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05 March 2018
On December 17 2017 the National Waters Commission (CONAGUA) submitted to the Federal Regulatory Betterment Commission its draft revision of Official Standard NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996, which establishes the maximum permissible levels of pollutants in wastewaters discharged into national waters or properties.
The draft aims to modernise the official standard by including additional terms and definitions, pollutants and parameters regarding wastewater discharge into federal waters, as well as new sampling and reporting frequency obligations.
Under the National Waters Law and its associated regulations, any person or company required to discharge wastewater into a national water body or property can do so only by securing a wastewater discharge permit from the CONAGUA. Discharge permit holders are usually required to:
The proposed amendments to the official standard introduce the following additional parameters, which could affect a wide range of industrial, commercial and agricultural operations:
Conversely, the proposed amendments remove the following parameters:
The replacement of some parameters and the inclusion of new ones are based on the need for more trustworthy and precise analysis results that can clearly evidence whether a wastewater discharge could harm an aquatic ecosystem. For instance, the inclusion of total organic carbon aims to replace the chemical oxygen demand as a parameter for highly chlorinated discharges (those showing levels above 1,000 milligrams per litre of chloride).
The draft revised NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996 takes a more conservative approach to the frequency of sampling and reporting obligations required for municipal and non-municipal wastewater discharges:
Further, to determine the sampling and reporting frequency for non-municipal discharges, organic carbon and chemical oxygen demand will be considered, along with total suspended solids. This will replace the existing system, which considers only biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids, and eliminate the possibility of having annual reporting obligations (responsible parties will be mandated to take samples on a quarterly or bi-annual basis, as applicable). This change to the sampling and reporting frequency scheme aims to monitor risky and highly chlorinated discharges more closely.
Notwithstanding the above, NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996 permit holders must continue to comply with other sampling and reporting obligations, such as those provided under the Federal Duties Law, which contains complementary rules for the determination of payment schemes applicable to wastewater discharges into federal bodies based on the quality of the discharge.
Although the CONAGUA's proposed changes to NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996 may seem technical in nature, the legal implications should not be dismissed. Companies should pay close attention to the official publication of the official standard in the Federal Official Gazette, as it could change their entire compliance programme and require certified wastewater analysis laboratories to renew or update their certifications to include the new parameters. This should be of particular concern for companies which fall under the scope of the official standard, as they are required to carry out all wastewater sampling and analysis via an authorised and certified laboratory to avoid the CONAGUA deeming the results invalid.
As with all Mexican official standard update procedures undergoing public consultation via the Federal Regulatory Betterment Commission, the draft revised NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996 is still subject to modification before its official publication and enforcement.
For further information on this topic please contact Brenda A Rogel Salgado, Jeanett Trad Nacif, Juan Francisco Torres Landa or Mario Jorge Yanez at Hogan Lovells BSTL, SC by telephone (+52 55 5091 0000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Hogan Lovells BSTL, SC website can be accessed at www.hoganlovells.com.
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