural environment. Incorporated into a SWPPP and properly maintained, they provide peace of mind to industrial facilities and can help to reduce surcharges and reduce the company's exposure to penalties. 

Industrial stormwater treatment solutions

Our screens, separators and filters can help industrial businesses to capture pollution in stormwater runoff. View our industrial stormwater treatment solutions

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Request a consultation

We’d be happy to review your site with you to identify opportunities to reduce stormwater risk. We can test samples of your stormwater in our in-house labs to help determine what treatment solutions would be best for you, and we can set up trial equipment at your site to demonstrate in real time how you could reduce, mitigate or eliminate your regulatory risk.

If you’re interested in learning more, please give us a few bits of information about yourself and we’ll follow up.