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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Ecology developing a winery statewide general permit?

The wine industry is growing rapidly so there is a need for standardized wastewater management requirements. The principal reason for a new winery general permit is to manage wastewater and to protect waters of the state (groundwater and surface water). Our goal is to develop a general permit that protects water quality, supports a strong economy, and meets the needs of the wine industry.

We heard from representatives of wineries that the vast majority of Washington wineries have very low annual production volumes and are already heavily regulated. In the proposed draft, we included flexibility, compliance options, benchmarks, and scaled requirements for small producers and existing facilities; and focused on best management practices and data collection.


What is winery process wastewater?

Winery process wastewater is any water which, during wine manufacturing or processing, comes in direct contact with, or results from, the production or use of any raw material, intermediate product, finished product, byproduct, or waste product. It may include:

  • Pomace (for example, grape skins, stems, and seeds.
  • Lees (deposits of dead or residual yeast and other particles that accumulate at the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and aging).
  • Bottle and barrel rinse water, and equipment/floor wash water.

Why is winery process wastewater a concern?

Winery process wastewater can have extreme ranges in pH and contains high levels of oxygen-demanding organic material and solids. This means it has the potential to contaminate groundwater, which is where many of us get our drinking water. Contamination can occur if a winery’s septic tank and drainfield system fails, if their wastewater lagoon leaks, or if they use too much untreated wastewater to irrigate their crops. Winery process wastewater can also overwhelm (hydraulically and organically) wastewater treatment plants which could cause untreated sewage to discharge to the Puget Sound, rivers, and groundwater. Another concern is if winery wastewater is allowed to enter rivers and streams, it can deplete oxygen in the water and harm aquatic life.


Are there any benefits to being covered by the general permit?

Yes. Coverage under a general permit gives you some level of legal and financial protections; and, therefore, certainty. The general permit provides broad coverage, economy of scale, and extensive protection. Individual permits are highly tailored and are, therefore, more likely to differ from other winery individual permits.


Will all wineries be affected by the general permit?

Not everyone in the winemaking industry will be covered by the Winery General Permit. We are proposing that wineries that discharge winery process wastewater to 1 of the 6 approved discharge methods (listed in the Winery General Permit) and do not qualify as one of the exceptions, must apply for permit coverage. We are proposing numerous exceptions. One example is that a winery that typically produces less than 7,500 cases per year is not required to apply for permit coverage. Another example is a winery that discharges to a delegated POTW (wastewater treatment plant) like one of the 5 delegated POTWs in King County or like the Walla Walla POTW, is not required to apply for permit coverage.


What is the difference between a delegated sewage treatment plant and a non-delegated one?

Delegated sewage treatment plants have delegated authority to issue permits to industrial operations that discharge wastewater to their sewage treatment plant. Those industrial facilities have an agreement with the plant and must meet specific requirements. The non-delegated sewage treatment plants are ones where Ecology issues the permit, in addition to the contract or user agreement issued by the non-delegated POTW. We will work with the non-delegated sewage treatment plants to ensure they can work effectively with winery wastewater.

There are approximately 20 delegated wastewater treatment plants across the state.

List of delegated POTWs:

  • City of Spokane
  • Everett
  • King County (South, Westpoint, Carnation, Vashon, Brightwater)
  • LOTT Budd Inlet & Martin Way
  • Lynnwood
  • Pasco (Municipal & Industrial)
  • Pierce County & Cascadia
  • Quincy
  • Richland
  • Spokane County RWRF, Latah Creek, & Co-permittee w/ City
  • Tacoma (#1 & #3)
  • Vancouver (Marine Park & Westside)
  • Walla Walla
  • Yakima



Stacey Callaway



Lake Chelan winery, photo courtesy of VineLines

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Stacey Callaway