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The Power of Pretreatment

Manufacturing and industrial wastewater pretreatment is a crucial step in ensuring the proper treatment of wastewater for communities. Through the process of installing the correct equipment, effective industrial pretreatment removes harmful pollutants and contaminants from the wastewater before it is released into the environment or sent to the municipal wastewater plant.

Each state has their own natural resources agency which oversees pollutant discharge permits for industrial facilities to ensure the safety of the water leaving the facility.

  • Wisconsin: According to the Wisconsin DNR - "The DNR regulates the discharge of pollutants to waters of the state through the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) program. Wastewater permits contain all the monitoring requirements, special reports and compliance schedules appropriate to the facility in question. Permits are issued for a five-year term."

  • WPDES general permits issued by the DNR for specific categories of industrial, municipal and other wastewater discharges. The WI DNR may issue WPDES general permits applicable to categories or classes of point source discharges.

  • Illinois: According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency - "Almost any discharge of water that is generated from any process industry, manufacturing, trade, or business requires a NPDES permit. The definition of discharging water also includes any solid, liquid or gaseous waste; and all other substances whose discharge would cause water pollution or a violation of the effluent or water quality standards of the State."

  • "Storm water may also be considered a wastewater depending on the type of business in which you are engaged. The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code or type of operation your business is engaged in will determine whether or not the storm water that discharges from your property will be considered a wastewater." Does My Business Need A Water Pollution Control Permit? - Pollution Control Permit (

  • Michigan: According to the Michigan Environmental, Great Lakes, and Energy - "The NPDES permit program aims to protect water resources by addressing point source water pollution. Initiated by the Clean Water Act in 1972, the NPDES permit program controls the discharge of pollutants into surface waters by imposing effluent limitations to protect water quality. Although NPDES is a federal program, Michigan has been granted the authority to implement the program."

An industrial discharger has a responsibility to their community by treating and handling their discharge water with care. In this blog post, we will explore the numerous benefits of industrial wastewater pretreatment.

1. Environmental Protection

Maybe the biggest benefit of industrial wastewater pretreatment is its role in protecting the environment. Industrial processes, like manufacturing and food manufacturing, often produce wastewater that contains a wide range substances and material, such as: heavy metals, chemicals, and organic content that can be harmful to aquatic life and contaminate water sources. When a facility pretreats their water before discharging to a municipality, the risk of pollution and environmental damage is significantly reduced.

2. Compliance with Regulations

Industrial wastewater pretreatment is regulated by each state's government. Industrial customers must comply with environmental regulations and standards per each state's regulations. Regulatory bodies set strict guidelines and effluent limits to ensure the protection of the local waterways and public health. Pretreatment helps these individual industries meet and maintain these discharge standards, avoiding potential penalties, fines, and legal consequences associated with non-compliance.

According to Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA), the U.S. EPA provides a great resource through the USEPA National Pretreatment Program website. Check out CSWEA's full industrial pretreatment presentation here - PowerPoint Presentation (

3. Protecting Public Health

Industrial wastewater can contain many hazardous substances that pose a threat to public health if not properly treated. According to the EPA, here is a list of pollutant sources:

  • Arsenic: wood preservatives, agricultural products

  • Beryllium: found in the manufacturing of specialty electrical and ceramics, electronic insulators, and microwave parts.

  • Cadmium: found in metal plating and pesticides

  • Chromium: frequently found in alloy and plating elements on metal and plastic, such as protective coatings for automotive and equipment

  • Copper: found in copper plumbing and piping, as well as paint, herbicides, and varnishes

  • Lead: found in lead manufacturing, roofing materials and medical equipment production

  • Mercury: found in thermometers and certain type of battery manufacturing

  • Molybdenum: this chemical is found in corrosion inhibitors

  • Nickel: found in manufacturing of permanent magnet materials, fuel oil combustion, and textile production.

  • Selenium: found in pigments in plastic production, paints, enamels, inks, and rubber

  • And more......check out the full list here - US EPA Pretreatmenet Webcast Series

By removing contaminants through pretreatment at industrial manufacturing facilities, the risk of exposing harmful chemicals to the community is significantly reduced. The pretreatment protects the local water facility and discharge water that finds its way into water bodies used for drinking water supply or recreation.

4. Preventing Damage to Infrastructure

Untreated industrial wastewater can put communities and infrastructure at risk. Chemicals in untreated water can damage pipes, clog sewer lines, and ultimately compromise wastewater treatment infrastructure. The presence of high levels of heavy metals or other corrosive substances can lead to expensive repairs or even a complete wastewater system failure. Pretreatment helps remove these harmful components, extending the lifespan of infrastructure and reducing maintenance costs.

5. Resource Recovery

Not all wastewater is waste. Resource recovery is an important topic across the world. With dwindling water supplies and limited resources, cutting-edge facilities are advancing their water systems to make the most of our water supply through valorization.

Industrial wastewater may contain valuable resources such as lithium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, that can be recovered and reused. Specific pretreatment processes like sedimentation, filtration, and chemical precipitation, will separate and recover these valuable substances. Water can also be recovered and reused by facilities.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Desalination and water reuse technologies reclaim water from nontraditional sources such as brackish (salty) groundwater and wastewater. With sufficient treatment, water resource recovery facilities can treat water to a standard suitable for certain applications.

For example, toilet water doesn’t need to be treated to drinking water standards. Systems that capture the relatively clean water collected from bathtubs, sinks, and kitchen appliances can reduce the demand for water across communities."

When facilities install the correct technology, industries can reduce their dependency on resources, minimize waste generation, and achieve greater sustainability.

6. Cost Savings

Everyone wants to save money, right? Industrial wastewater pretreatment can result in significant cost savings for businesses. When we remove pollutants before they are discharged, businesses can avoid the costly fines, penalties from the state, and legal actions resulting from non-compliance with environmental regulations. Additionally, pretreatment can lead to reduced energy consumption, lower chemical usage, and optimized water usage, resulting in overall operational cost reduction.


Industrial wastewater pretreatment plays a crucial role in protecting the environment, ensuring regulatory compliance, and safeguarding public health. By removing harmful contaminants, this process helps prevent pollution, extends the life of infrastructure, enables resource recovery, and provides cost savings to industries. Implementing proper pretreatment measures should be a priority for all industrial sectors to minimize their environmental impact and promote sustainable practices.



CSWEA, Industrial Pretreatment Program Overview, CSWEA Industrial Pretreatment Seminar, PowerPoint Presentation (

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Does My Business Need a Water Pollution Control Permit, Does My Business Need A Water Pollution Control Permit? - Pollution Control Permit (

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits (

Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Water Resource Recovery Basics, Water Resource Recovery Basics | Department of Energy

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, WPDES Permits, WPDES Permits | | Wisconsin DNR

USEPA, Pretreatment 101 Series: POTW Compliance Monitoring Procedures Resources Document, US EPA Pretreatmenet Webcast Series

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