Point source pollution, on the most basic level, is water pollution that comes from a single, discrete place, typically a pipe. The Clean Water Act specifically defines a "point source" in section 502(14) of the Act. That definition states:
The term "point source" means any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged. This term does not include agricultural storm water discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture.
It is important to remember that not all pipes create point source pollution. Federal and state laws exist that require permits and place limits on many different types of businesses, cities, and industry that may discharge water containing pollutants to a pipe that, in turn, may flow to a river, stream or lake. These limits are set at levels protective of both the aquatic life in the waters which receive the discharge and protective of human health. These laws require water that comes from point sources be treated in modern facilities called wastewater treatment plants. This technology treats and removes pollutants from wastewater so that when the process is completed, the water is safe enough to put back into nearby rivers and streams.
Wastewater treatment facilities (sometimes referred to as sewage plants) are an important part of modern infrastructure. These are facilities specifically designed to reduce pollutants in wastewater to a level nature can handle. Wastewater is used water. It includes substances such as human waste, food scraps, oils, soaps, and chemicals. Wastewater is water that comes from our homes, businesses, and even industry. This water is transported via miles and miles of pipes to a wastewater treatment plant, where state-of-the-art technology is used to clean the water and insure it meets federal and state water quality standards. Wastewater treatment plants use combinations of technologies to screen, settle, treat, or biologically change pollutants to protect our waters. Certain types of industries generate wastewater that needs special pretreatment before the water can even be sent to a regular wastewater treatment facility.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is charged with the regulation of point source pollution and has a comprehensive permit program that insures water quality is maintained and protected while allowing for businesses, industry, and cities serve the needs of the citizens of Indiana.