Two local businesses are making progress in cleaning up their acts after being put on a permitting system for violating wastewater standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Prolitho II, a printing company located at 201 East Bay Blvd., and Smith Megadiamond Inc., 275 W. 2230 North, both exceeded wastewater discharge standards during the past year. Provo City began requiring both companies to secure permits last year and put them on revised testing schedules to monitor them more closely.The most recent tests performed on discharges from both companies showed they are in compliance with wastewater standards.
Because of the nature of their discharges, five other businesses in Provo are required to have permits: Powder River, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Brigham Young University's dairy facility and Valtek Corp. None of these currently violates wastewater standards.
Provo also is investigating other printers in the city that may be putting "cleaners and solvents into the city sewer system, which should not be done," according to Randy Conner, industrial pretreatment coordinator of the Provo City Water Department. Several printers being investigated will also be required to secure permits.
A Megadiamond official believes his company's violations were due to testing errors, and the company has switched testing laboratories. However, both Megadiamond and Prolitho have instituted procedures aimed at cutting chemical levels in discharge water.
EPA requires cities to report businesses that are out of compliance with wastewater standards 20 percent of the time or that are not meeting basic permit requirements, Conner said.
"We've been working with these industries for two or three years now," Conner said. "We normally don't permit printers unless they are causing a problem with the (wastewater plant)."
Prolitho violated standards for toluene, while Megadiamond, which makes cutting elements for diamond bits, violated standards for copper, nickel and cyanide. Toluene is a known carcinogen and can cause structural damage at the treatment plant. Copper and nickel are heavy metals that can contaminate the system's sludge and cause disposal problems.
Toluene also binds with grit material in the plant's settling ponds. It kills off the biological agent used at the plant and degrades pump cables, causing them to malfunction and fail.
Because of toluene damage last year, Provo spent $1,500 on biological cleanup and replacing pump cables. Prolitho covered that expense.
"The wastewater plant was built and designed to treat domestic waste," Conner said. "Industrial waste is totally different in nature. The two don't work together."
Michael Hair, environmental, safety and security supervisor at Prolitho, said his company switched to a cleaning solution with a lower concentration of toluene and has instituted new procedures for employees using such products.
"We really don't know how those chemicals got down the drain before, but we're watching now and no chemicals are going down the drain," Hair said.
Toluene discharges from Prolitho have "dropped off in volume but are still above the limits sporadically," Conner said.
Brent Horton, environmental senior scientist at Megadiamond, said his company believes violations are related to "poor analysis." For instance, although Megadiamond has been cited for violating cyanide standards, the company does not use cyanide, Horton said.
Conner said violations may indeed be due to testing error. When certain chemicals are mixed together, they can cause false cyanide readings.
"We haven't found anything else to pin it on," Horton said. "We see no variation in our process to explain the variation in analysis we get."
Megadiamond does operate nickel plating equipment occasionally, which may be related to the violations. The company has reduced and may eliminate use of the process.
Like Prolitho, Megadiamond has "concentrated on training our operators so they know what is expected of them and asked them to record more information," Horton said.