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Effluent Guidelines

Electroplating Effluent Guidelines

Photo of electroplating operationsEPA promulgated the Electroplating regulation (40 CFR Part 413) in 1974 and amended it in 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983. The regulation applies to certain facilities that discharge their wastes to POTWs. The requirements are incorporated into permits or other control mechanisms for indirect dischargers (see Pretreatment Program).
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What is Electroplating?

Electroplating applies a surface coating (typically by electrodeposition) to provide corrosion protection, wear or erosion resistance, anti-frictional characteristics or for decorative purposes. The electroplating of common metals includes the processes in which a ferrous or nonferrous basis material is electroplated with copper, nickel, chromium, zinc, tin, lead, cadmium, iron, aluminum or combinations thereof. Precious metals electroplating includes the processes in which a ferrous or non-ferrous basis material is plated with gold, silver, palladium, platinum, rhodium, or combinations thereof.

Facilities Covered

The regulation applies to processes that apply metallic coatings on surfaces by electrodeposition, and that were in operation before July 15, 1983, at facilities that discharge their wastes to POTWs. This includes both independent (job) platers and captive operations associated with product fabrication and assembly.

Diagram of Effluent Guidelines regulation coverage for metals industriesMetals coverage under Effluent Guidelines
- Click to enlarge
Processes that began operating on or after that date, at indirect dischargersHelpindirect dischargerA facility that discharges pollutants to a publicly owned treatment works (municipal sewage treatment plant)., are subject to the Metal Finishing category, 40 CFR Part 433. All direct dischargingHelpdirect dischargerA point source that discharges pollutants to waters of the United States, such as streams, lakes, or oceans. electroplaters are also covered by the Metal Finishing category.

The plants covered by the Electroplating regulations are found throughout the United States but are concentrated in heavily industrialized areas. The pretreatment standards apply to facilities in seven subcategories:

  1. Common Metals
  2. Precious Metals
  3. Anodizing
  4. Coatings
  1. Chemical Etching and Milling
  2. Electroless Plating
  3. Printed Circuit Board

Regulated pollutants

The standards have specific numerical limitations for each subcategory, and are imposed on pollutants which may interfere with, pass through, or otherwise be incompatible with POTWs. For plants with a daily flow of 38,000 liters (10,000 gallons) per day or more, the pretreatment standards specifically limit indirect discharges of cyanide and the following metals: lead, cadmium, copper, nickel, chromium, zinc, and silver. Additionally, these regulations limit "total metal discharge," which is defined as the sum of the individual concentrations of copper, nickel, chromium and zinc. For plants with a daily process wastewater flow of less than 38,000 liters (10,000 gallons), these standards limit only lead, cadmium, and cyanide.

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Guidance and Related Documents

  • Download the publications
    • Regulatory Determination for the "PreKote" Surface Preparation Process (April 2003)
    • Information on the Misuse of Sodium Dimethyldithiocarbamate (Memorandum, June 2000)
    • Guidance Manual for Implementing Total Toxic Organics (TTO) Pretreatment Standards (September 1985)
    • Guidance Manual for Electroplating and Metal Finishing Pretreatment Standards (February 1984)
      The guidance is useful to Control Authorities in responding to most routine inquiries from regulated manufacturers, including category determination requests. It includes a discussion of the Combined Wastestream Formula as it applies to integrated facilities.

Regulatory History

1983 Amendment

Revised PSES
  • Documents, including:
    • Final Rule: Metal Finishing and Electroplating Categories (July 15, 1983)
    • Proposed Rule: Metal Finishing and Electroplating Categories (August 31, 1982)

1981 Amendment

Revised PSES
  • Documents, including:
    • Final Rule (January 28, 1981)
    • Proposed Rule (July 3, 1980)

1979 Amendment

Revised PSES
  • Documents, including:
    • Final Rule (September 7, 1979)
      • Development Document
        Industry description, wastewater characterization, treatment technologies, regulatory compliance cost estimates and pollutant loadings for the final rule
    • Suspension of PSES (May 4, 1979)
    • Proposed Rule (February 14, 1978)

1977 Amendment

Established PSES requirements
  • Documents, including:
    • Interim Final Rule (July 12, 1977)
    • Proposed Rule (April 24, 1975)
    • Proposed Rule (March 28, 1974)

1976 Suspension

  • Suspension of BPT (December 3, 1976)

1975 Amendment ("Phase II")

Revised BPT for Subpart A; established BPT for Subparts B, D, E, F
  • Interim Final Rule (April 24, 1974)

1974 Initial Rulemaking ("Phase I")

Established BPT, BAT, NSPS and PSNS requirements for Subpart A
  • Final Rule (March 28, 1974)
  • Proposed Rule (October 5, 1973)

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Electroplating effluent guidelines, please contact Ahmar Siddiqui ( or 202-566-1044.

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