Does Your Business Need a Wastewater Discharge Permit?

Will your local wastewater agency tell you if your business needs a wastewater permit or is subject to wastewater requirements? Don’t count on it! Most wastewater regulations are self-implementing – that is, the requirements are active and enforceable whether or not you are aware of them. Therefore, even though it can be confusing to determine what wastewater discharge requirements apply to your facility, it is in your best interest to know about and comply with the discharge requirements are that apply to the wastewater generated from your site.


Businesses that discharge wastewater to a public sanitary sewer are subject to the rules and regulations (i.e., the sewer-related municipal code or sewer use ordinance) put in place by the agency that owns and operates that collection system (i.e., sewer pipes) and the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). In addition, depending on the volume and type of wastewater being sent down the drain, state, and federal requirements can also apply. Industrial wastewater sources may have to comply with the local or regional pretreatment program’s (or source control’s) discharge prohibitions, best management practices, and water pollution control authorizations or wastewater discharge permits.


A wastewater permit is a legally enforceable document that defines the conditions a business must follow to discharge wastewater to the local sewer system. These conditions might include discharge amount, rate of flow, and strength of waste; and sampling, recordkeeping, reporting, and notification requirements. Note that discharge permits should typically be secured before initiation of the wastewater discharge in question.


Facilities that perform certain operations and generate wastewater with particular discharge characteristics will almost always need a discharge permit or authorization to legally discharge to the sewer, including those facilities that:

  • Are subject to national categorical pretreatment standards, as established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 40 CFR Chapter I, Subchapter N, Parts 405-471 (examples include metal finishing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, steam electric power generation), and discharge any significant amount of this wastewater;

  • Discharge a significant quantity of process wastewater per day (typically 25,000 gallons or more);

  • Contribute a process waste stream that makes up 5% or more of the average dry weather hydraulic or organic capacity of the WWTP; and

  • Discharge nondomestic wastewater that has a reasonable potential for adversely affecting the sewer system and/or WWTP.

Agencies often issue discharge permits, or have other management or discharge requirements in place for facilities with certain types of operations generating liquid wastes, including:

  • Manufacturing, including chemical-related and metal-working industries

  • Food and beverage processing

  • Industrial laundries

  • Restaurants/food service establishments (i.e., facilities producing fats, oils, and grease [FOG])

  • Wineries and breweries

  • Automobile services, including car/truck washes

  • Laboratories

  • Medical and dental facilities

  • Dry cleaning with solvents

  • Liquid waste haulers

Agencies may also issue permits for, or otherwise regulate, short-term/temporary discharges, including:

  • Groundwater remediation

  • Water line or oil pipeline hydrostatic testing

  • Dewatering from construction sites

  • Ponds and commercial pools


Stormwater may also be considered a wastewater depending on your business type, and discharge of stormwater into the municipal stormwater system is typically regulated separately from wastewater entering the sanitary sewer system.


If your facility generates and discharges wastewater from any of the categories mentioned above, you may be required to apply for a wastewater discharge permit, or subject to other wastewater requirements. Through our work developing and supporting WWTPs’ pretreatment programs, ALG staff have a comprehensive understanding of wastewater requirements, as well as the basis for those requirements. We routinely work with companies, small and large, to review their wastewater-generating and discharging practices to determine applicable requirements.


For those clients with wastewater requirements or permitting needs, ALG can assist with the permit application and renewal process, developing procedures to comply with requirements, and responding to enforcement issues. If you would like assistance determining your site’s wastewater requirements, contact Christine Wong at cwong@algcorp.com or at (805) 764-6019.

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