BACK to VIRTUAL TOUR
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
Floor drains, especially those built when designers and contractors were much less environmentally conscious than they are now, can be full of surprises. If you do not know what is happening at the other end of yours, you would be well advised to find out before an inspector does.
Floor drains in many industrial facilities have been found to empty into surface waters, or into septic fields. In either case, the discharge of wastewater from the shop floor into this kind of system may be illegal. If the floor drain discharges into a city sewer system, it will need a permit, and will need to be periodically monitored. Floor drains can also leak, and have been known to cause serious and costly soil and groundwater contamination problems. This fact sheet will help you determine if the floor drains in your facility are properly connected and properly used.
This fact sheet addresses regulatory issues and practices associated with floor drain systems. A floor drain system commonly includes a concrete trench, which runs down the center of a shop floor that may lead to underground pipes and/or tanks. Instead of a trench, some shops have single or multiple rectangular or round floor drains. Typically, the shops floor is slightly sloped to allow liquids to flow into the floor drain.
A floor drain is a red flag for any inspector from an environmental protection agency. Their concerns are primarily:
It is very important to know where all your floor drains lead, and are aware of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulations that apply to your discharge activities. If you do not know where your drains lead, or if you using floor drains improperly, you could be contaminating nearby surface waters or drinking waters.
Some floor drains lead into a sanitary sewer, where wastewater goes directly to a sewer system or treatment plant. Sometimes floor drains lead directly to an underground holding tank or discharge to a waterway or to the ground outside. DNR's water pollution control regulations apply to all of these activities.
If you want to discharge industrial wastewater to waters of the state, you must have a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit from DNR. Examples of waters of the state include streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, waterways, wells and springs. If your floor drains lead to any water of the state, you must have a discharge permit for this activity.
Companies that discharge industrial wastewater directly to a sewer system or treatment plant are also regulated. Check with your local sewer authority or treatment plant to determine whether you need a permit. In addition, you may be required to treat the wastewater before discharging (e.g. oil/water separation, removing solids, chemicals, etc.).
Links to the Regulations and Forms. Use the following links to view the regulations and permit forms pertaining to floor drains.
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 floor drain system.
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 floor drains.
BACK to VIRTUAL TOUR