Chemicals discharged in wastewater can have a detrimental impact on the surrounding surface and groundwater systems. In general, there are three types of wastewater that may be discharged from a facility:

  • Industrial Wastewater – Wastewater generated from industrial operations including process wastewater, wastewater from utility operations, run-off from process and materials staging areas, and auxiliary activities including wastewater from cleaning equipment and tool, laboratories, maintenance shops, etc.
  • Sanitary or Domestic Wastewater – Wastewater generated from domestic activities such as bathrooms, hand washing, food preparation.
  • Stormwater – Water generated via precipitation, as in rain or snow melt.

Wastewater Management

In order to ensure all wastewater discharges are managed responsibly, it is important to consider the following:

  • Have you Identified the type, quality, and sources of all wastewater generated on-site?
  • Have you Identified the applicable legal requirements for wastewater discharge (as defined by local law and/or brand partner)?
  • Have you obtained the applicable discharge licenses and/or permits?
  • Do you have a wastewater testing program in place to ensure compliance with applicable discharge permits and limits?
  • If your facility has a wastewater treatment system on-site, are there procedures in place for:
    • The operation and regular maintenance of the treatment system and equipment (including on-site laboratories).
    • Assigning dedicated staff to monitor wastewater treatment operations.
    • Appropriate training for all relevant staff.
    • Emergency or contingency plan in case of treatment system failure.

Wastewater Testing

All wastewater should be tested to ensure compliance with applicable discharge limits. The testing frequency (i.e. quarterly, annually) and monitored parameters is often defined by local law/permit and/or customer (Brand) requirements. To ensure compliance, companies should:

  • Identify the required testing frequency and establish a regular testing schedule to meet these requirements.
  • Ensure that wastewater is collected and tested in accordance with local law or internationally accepted methods.
    • Any contracted Laboratories should be ISO 17025 certified and/or a national accrediting body that is member of International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperative (ILAC).
  • Create a documentation control program to maintain wastewater testing records.

Additional information on wastewater testing programs, sampling and analytical testing methods, and criteria has been developed by the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) group and can be downloaded here:

ZDHC Wastewater Quality

Stormwater Management

Contamination of stormwater (i.e. rainwater run-off) systems can cause untreated wastewater to be discharged to the environment. Follow these good practices outlined below to ensure your stormwater system is free of contamination.

Relevant Higg Index Facility Environment Module (FEM) 3.0 indicators:

Section 4: Wastewater / Effluent

Wastewater Management Resources

Wastewater Good Practices

Wastewater Management Checklist

IFC Environmental Health and Safety Guideline – Wastewater

Wastewater Emergency Plan Sample


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Jone Smith wrote: Jul 5, 2021

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David Norriss wrote: Jan 6, 2020

It's interesting how wastewater needs to be tested frequently in order to comply with applicable discharge limits. I think that because it is tested so often it would be important for the people in charge to buy the right supplies and equipment often so that it keeps running smoothly. They wouldn't want it to break down while testing and not have the right materials to fix it.

stella hellen wrote: Dec 30, 2019

Thanks for sharing the information about waste water management.
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