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.
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 significant 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.
EPA’s Guidelines for risk assessment of wastewater discharges to waterways (publication 1287) provides guidance to practitioners conducting risk assessments for wastewater discharge.
While sewerage systems are designed and managed to minimise the risks to human health and the environment, they can be subject to leakage and overflows. When such spills occur, they can pose serious risks to human health and the environment.
EPA’s Sewerage management guidelines (publication 1707) provides information to water corporations to support effective risk management arrangements and to minimise the risks of sewer spills on the receiving environment.
Other relevant publications include:
Wastewater treatment plants
The wastewater industry plays an important role in reducing our impact on the water environment. EPA has prepared several guidance publications to assist the industry understand how they can better protect the environment as part of their operations: