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May 2, 2018

EPA Continues to Investigate Engineered Nanomaterials in Industrial Wastewater Discharge

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On May 2, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice announcing publication of its Final 2016 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan.  The Plan describes EPA’s Clean Water Act rulemakings and other actions intended to control industrial wastewater pollution.  According to the Plan, EPA continued several ongoing investigations, including one on the manufacture and processing of engineered nanomaterials as a potential new source of industrial wastewater discharge.  The Plan states that based on the information gathered during this current review, research continues to suggest that engineered nanomaterials “are used in a wide range of industrial applications and domestic products, but little is known about production quantities, waste management practices, or the potential for release of [engineered nanomaterials] from most industrial wastestreams.”  Incremental progress has been made to date towards developing analytical methods for detecting and quantifying nanomaterials in complex media, including industrial wastewater.  According to the Plan, EPA will continue to look for opportunities to inform current data gaps, including:

  1. Potential sources, quantities, and types of engineered nanomaterials in industrial wastewater discharge;
  2. Fate, transformation, and treatment of engineered nanomaterials in industrial wastewaters, including their potential impact to municipal wastewater treatment plants that may receive industrial wastewater discharges; and
  3. The development of analytical methods to detect and quantify engineered nanomaterials. Filling these data gaps will enable EPA to assess more fully the potential presence and impact of engineered nanomaterials in industrial process water.