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ECAR Fact Sheet for California
Wastewater Discharges

Self-Audit Checklist
Best Management Practices
Related ECAR Fact Sheets
Other Relevant Resources

The following fact sheet was prepared by the ECAR Center staff. Once prepared, each ECAR Center fact sheet undergoes a review process with the applicable state environmental agency(ies). You can check on the status of the review process here. Please read the disclaimer on the status page. While we have tried to present a summary of the essential information on this topic, you should be aware that other items, such as local regulations, may apply to you.


What You Need to Know

If your wastewater, also referred to as non-stormwater discharge, is currently going down an unregulated drain, you've got a problem.  Even if your activities have gone unnoticed for years, there is an increasing chance that you will be inspected.  The federal EPA and the states are starting to look much more carefully at sources of water pollution that have so far remained unidentified, and they have (rightly or wrongly) decided that auto recyclers are a significant problem area.

There are a few basic rules to keep in mind.  The first is that wastewater from industrial discharges is usually handled by wastewater treatment plants, but you are usually required to conduct "pretreatment" of the discharge. The second is that the storm drains that carry rain and snow runoff from dismantling yards, roof downspouts, parking lots, and other surfaces typically go directly to open waterways, and must never be used for disposal.  It is important that all the employees at your yard are aware of these rules, and that they respect them.

You will almost certainly need separate permits both for stormwater runoff (see the ECAR Stormwater fact sheet) and for any industrial wastewater that you generate.  This page will give you an overview of how to handle your industrial wastewater.


The term non-storm water discharge refers to discharges of water other than rainfall, snow melt, or storm runoff. Authorized non-storm water discharges include fire hydrant flushing, potable water sources, drinking fountain water, refrigeration/air conditioning condensate, irrigation drainage, springs, groundwater, foundation and footing drainage, and sea water infiltration. All other non-stormwater discharges, including process wastewater, contact or non-contact cooling water, equipment and vehicle wash water, sanitary wastewater, and building floor drains and sinks, must be covered under a separate permit or approval.

Permits. If the operation or discharges from your property or business affects California's surface, coastal, or groundwater, you may need to obtain a permit to discharge waste from the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional WQCB).

If you are discharging pollutants (or proposing to) into surface waters, you must file completed federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application forms with the appropriate Regional Board. Form 200 is to accompany the federal forms.

For other types of discharges, such as those affecting groundwater or in a diffused manner (e.g., erosion from soil disturbance or waste discharges to land) you must file a Report of Waste Discharge with the appropriate Regional Board in order to obtain Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs). Form 200 is the basic form to be used.

For specific situations, the Regional WQCB may waive the requirement to obtain a WDR for discharges to land or may determine that a proposed discharge can be permitted more effectively through enrollment in a general NPDES permit or general WDR.

If there is a discharge of stormwater from your facility, you should visit our Stormwater page to find out if you need a Stormwater Permit in addition to any other permit. Click on the ECAR Stormwater fact sheet for more information.

Links to the Regulations and Forms. Use the following links to view the regulations and permit forms pertaining to wastewater.

California Water Code

Waste Discharge Permit Application

Federal Safe Drinking Water Act Requirements

Self-Audit Checklist

When an inspector comes to your facility, there are certain things he or she checks to see if you are in compliance with environmental regulations. It makes good sense for you to perform a "self-audit" and catch and correct problems before they result in penalties. Also, there are some compliance incentives associated with self-audits (see Audit Policy Page).

Use the following list to audit your wastewater management activities.

  1. Does your facility discharge process wastewater? Are the discharges authorized by a permit? Check all uses of water and steam within the industrial areas of your facility. Determine where wastewater is generated and discharged. You must have a permit or written authorization
  2. Is oil or solvent discharged to the sewer? Federal and state laws prohibit the discharge of oil or flammable solvents to the sewer system. These are regulated wastes that must be properly disposed of.

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Most regulations tell you what you have to do to be in compliance, but they don't explain how to do it. That's where "best management practices" come into play. BMPs are proven methods that help you to get into compliance and stay there. The following BMPs are recommended for wastewater management.

  • Limit water use and the volume of water discharged through conservation methods and by reusing water whenever possible.
  • Train employees to use water efficiently.
  • Don't use water for cleaning floors and equipment unless absolutely necessary. Use dry cleanup methods for spills.
  • Post signs at all floor drains and sinks in industrial areas of your facility to discourage employees from using the drains to dispose of oil, other vehicle fluids, solvent, paint or similar liquids. Review these rules with your employees.
  • Use only non-toxic soaps to clean floors and vehicles instead of hazardous materials.
  • If you have floor drains at your facility that are not in use, consider having them capped or plugged to prevent misuse or accidental discharges.
  • Prevent drips and spills from reaching the floor.
  • Check your floor drains and make certain you know where they discharge.
  • Setup and use a maintenance schedule for inspection and cleaning of floor drains, oil/water separators, traps, etc.
  • Never have floor drains where hazardous materials are stored.
  • If your wastewater is nonhazardous, you may want to purchase evaporating equipment to evaporate your wastewater. It should be noted that evaporators may require an air permit or registration, and evaporator bottoms may be considered a hazardous waste.
  • Don't use degreaser solvents to clean engines. Most engine degreasers are hazardous and should not be discharged to a POTW. Even if you use nonhazardous degreasers, the oil and grease concentration in the spent degreaser may exceed the limit allowed by your sewer authority.


  1. For more information, contact the State Water Resources Control Board at (916) 341-5250.

Related ECAR Fact Sheets

  1. Floor Drains
  2. Stormwater
  3. Septic Tanks and Disposal Wells

Other Relevant Resources

  1. Partners in the Solution Guidance Manual (Developed by the State of California Auto Demantlers Assn)
  2. Water Quality Control Board Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Water Permits



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