What to Know About Wastewater When Buying an Industrial Property


Considering an investment in industrial land? Perhaps the property houses large buildings suitable for further use or maybe the long-vacant land is well suited for new construction. Before you pull the trigger on a large industrial property purchase, it may be crucial to understand the ins and outs of industrial wastewater management.

What is Industrial Wastewater?

Industrial wastewater is the bi-product of industrial and/or chemical activities. In most cases, parcels of land may or may not be designated for industrial wastewater; local regulations typically zone-specific land for industrial activities. Thousands of commercial and industrial operations produce millions of gallons of wastewater each year, from dry cleaners to chemical processors to paper processing plants. A few of the most common kinds of pollutants found in industrial wastewater may include heavy metals, organic/inorganic material, gases, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, O&G, and more.

How is Industrial Wastewater Treated?

Under state and federal law, industrial wastewater must be properly treated to meet a host of environmental specifications before being discharged into sewers or the environment. There are several ways to accomplish this: holistic wastewater treatment at a treatment plant including physical, biological, and chemical treatment; pretreatment of the effluent at the industrial site; treatment by means of activated sludge; anaerobic treatment; reclaim and reuse, are all options.

Unfortunately, many industrial sites – especially vacant sites – may contain remnants of untreated wastewater. It’s not uncommon to find large industrial wastewater tanks or lagoons, with or without contents on the site of a marketed industrial property. In some cases, these properties are purchased without an understanding of the environmental issues.  In most cases, a buyer’s due diligence is the best way to discover environmental contamination.

Buying a Site with Previous Wastewater Issues

Purchasing an industrial property is a far more complicated process than purchasing residential or commercial properties. It’s imperative that an industrial property be subject to a professional environmental site assessment prior to closing on the property. A professional environmental assessment is needed to fully determine the extent of the contamination. Performing environmental due diligence and estimating the cost of necessary environmental engineering services is ultimately the buyer’s responsibility.

Here are a few things to consider before purchasing an industrial property that has/had wastewater operations:

  • Is it clear (either via public record or seller-provided documentation) exactly what potential contaminants were treated, stored, or disposed of onsite? Were they biological? Chemical?
  • Was/is the wastewater stored on-site or was it moved to a separate facility for treatment? Does wastewater remain on-site? How the wastewater was conveyed (i.e. pipe system, trucks, etc.)?
  • To what extent, if any, has the wastewater contaminated the property’s soil, groundwater, and/or surface water? In most states, governments require responsible parties to clean up residual contamination, even if previously undisclosed. Most states offer incentives for buyers or sellers willing to take on brownfield redevelopment.
  • What will be required – time, money, effort – to effectively treat the anticipated waste stream? Techniques vary widely, from the application of granular activated carbon to electro adsorption to the installation of membrane technology.
  • If the new project will create industrial wastewater, how will it be conveyed and treated? Is the existing wastewater infrastructure beneficial?

Shield Engineering has worked on hundreds of environmental site assessments across the country. Ranging from single sites to portfolio-wide projects, we offer actionable environmental consulting on behalf of lawyers, developers, investors and more.

Do you have questions about a planned or existing industrial wastewater project? Complete the form below to contact our team of experts today and get reliable answers from our experts.

View All Blogs

Contact us for additional information


Contact Us

Call us at (800) 395-5220