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Filter Backwash Recycling Rule

General Information about the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule (FBRR)

What is the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule?

The FBRR requires filtered surface water suppliers using conventional or direct filtration to, where needed, change the return of recycle flows in their plant's treatment process. The FBRR requires that recycled filter backwash water, sludge thickener supernatant and liquids from dewatering processes be returned to a location so that all processes are employed, including coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation (conventional filtration only) and filtration. Water suppliers may apply to the Department of Environmental Protection for approval to recycle at an alternate location. Click here to view PA-DEP's FBRR Fact Sheet.

Why was the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule created?

If finished water supplies contain microbial contaminants, illnesses and disease outbreaks may result. The Federal EPA determined that of the 12 waterborne Cryptosporidiosis outbreaks that have occurred at drinking water systems since 1984, three were linked to contaminated drinking water from water utilities where recycle practices were identified as a possible cause. EPA also determined that other disinfection-resistant pathogens may also be removed more efficiently due to implementation of the FBRR. Exposure to other pathogenic protozoa (such as Giardia) or other waterborne bacterial or viral pathogens are likely to be reduced by the FBRR as well.

What recycle information does a system that is regulated under the FBRR need to collect and retain on file?

A system that is regulated under the FBRR needs to retain a written record of the following:

What if a system that is regulated under the FBRR fails to keep the proper FBRR records?

The 2009 General Update Rule amended the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule so that surface water systems that recycle spent filter backwash water must issue Tier 3 PN if they fail to comply with the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule reporting and record maintenance requirements.

  • The PA-DEP is required to be notified of this record-keeping failure within 48 hours.
  • The water supply must issue Tier 3 Public Notification to its consumers within one year. Click here for DEP's Tier 3 PN Template and Instructions for an FBRR Recordkeeping Violation. Directly mailing this public notice to consumers is an acceptable form of delivery for this Tier 3 public notification.
  • More information about issuing Tier 3 Public Notification can be found on DEP's PN Website.

Filter Backwash Recycling Rule Fact Sheet, Forms and Guidance

FBRR – Recycle Notification Form (3930-FM-BSDW0040)
The Filter Backwash Recycling Rule (FBRR) requires all systems that are permitted to recycle their backwash water (even if they are not currently doing so) to complete and submit a copy of the FBRR Recycle Notification Form to the DEP to the address noted on the form, as well as to retain a copy of the completed form on site.

FBRR – Recordkeeping Form (3930-FM-BSDW0041)
The Filter Backwash Recycling Rule (FBRR) requires any systems that are recycling any of the FBRR regulated waste streams to complete the FBRR Recordkeeping Form and retain it on file.

FBRR – Response Form (3930-FM-BSDW0433)
The Filter Backwash Recycling Rule (FBRR) requires all new systems - that recycle any of the FBRR regulated waste streams - to notify the DEP via the FBRR Response Form. Existing systems that begin to recycle any of the FBRR waste streams are also required to notify the DEP via this form.

Guidance for Evaluating Alternative Recycle Return Locations proposed under the FBRR (PDF) (3800-2129-002)
The Guidance for Evaluating Alternative Recycle Return Locations proposed under the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule is a technical guidance that contains details about the written request, plant schematic and turbidity limit compliance information that must be submitted to DEP for an alternative location request.

Tier 3 PN Template and Instructions for FBRR Recordkeeping Violation (3930-FM-BSDW0202)
The 2009 General Update Rule amended the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule so that surface water systems that recycle spent filter backwash water must issue Tier 3 PN if they fail to comply with the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule reporting and record maintenance requirements.

FBRR External Links

Pennsylvania's Final FBRR
(PA Bulletin, Vol.34, No.14, Saturday, April 3, 2004) The FBRR applies to public drinking water suppliers using conventional or direct filtration technologies to improve the control of waterborne, disease-causing organisms.

EPA's information on the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule
This link will take you to EPA's website on the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule. You can view or download technical guidance manuals and learn more about ongoing Filter Backwash Recycling rule-making efforts.