Venezuela's waste management regulations have evolved considerably in the past 2 years with respect to both their nature and their enforcement. In order to effectively manage water runoff as a result of industrial and residential discharges and to prevent further degradation of fresh water sources, the Venezuelan government now demands that industries test and, if necessary, treat water that is discharged from operations bases, especially those bases that support oilfield operations.
At the same time, Venezuelan engineers are developing more cost-effective means to treat these effluents and offer a better service to companies affected by strict enforcement of these regulations.
Three different water treatment strategies were tried and evaluated in Venezuela. Each one has advantages and disadvantages depending on location, local regulation and available technical expertise. One technology employs the use of an automated filtration system, another employs simple flocculation and gravity removal of resultant flocs, and a third applies an emulsion breaker that assists flotation and removal of oily particles. Results are presented on water quality relative to discharge regulations, system performance and reliability, space and technical requirements, initial and operations costs.
Evaluating these technologies and deciding on the most appropriate for a particular application is not sufficient to maintain a cost-effective and legally compliant system. The objective of hazardous waste generators must be to establish partnerships with contractors and regulators to develop improved waste management processes in Venezuela. Furthermore, this process of developing practical, new technologies is crucial for dealing with these and other remediation problems in areas where the best available technology for one location may not be the best for another, even one with similar problems.
Venezuela is especially blessed with fresh water resources. Both ground and surface water are abundant. Venezuelan water resources provide most of the country's electrical power, as well as support a wide variety of physical and biological environments. However, 75 years of industrial development, including activities associated with petroleum exploration and production, have degraded the quality of many of these resources.
In the last few years, Venezuelan regulatory authorities have made significant progress in establishing and enforcing rules designed to reduce the rate of deterioration of the country's fresh water resources. In order to succeed in these efforts, a great deal of cooperation is required among all of the participants. Only together can the generators of hazardous wastes, the contractors capable of effective treatment of hazardous waste, and the authorities, who represent the citizenry, establish a practical system to minimize the environmental impact of industrial activities. The best intentions are useless if waste generators and contractors do not know what water quality characteristics are required, or if the regulations established are impossible to meet, even with Best Available Technology (BAT)1. Similarly, the best efforts of regulators are useless if there are no contractors who can apply appropriate water treatment technology or if the regulators lack the authority to enforce reasonable requirements. On the other hand, good cooperation among the stakeholders results in commitment on the part of the generator, profits for the contractor, and the desired maintenance, or even improvement, of the resource to the benefit of the people that the regulators represent.