Frequent Questions

Do industrial wastewater discharges regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA) meet the definition of a solid waste under RCRA?

Industrial wastewater discharges that are point source discharges subject to regulation under CWA §402 are excluded from the definition of solid waste (40 CFR §261.4(a)(2)). Point source discharges are discernible or discrete conveyances from which pollutants may be discharged, such as from a pipe (§260.10). CWA regulates such discharges under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program. The purpose of the industrial point source discharge exclusion is to avoid duplicative regulation of point source discharges under RCRA and CWA (45 FR 33066, 33098; May 19, 1980).
 
The exclusion applies at the discharge point where the wastes are first subject to CWA regulation (Monthly Report Question; October 1987 (RCRA Online #13051)). The exclusion does not apply to industrial wastewaters prior to discharge since most of the environmental hazards posed by wastewaters in treatment and holding facilities cannot be controlled under CWA (45 FR 33066, 33098; May 19, 1980). Therefore, industrial wastewaters must be managed as solid or hazardous waste while they are being collected, stored, or treated before discharge (Memo, Shapiro to Regions; February 17, 1995 (RCRA Online #11895)). In addition, any sludges generated by treating the industrial wastewater must be managed as solid or hazardous waste (Memo, Lowrance to Citizen; July 12, 1991 (RCRA Online #11628). 

Additional guidance regarding industrial water discharges is available in the following documents: 
Memo, Williams to Dougherty; December 10, 1987 (RCRA Online #11309
Memo, Williams to Stringham; January 23, 1986 (RCRA Online #11125
Memo, Klepitsch to Straus; June 4, 1984 (RCRA Online #12250)

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