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Water: Electroplating

Effluent Guidelines: Electroplating (40 CFR 413)


Electroplating is a subcategory of the metal finishing activities included in standard industrial classification (SIC) 3471. For the purpose of establishing effluent limits electroplating is described as applying metallic coatings on surfaces by electrodeposition; electroplating includes both independent (job) platers and captive operations associated with product fabrication and assembly.

On September 7, 1979, EPA published regulations at 40 CFR Part 413, establishing categorical pretreatment standards covering all firms performing operations in the Electroplating Point Source Category that introduced effluent into publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). These operations include electroplating, anodizing, conversion coating, electroless plating, chemical etching and milling, and the manufacture of printed circuit boards.

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The plants covered by these regulations are found throughout the United States but are concentrated in heavily industrialized areas. These standards contain specific numerical limitations based on an evaluation of available technologies in each industrial subcategory. The specific numerical limitations are determined separately for each subcategory, and are imposed on pollutants which may interfere with, pass through, or otherwise be incompatible with a publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

What is Electroplating?

Electroplating applies a surface coating (typically by electro deposition) 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.

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Facilities Covered

The electroplating standards have specific numerical limitations for each subcategory, and are imposed on pollutants which may interfere with pass through, or otherwise be incompatible with a publicly owned treatment works (POTW). 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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Final Rule

The Federal Register notices that established and amended the electroplating standards are:

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Guidance and Background Documents

The 1984 guidance document, provided by the link below, provides information to assist Control Authorities and Approval Authorities in implementing the National Categorical Pretreatment Standards for the Electroplating and Metal Finishing Point Source Categories (40 CFR Part 413 and 40 CFR Part 433, respectively).

It is useful to Control Authorities in responding to most routine inquiries from regulated manufacturers. More complex inquiries may require the use of listed references in the Guidance document. Approval Authorities may find this manual useful in responding to specific category determination requests submitted by industries under the Electroplating and Metal Finishing regulations. Finally, the manual addresses the application of combined wastestream formula to integrated facilities with reulated and unregulated wastestreams.

Guidance Manual for Electroplating and Metal Finishing Pretreatment Standards (PDF) (EPA-440-1-84-091g; 973 K, 73 pp) (February 1984)
Development Documents:
Electroplating Final TDD (PDF) (EPA-440-1-79-003; 22.5 MB, 542 pp) (August 1979)
Regulatory Determination:
Regulatory Determination for the "PreKote" Surface Preparation Process (PDF) (115 K, 6 pp.) (April 2003)
Information on the Misuse of Sodium Dimethyldithiocarbamate (PDF) (38 K, 2 pp) (June 2000)

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Additional Information

For additional information regarding electroplating and casting industry effluent guidelines, please see electroplating contacts.

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Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Proposed Rule and Support Documents

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