Pollution Prevention

What is pollution prevention?

Pollution prevention (sometimes called "P2") is reducing or eliminating waste at its source by modifying production processes, promoting use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into a waste stream.

The Regional Water Board specifically defined pollution prevention in Resolution R2-2003-0096 to include any action that causes a net reduction in the use or generation of a hazardous substance or other pollutant discharged into water. Pollution prevention does not include actions that merely shift a wastewater pollutant from one environmental medium to another without a clear environmental benefit. Additionally, pollution prevention is not end-of-pipe treatment, off-site recycling, incineration, or disposal.

What is the pollution prevention program?

We implement a pollution prevention program to eliminate or reduce pollutant discharges that threaten water quality. Water Code § 13263.3(d) authorizes the Regional Water Board to require certain dischargers to develop pollution prevention plans, and the State Implementation Policy also requires pollutant minimization in some cases. Those required to implement pollution prevention include facilities having compliance problems or discharging to waters that do not meet water quality standards.

Pollution prevention emphasizes pollutant source reduction "upstream" of treatment plants. It focuses on residential and commercial sources and, in this way, differs from pretreatment, which focuses on industrial sources.

The Regional Water Board first required certain wastewater dischargers to implement pollution prevention in 1988; later it expanded the program. In 1990, we collaborated with wastewater dischargers to form the Bay Area Pollution Prevention Group. Together, we develop and implement pollution prevention strategies and exchange information to coordinate pollution prevention efforts. The group includes representatives from about 40 wastewater treatment plants. Broad regional participation makes region-wide projects possible.

In 2003, the Regional Water Board adopted Resolution R2-2003-0096 to promote collaboration with the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies, specifically resolving to support the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies "P2" Menus project. The P2 Menus provide guidance in developing and enhancing pollution prevention programs. In January 2005, we completed an issue paper, "Pollution Prevention Reporting for POTWs with NPDES Permits," to provide general recommendations for pollution prevention reporting.

Where can I find tools for my own pollution prevention program?

Pollution prevention tools are readily available. For information about the Regional Water Board's program, you may review the issue paper Pollution Prevention Reporting for POTWs with NPDES Permits. For regional information, you may subscribe to the Bay Area Pollution Prevention Group's list serve. You may also visit the Baywise web site, which contains most of the many work products that the Bay Area Pollution Prevention Group has developed over the years. There is also a pollution prevention menu that describes various options for pollution prevention activities. Other information sources include the California Product Stewardship Council and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

How does the Regional Water Board recognize excellence in pollution prevention?

In 2007, we established the Dr. Teng-Chung Wu Pollution Prevention Award in memory of Dr. Teng-Chung Wu. The award recognizes excellence in pollution prevention and marks Dr. Wu's steadfast dedication to pollution prevention, water quality, and public outreach during his 35 years of Regional Water Board service. Dr. Wu introduced our regional approach by spearheading collaboration among Bay Area dischargers.