Industrial Pretreatment

Pretreatment Overview

Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) collects wastewater from homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities and transports it via a series of pipes, known as a collection system, to a treatment plant. The POTW removes harmful organisms and other contaminants from the sewage so it can be discharged safely into a receiving stream. Generally, POTWs are designed to treat domestic sewage only. However, POTWs also receive wastewater from some industrial (non-domestic) users.

The City of Eureka Pretreatment Section helps maintain the quality of life of the community by protecting the sewer system and the wastewater treatment facilities. The Utilities Operations Division administers a Pretreatment Program that regulates industrial and commercial discharges at their source. The Pretreatment Program sets limitations according to the wastewater treatment facility's needs to avoid the above problems. This is a joint effort between City and industrial users to control the levels of industrial contaminants entering the sewer system by permitting, inspecting, monitoring, and regulatory enforcement. At the same time by reducing pollutants, the program increases reclamation options (treatment and reuse) for the effluent and biosolids resulting from the wastewater treatment process.

No Drugs Down the Drain or in the Trash

In 1999 the United States Geological Survey conducted a study where waterways downstream of areas of heavy urbanization and agriculture were tested for a broad variety of pollutants. The study found that many chemicals, including pharmaceutical wastes such as drugs, steroids, hormones, and personal care products were present in the water. 

Pharmaceutical wastes have negative effects on aquatic life, including slowing the growth of young amphibians, skewing male to female ratios, and disrupting the endocrine system. These wastes end up in the water by passing through the body and are disposed of down the toilet or in the garbage. Wastewater treatment plants are not capable of removing all of these wastes so anything that is flushed down the toilet can pass through into the receiving water. Throwing them in the trash is no better because they can leach into groundwater. We can prevent our unused wastes from entering our waterways. We do not dispose of our hazardous wastes such as flammables, corrosive, and other toxins by flushing, and we must manage pharmaceutical wastes the same way. To keep your pharmaceutical wastes out of the water, take them to Humboldt Waste Management Authority and the Open Door Community Center.

To keep your pharmaceutical wastes out of the water, take them to Humboldt Waste Management Authority and the Open Door Community Center. 

Drug Drop-Off Brochure (PDF)

Keeping Harmful Substances Out

The goal of all pretreatment programs is to keep harmful substances out that could:

  • Damage sewer systems and treatment plant structures
  • Interfere with treatment operations
  • Jeopardize worker safety by exposure to chemical hazards
  • Reduce reclamation options due to contaminated effluent and biosolids
  • Result in violations of the treatment facilities' own Waste Discharge Requirements
  • Add maintenance, repair, operational and disposal costs to the treatment of wastewater

Wastewater Discharge Permits

Preliminary inspections and other guidelines such as the amount of flow, impacting characteristics of the wastewater, type of process and federal regulations are taken into consideration to determine if a business is required to have a Wastewater Discharge Permit.

Eureka is a city with a variety of industries with diverse discharge characteristics. Wastewater Discharge Permits are issued to industrial laundries, seafood processors, hospitals, industrial bakeries, auto repair facilities, food service establishments, photofinishers and others.

Permits to discharge into the sewer contain a series of administrative requirements and discharge conditions that the users must comply with at all times. Permits are given for a specific time and are tailored to each user. Monitoring of industrial users is established depending on their impact to the POTW.

Enforcement Actions

The Utilities Operations Division is tasked as the enforcement authority for the pretreatment program. Regulations are enforced through actions that could escalate from simple Warning Notices to Administrative, Civil, or Criminal action if the discharges constitute a public health and safety issue. Compliance through pollution prevention measures instead of enforcement action is highly preferred. Increasing facility inspections have played an active role in improving communication with industries and overall compliance. The protection of the POTW and the environment is achieved through a partnership between government and industry.

FOG Program

Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) are generated in most types of restaurants and food service establishments during food preparation, food service, and kitchen clean up. If flushed down the drain, FOG can build up in pipes, pumps, and equipment - causing significant problems in the community sewer, including sewer line blockages. Blockages can lead to sewer overflows that pose environmental and public health hazards and may subject the City to fines and penalties.

Most food service establishments such as restaurants are required to install, operate and maintain grease removal systems. These establishments are inspected on a regular basis. In addition to restaurant inspections, building plans are reviewed to ensure they meet the City's requirements for FOG removal.