Opportunities to Better Manage and Control Nonindustrial Wastewater Pollution

Gao ID: T-RCED-91-72 July 9, 1991

GAO discussed opportunities to better manage and control nonindustrial wastewater pollution from households and commercial establishments, focusing on: (1) the range, severity, and sources of pollutants found in nonindustrial wastewater; (2) state and local government strategies and programs to better manage and control nonindustrial pollutants; and (3) federal options to encourage or require better management and control of those pollutants. GAO noted that: (1) household water alone accounts for 15 percent of the toxic pollutants that enter treatment plants from such products as detergents, cleaners, drain openers, and motor oil; (2) some states and localities have established programs to reduce the level of nonindustrial pollutants by identifying sources of problems, requiring dischargers to remove harmful pollutants from their wastewater, providing consumers with information on problems associated with certain household products, proper disposal methods, and alternatives to these products, and banning substances linked to water-quality degradation; (3) Environmental Protection Agency efforts to better manage and control nonindustrial wastewater were primarily limited to providing information and guidance to consumers, states, and localities; and (4) federal options to better manage and control nonindustrial wastewater pollution included encouraging or requiring treatment plants to gather more data about the extent and severity of the problem, providing such information and methods to address the problem to the public, supporting a voluntary national product labelling program, and banning substances that pose unreasonable risks.

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