A key role of EPA is to improve the quality of water environments and prevent water pollution. Although there have been major improvements in the control of wastewater, there are still cases where the impacts of discharges need to be minimised.
Wastewater includes sewage and industrial waste. EPA’s program to control wastes is based on the following hierarchy in order of preference:
- reuse and recycling
- recovery of energy
- treatment and disposal.
The best way to manage wastes is to stop them being generated, whereas treatment and disposal is the least preferred approach. This order applies to all types of waste, including wastewater. EPA believes the above hierarchy is a key to moving towards a sustainable society.
EPA’s wastewater program includes providing advice to industry on sound environmental practices, controlling commercial and industrial wastewater discharges, and how industry can reuse wastewater.
Guidance for water authorities
Water authorities operate plants that treat the household, commercial and industrial wastewater collected by sewerage systems. EPA has published Water plan 3 guidance (publication 1406) and a range of unique guidelines to assist the Victorian water industry prepare their water plans for pricing determination by the Essential Services Commission.
The guidelines outline the environmental obligations water businesses have under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and associated statutory policies.
Onsite wastewater treatment systems
Centralised sewerage systems are the best way of dealing with wastewater in cities and towns. In rural residential developments and isolated rural dwellings, however, the wastewater is collected, treated and reused or discharged by individual onsite wastewater treatment systems (‘septic systems’).
View more information on approved wastewater treatment systems and guidance on the management of onsite wastewater systems in both the domestic and industrial sectors.
Wastewater discharges to waterways
The impact of wastewater discharges on inland and marine water bodies attracts great interest, particularly given predictions for a drier climate in the future. Impacts are often exacerbated by drought conditions, with low flows reducing the dilution of discharges.
The EPA’s Guidelines for risk assessment of wastewater discharges to waterways (publication 1287) provides guidance to practitioners conducting wastewater discharge risk assessments.