Merck operates its own wastewater-treatment plants at many production and research facilities. The wastewater from the remainder of our production and research facilities is sent to a local municipal wastewater treatment facility. At a few facilities that are new to Merck, we are in the process of providing on-site systems to treat all process and sanitary wastewater to meet generally accepted industry standards.
These and other wastewater projects are being funded through a capital portfolio that Merck established in 2011 to support improvements to water systems and wastewater infrastructure at our facilities worldwide. We anticipate executing approximately 50 wastewater-focused capital projects globally over the next four years. These projects will directly support our goals to reduce our discharge of both chemical oxygen demand (COD) and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and will also treat Merck compounds.
COD and nutrients are relevant indicators of wastewater quality from our operations. We report both on what we discharge to surface water, as well as what is discharged to municipal treatment plants, where additional treatment is provided. Our 2011 COD discharge of 3,166 metric tons was 47 percent lower than our 2010 discharge. Our nutrient load has also improved by 23 percent, with 2011 nutrients in both discharges totaling 305 metric tons. These values predominantly reflect improved wastewater treatment technology at a facility in South America.
Since the early 1990s, we have established compound-specific criteria and procedures to assure that our factory discharges do not contain residual product that presents a risk to human health or the environment. For more on pharmaceuticals in the environment, see the Product Stewardship section.
For information about our water use and conservation program, see the Water section.