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Thermal Discharges
National Summary
Thermal effluents are regulated because heat is defined as a pollutant under Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 502(6). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines thermal pollution as discharges of heated water from industrial processes that have the potential to alter the growth and existence of aquatic organisms. Therefore, a water quality standard exists for temperature and it is applied to all regulated discharges to waters of the United States. A facility may be authorized to discharge pollutants into U.S. waters by obtaining a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
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