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Wastewater includes process wastewater, wastewater from utility operations, stormwater and sanitary wastewater. Wastewater will vary in quality and quantity by industry sector and typically includes:

  • Process wastewater: Pollutants may include acids, bases, and many others. These include soluble organic chemicals, suspended solids, nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), heavy metals (such as cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc), cyanide, toxic organic chemicals, oily materials and volatile materials. The costs of treating process wastewater can be significant.
  • Wastewater from utilities operations: Utility operations such as cooling towers and demineralization systems may result in high rates of water consumption, as well as the potential release of high temperature water containing high dissolved solids, residues of biocides and residues of other cooling system anti-fouling agents.
  • Stormwater: Stormwater includes any surface runoff and flows from process and materials staging areas resulting from precipitation or drainage. Typically stormwater runoff contains suspended sediments, metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and coliform. Rapid runoff, even of uncontaminated stormwater, also degrades the quality of the receiving water by eroding stream beds and river banks.
  • Sanitary wastewater: This may include effluents from domestic sewage, food service and laundry facilities serving site employees and can also include other sources such as from laboratories, medical infirmaries, equipment maintenance shops and water softening.

A client/investee should monitor the quality, quantity, sources and discharge points of liquid effluents by type (process, utilities operations, stormwater and sanitary). At a facility level, discharges of wastewater should not result in contaminant concentrations in excess of the effluent discharge quality standards of national regulations to avoid liability for fines and/or penalties. Discharge quality can also be compared to international best practice and standards to identify any deviations, which would indicate poor performance of an operation. The generation and discharge of wastewater should be managed to reduce the volume of water requiring specialized treatment by improving water use efficiency, modifying production processes (including the use of hazardous materials that contaminate water), and treating wastewater on-site prior to discharge in order to reduce the load of contaminants.

Where possible, a client’s/investee’s operations should avoid, minimize and control adverse impacts to human health, safety and the environment from wastewater generation through wastewater management, water conservation and reuse. A financial institution can help a client/investee to identify opportunities for preventing or reducing wastewater generation through water conservation and recycling/reusing within operations and to identify environmental business opportunities.

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