The reliability of a treatment process is addressed in terms of achieving a regulatory effluent concentration standard and the design safety factors associated with the treatment process. This methodology was then applied to two aqueous hazardous waste treatment processes: packed tower aeration and activated sludge (aerobic) biological treatment. The designs achieving 95 percent reliability were compared with those designs based on conventional practice to determine their patterns of conservatism. Scoping-level treatment costs were also related to reliability levels for these treatment processes. The results indicate that the reliability levels for the physical/chemical treatment process (packed tower aeration) based on the deterministic safety factors range from 80 percent to over 99 percent, whereas those for the biological treatment process range from near 0 percent to over 99 percent, depending on the compound evaluated. Increases in reliability per unit increase in treatment costs are most pronounced at lower reliability levels (less than about 80 percent) than at the higher reliability levels (greater than 90 percent, indicating a point of diminishing returns. Additional research focused on process parameters that presently contain large uncertainties may reduce those uncertainties, with attending increases in the reliability levels of the treatment processes.