Environmental Protection Agency Guide to Source Flow Reduction

Infiltration System InfographicFlow controls on stormwater are legal provisions that allow state and local governments to designate the places where municipal solid waste (MSW) is taken for processing, treatment, or disposal. Because of flow controls, designated facilities may hold monopolies on local MSW and/or recoverable materials. Consequently, flow control has become a heavily debated issue among state and local governments, the waste management and recycling industries, and environmental groups.

In 1992, Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review flow control as it pertains to municipal solid waste management; specifically, Congress directed the EPA to:

  • Review and compare states with and without flow control authority;
  • Identify the impact of flow controls on human health and the environment; and
  • Describe the impacts of flow control on the development of state and local waste management capacity and on the achievement of state and local goals set for source reduction, reuse, and recycling.

The EPA defines source flow reduction as activities designed to reduce the volume or toxicity of waste generated, including the design and manufacture of products with minimum toxic content, minimum volume of material, and/or a longer useful life.

Source reduction is fundamentally different from the other elements of the solid waste hierarchy. Recycling and disposal options all come into play after goods have been used. Source reduction, in contrast, takes place before materials have been identified as waste. To implement source reduction, solid waste managers need to promote practices that reduce waste before it is generated.

In March and April of 2015, municipalities received letters from the EPA outlining additional regulatory action in the form of an interim consent order requiring them to assess source flow reduction opportunities. Of the 200 million gallons of sewage that ALCOSAN treats on a daily basis, about 120 million gallons, or 60%, of that flow can be attributed to inflow and infiltration in the municipal systems' deteriorated pipes.

The EPA is set to address the need for cost-effective source flow reduction techniques for municipalities and will pass this information along when it becomes available.