Small Business Wastewater Treatment: Implementing Best Practices


Implementing sustainable wastewater management practices is crucial for small businesses aiming to reduce their environmental impact. Adopting cost-effective treatment solutions and prioritizing employee training enables small enterprises to comply with regulations while operating efficiently. 

This article provides an overview of key strategies small business owners can utilize to treat their wastewater responsibly.

Understanding Small Business Wastewater

Small businesses generate various types of wastewater from their daily operations, including process water, wash water, and sanitary sewage. Common sources in industrial facilities include manufacturing processes, equipment cleaning, washrooms, and food preparation. 

The composition and volume of wastewater depend on the industry. For instance, auto garages produce oily water, while restaurants generate grease-laden water. Unlike municipal wastewater, small business effluent requires customized treatment solutions.

Small companies often face challenges in treating their wastewater sustainably due to limited financial and human resources. However, neglecting treatment can lead to heavy penalties for non-compliance. Adopting low-cost decentralized systems tailored to their needs enables small businesses to meet regulations.

Regulatory Compliance

Small enterprises must comply with federal, state, and local policies regulating wastewater discharge. Key regulations include the Clean Water Act and permits issued by municipalities and regional water boards stipulating effluent standards. While compliance is mandatory, small businesses can utilize cost-saving strategies like employee training, water conservation, and maintenance to avoid expenditures on end-of-pipe treatment equipment.

Cost-Efficient Treatment Options

Practical, low-cost solutions suited for small facilities include settling tanks, screen filters, oil water separators, biological treatment using microbes, and constructed wetlands. These systems treat water onsite before discharging it or recycling it for reuse.

Oil skimming devices and coalescing media can remove petroleum products from oily wastewater generated by oil refineries, car washing facilities, and auto shops. Oil skimmers are automated systems that remove floating oil from the water surface into a collection tank. Coalescing media plates made of plastic help separate oil from water through gravity. These affordable options prevent oil spills and enable regulatory compliance.

Sustainable Practices for Various Industries

Training staff about waste minimization, proper chemical storage, and spill prevention helps improve housekeeping and reduce contamination at the source. Involving employees in sustainability initiatives enhances their environmental awareness.

Restaurants should adopt water-saving equipment like low-flow pre-rinse spray valves and air-cooled ice machines. Retail facilities can install waterless urinals and compost wastewater from reverse osmosis systems. Monitoring water use, visually inspecting equipment for leaks, and maintaining treatment systems prevent disruptions and improve efficiency.

Success Stories

Café Vita, a Seattle-based coffee shop, invested in an EcoVolt Reactor using electrochemical oxidation technology to treat their high-strength coffee wastewater onsite. This helped them reduce sewer discharge by 80% and scale up operations sustainably.

Full Circle Mushroom Farm in Georgia addressed high-nutrient wastewater by constructing a water garden using aquatic plants like sedges, rushes, and cannas. This natural system filtered their effluent cost-effectively without using chemicals.


Adopting decentralized wastewater solutions tailored to their needs allows small businesses to manage their water sustainably. Prioritizing employee training, leak checks, and maintenance improves operational efficiency. Implementing best practices also enables regulatory compliance without significant expenditure. Small enterprises can build resilience by taking responsibility for their wastewater and integrating it into their business model. Sustainable wastewater management is vital for the long-term success of small businesses.