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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We've attempted to look up EPA/DEP regulations on this a few times in the past, and have never found anything. Realistically, I don't know that there are many options. Does anyone know federal guidelines on disposing of wastewater from cleanup of brushes, roller covers, pans, pumps, etc.?

On residential and commercial repaint, we normally clean up in the customers slop sink or ourdoor hose over grass. On industrial projects, we're very careful to take away every bit of cleanup water so that nothing hits the ground. We always keep wastewater away from storm drains.

I know everyone generally does exactly what we do... but some customers (comm and ind) have some very strict guidelines. I'm just curious what the federal gov't guidelines actually are, if they exist at all.

Super Moderator
Licensed General Contractor, Painting Contractor, Christmas Light Installer
2,467 Posts
This link from explains it fairly well, as to how it relates to small businesses. Still always worth checking your local BMP's though to confirm compliance, since some states' guidelines can be more strict than federal.

1,320 Posts
Although it varies by state and locality, the following is a pretty comprehensive and easily understandable summary of what’s required in many jurisdictions.

The information was obtained from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance,
November 2015,
“Handling Paint Waste from Your Business”.

Industrial wastewater from painting can be generated from cleaning brushes, sprayers and other equipment or from operating a spray booth. If you are power washing equipment or structures prior to painting, this is also considered industrial wastewater. It is NOT permissible to discharge industrial wastewater on the ground, into storm sewers or into on-site septic systems.

Under Ohio EPA’s rules, options for handling industrial wastewater include obtaining a permit to discharge directly into surface water or discharging to a public wastewater treatment plant.
If you are cleaning your painting equipment back at your business location, another option is to install a wastewater holding tank and have the wastewater hauled to an industrial waste disposal company.

Any discharge of industrial wastewater to “waters of the state” will require a discharge permit (called an NPDES permit) from Ohio EPA. Examples of waters of the state include streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, water-courses, waterways and springs.

Industrial Wastewater: Direct Discharges
Wastewater discharges entering a conveyance system (like a ditch or storm sewer) that leads to a waterway also require an NPDES permit. You cannot discharge industrial wastewater from your painting business to any waters of the state unless you have received a permit from Ohio EPA.

If your business is connected to a public wastewater treatment plant (called a POTW), you may be able to discharge wastewater directly to the plant. However, wastewater treatment plants are not designed to handle wastes like metals, solvents or other chemicals. They are designed to handle sewage-related wastes and wastewater. Because of this, the treatment plant can require that you conduct “pretreatment” (e.g., removal of chemicals, solids, etc.) before discharging your wastewater to them. If you want to discharge industrial wastewater to a local treatment plant, you need to discuss these activities with the treatment plant directly. Permission to discharge to the POTW and/or obtaining a permit may be necessary.

Industrial Wastewater: Indirect Discharges
If you are going to be working at different job sites and will be generating wastewater from cleaning your painting equipment, it is important to talk with the POTW BEFORE you begin the job. You must get permission from the POTW to discharge wastewater to them.

If you do not have a permit to discharge wastewater directly or permission to discharge to a POTW, you must find another way to manage your wastewater. As mentioned, you cannot discharge wastewater directly onto the ground, down a septic system or into a storm sewer.”

134 Posts
You can by a jobsite wastewater treatment system. Works for water base products only. They are quite expensive though. About $3500 for the small jobsite one. The jobsite one is the size of a large garbage can. When it is mostly full, you add 2 components to it and it causes the wastewater to flocculate (separate like cottage cheese into solids and liquid). You then drain/screen the solids out and the clear liquid that
is left that is safe to dump virtually anywhere. We do it on our own. We put our waste in 5 gallon buckets until there is about 3 gals worth. Then you mix with a premeasured amount of aluminum sulfate and hydrated lime. It flocculates right away. We usually let it settle overnight and then you can strain it through a coffee filter to separate out the solids. Let the solids dry out and throw them away. The liquid is safe to dump.


The first image is latex waste water. The middle is what it looks like after you add the aluminum sulfate and hydrated lime and it has been allowed to settle. Once it looks like the middle image, I have a 5 gallon bucket strainer that fits over the top of the bucket. We put 2 industrial sized coffee filters in the strainer and pour the settled liquid through it. The last image is what it looks like once it is filtered. The coffee filter and solids we put on a piece of cardboard to dry out and through it in the garbage once it is dry. I have a couple of small containers that I use with premeasured amounts of both parts for use on the job site if we need it. Here are the instructions my workers use for anyone who is interested:

Instructions for treating latex waste water​

  • Mix wastewater to distribute solids.
  • Add Aluminum Sulfate to quart container of warm water and mix until dissolved.
  • Add Aluminum Sulfate mixture to waste water and mix thoroughly. You may start to see the wastewater begin to flocculate. This lowers the Ph of the wastewater.
  • Once mixed, now add Hydrated Lime to wastewater and mix thoroughly. This raises the Ph back to neutral.
  • Allow to settle. Overnight is recommended.
  • Place screen with 2 coffee filters over empty bucket. Place retaining ring over coffee filters to prevent them from moving as treated water is poured into filter.
  • Pour treated water into filters and allow to drain completely.
  • Filtered water is now safe to dispose.
  • Filter with solids is place on cardboard or drying rack and allowed to dry out completely.
  • Dried solids can now be disposed of in garbage.

Waste water volume¾ gallon3 gallons
Aluminum Sulfate½ Tablespoon2 Tablespoons
Hydrated Lime¾ Tablespoon3 Tablespoons

  • Wear safety equipment when treating wastewater and mixing chemicals. This includes dust mask or respirator, safety glasses, and nitrile gloves.
  • This process only works for latex paint waste water. It does not work for oil , alcohol, or lacquer based waste water.

We are not a huge operation, so this system works for us. We only have to process probably 5 buckets a week. The commercial system I mentioned at the beginning will do 50 gals at a time, and I saw that they also have a 500 gal system for larger companies.

paint store sales. over 40 years experience
165 Posts
In Florida, bring a box of doughnuts to your local SW or PPG store. The paint must be dry and on or in a cardboard box. These institutions pay a premium with Waste disposal companies to dispose of our trash. Colorant bottles were crushed, wrapped in a secured plastic bad and thrown into our dumpster. Quarts of colorants are left to dry without a lid. Cat litter or shredded documents are added to the open can to accelerate the dry time.After being dry they are disposed into the dumpster. Never down a drain, into the soil or local waterways. Several cities accept obsolete paint or by-products for rework and distribution to the community. To my knowledge, PPG and SW have the same procedures on how we dispose of paint. Your local rules or laws of course would take precedent over how we do things in Florida.
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