EPA Regulations for Oil Water Separators

post date: 6/30/2020

Compressed air systems produce condensate, which is comprised of water, oil, chemicals, and other contaminants. In the past, air compressor condensate has been dumped down the drain. When condensate is put down the drain, oil and all of those various contaminants are moving through local sewer systems and into bodies of waters, such as creeks and rivers, doing all sorts of damage to the surrounding environment. Back in 1972, growing concerns about water pollution led to the enactment of the Federal Pollution Control Act, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The Clean Water Act created EPA regulations that are used for oil-water separators, and below are some common questions you may have if you have a compressed air system.

How much oil are you allowed to drain?

Title 40, Part 279 of the Code of Federal Regulations rules that there be no more than 40 ppm oil in wastewater drained into sewers.

How much oil does the average air compressor produce?

The average compressor condensate contains a minimum of 300 ppm of oil, which is well over the EPA regulations.

How much oil does a Clean Resources oil-water separator capture?

A Clean Resources oil-water separator produces less than 10 ppm discharge throughout the life of the unit, which is, in fact, the lowest in the industry.

What are the penalties for violating EPA Regulations for Oil Water Separators?

According to the EPA's website, the penalty for discharges of oil or hazardous substances is:

  1. Negligent Violations: 1 year and/or $2,500 - 25,000 per day;
    • Subsequent convictions 2 years and/or $50,000 per day.
  2. Knowing Violations: 3 years and/or $5,000 - 50,000 per day;
    • Subsequent convictions 6 years and/or $100,000 per day.

Not only could you have to pay hefty fines for not having an oil-water separator, but if significant damage has been done to the surrounding area, such as a body of water or the groundwater around your facility, you could be responsible for reversing that damage. This could be much more costly than the EPA's fines.

If you know your facility uses air compressors, you should ask around if your company has an oil-water separator in use. And if your job is to provide air compressors and accessories to your customers, and they aren't convinced they need an oil-water separator, forward this to them too!

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