Climate Change and Potential EPA Regulations for Discharging Hazardous Substances in Adverse Conditions

On March 15, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency released a series of proposed regulations around the worst-case discharge of Clean Water Act substances. Under the proposal, industrial facilities that store toxic materials and other pollutants on-site must develop an action plan in the event of a release during adverse conditions. The agency drafted these rules to respond to the growing number of dangerous weather events caused by climate change.

What is the EPA?

In 1970, increased awareness of environmental concerns led to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency. The lack of regulation around hazardous materials caused several highly-publicized disasters like the chemical flames burning on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. The EPA was an umbrella agency that would take responsibility for federal environmental concerns formerly spread among several organizations. In 1977, Congress passed the Clean Water Act that gave the EPA responsibility for protecting water sources and maintaining a clean drinking water supply.

Why are new EPA regulations necessary?

What is the EPA doing about climate change? Many industrial sites sit near waterways. This location may be due to a history of using hydropower for manufacturing plants along rivers. It also benefits factories to locate near harbors to minimize transport times. However, placing an industrial facility near water increases the potential that it might release hazardous substances in a worst-case scenario.

Some of the effects of climate change include stronger storms with damaging winds and heavy rains. The original architects didn’t design aging buildings to withstand these new extremes. The new EPA regulations challenge companies to prepare themselves to minimize the damage to the water supply caused by discharge during extreme weather events.

What are the proposed Clean Water Act regulations?

The proposed regulations apply to facilities within half a mile of a major waterway or a water source that feeds a significant channel. These organizations must create a clean water action plan that addresses the discharge potential. The updated rules instruct facilities to evaluate the threat of environmental damage by examining the types and amounts of stored substances.

Creating a Clean Water Action Plan for an Industrial Facility

After determining the threat potential for a facility, the organization must then develop a plan of action for a worst-case discharge scenario. In an emergency, people must know their role on the response team and what steps they need to carry out. Facilities will also consider participating in emergency drills and other preparatory exercises.

The EPA recognizes that adverse weather conditions create unpredictable situations. The action plan’s goal is to control the damage caused by the release of toxic substances.

Using SCADA to Respond to Adverse Conditions

Supervisory control and data acquisition technology has a role to play as facilities develop clean water action plans. A SCADA system consists of sensors that report data on equipment conditions and performance throughout a facility. On a day-to-day basis, this technology increases operational efficiency by supplying real-time information to managers.

However, a SCADA system will send preventative maintenance alerts of impending danger before reaching a critical level in unexpected conditions. It can also perform automated actions when predetermined conditions are met: rerouting the water flow when the pressure becomes too high, turning on secondary pumps in a flood, or shutting down overheating machinery. An immediate response can avert danger in a worst-case scenario.

The Benefits of Cloud-Based SCADA

High Tide Technologies specializes in cloud-based SCADA for municipal water collection, treatment, and distribution systems. Sending sensor data to the cloud allows remote tracking of conditions and operations. In extreme weather, the management team can monitor the facility from a safe location. Teams in the field can receive real-time updates about changing conditions on their portable devices. 

A well-designed SCADA system is an integral part of contingency plans for protecting water supplies. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of cloud-based SCADA for your system.