Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

More water topics (A - O)

More water guidance in alphabetical order from A to O

Additional resources

If you excavate coal, metal ores or other minerals, you may expose rocks and minerals that contain sulphur. If sulphur mixes with water and oxygen it can cause groundwater to become acidic. This is called acid mine drainage (AMD).

AMD can contain highly polluting substances such as lead, zinc, iron, mercury and cadmium. It often occurs when a mine is closed because any exposed sulphur will mix with water that floods the mine once you stop pumping the water out.

Contaminated water from spoil heaps and stockpiles of crushed and waste rock can also create an acidic discharge called acid rock drainage (ARD), although the term AMD is often used to cover both.

What you must do

If your business has a permit, licence or exemption you must comply with its conditions, including any conditions about surface water and groundwater. If you do not comply with conditions, you can be fined or sent to prison.

Does your business need a permit, licence or exemption?

You must comply with any conditions in your mineral planning consent, including conditions about AMD and ARD. If you breach the conditions for your site you may be liable for the costs of any clean up.

You may need consent from your regulator if you discharge to the public sewer, surface water or groundwater. For further information, see our guidance on discharges to water and sewer.

Good practice

  • Minimise the area of waste rock that you expose to the air.
  • Stockpile overburden and waste heaps on low permeability surfaces, such as hard standing areas or clay-rich soils.
  • Compact your stockpiles or waste heaps to reduce their exposure to oxygen and to minimise the amount of rainwater than can seep through.
  • Cap your finished waste heaps with impermeable materials, such as clay, to reduce rainwater leaching.
  • Collect and treat leachate before you discharge it.
  • Use alkali, such as limestone chips, to neutralise acidic material.
  • Collect and treat run-off from your site in lined settlement ponds.

Further information on acid mine drainage

Hazardous / special waste

British Geological Survey: Legislation and Policy - Mine waste

QPANI: Guidance for the Wise Use of Water in the Aggregates and Quarry Producers Industry

GOV.UK: About mine water and acid mine drainage

International Network for Acid Prevention: GARD guide

PIRAMID Consortium: Engineering guidelines for the passive remediation of acidic and/or metalliferous mine drainage and similar wastewaters

UK Parliament: Treatment of acid mine drainage (Adobe PDF - 242KB)

A bund is a structure that storage tanks or barrels can be stored inside. It is designed to prevent oil, fuel or chemicals from escaping into the environment if the storage tank or barrels leak or burst.

Good practice

Location

Identify a location on site where you can set up a storage compound for oil, fuel and chemicals. Ideally, the compound should remain in the same place for the duration of your works. It should be as far away as possible from surface waters, groundwater and surface water drains.

Plan how the storage compound will be removed at the end of the contract.

Identify the types of waste that will be present and where you can dispose of them.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

Hazardous / special waste

Capacity

A bund should be able to contain 110% of the volume of the largest container stored within it.

For drum storage, the bund capacity of 25% of the maximum volume of material stored is sufficient.

A notice close to the bund should display the maximum number of barrels and containers that can be stored at any one time.

Maintenance

Your environmental regulator can serve you with an 'anti pollution works notice' if your site causes, or is at risk of causing water pollution. This notice will require you to clean up any pollution and to take action to prevent any further pollution.

The volume of rainwater within any bunded area should never exceed 5% of the total volume of the bund. Accumulated rainwater and other liquid in the base of the bund will reduce its capacity and may need to be disposed of as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

If possible, put a roof over the bund and cover the sides that receive the most severe weather. By reducing the amount of contaminated rainwater in the bund that you must dispose of, you could save money.

Nominate someone to check regularly that the bund is intact and not leaking.

Evidence of leaks can include discolouration of unrendered block or concrete bund walls or an oily sheen on any water standing on the ground close to the bund. If the bund is leaking, you should take immediate action to prevent land contamination and pollution of surface waters and groundwater. Your environmental regulator will be able to advise you on what action you should take.

Contact your environmental regulator

Where appropriate, you could paint concrete bunds or refuelling areas with epoxy type paint to prevent fuel and oil drips from soaking in.

When you break out the concrete at the end of the project, it may not need to be disposed of as hazardous/special waste as it is less likely to contain soaked-in oil or diesel. Look at the broken out concrete to see if it is discoloured, smell it to see if it smells of oil, diesel or petrol. If you are unsure, have samples laboratory tested. You should also make sure that your waste haulage contractor agrees with your classification of the material.

Associated equipment

All hoses, valves, trigger guns, funnels and other associated equipment should be kept within the bunded area to prevent land around the bund from being contaminated.

Any trigger guns present should be fitted with an automatic cut off. This will help prevent spills of fuel onto the ground from equipment or containers being overfilled.

Deliveries

Supervise deliveries of raw materials or fuels to your site and clearly label tanks with their contents and storage capacity; this will reduce the risk of overfill and spillage.

Records

Keeping the following records may be useful to you:

  • when the bund was last inspected
  • the rainwater level – the more rainwater present within the bund, the lower its capacity for containing spills
  • how frequently rainwater is removed – this overlaps with your duty of care for the disposal of contaminated rainwater
  • any maintenance work undertaken on the bund.

Further information

Oil storage

PPG 2 Above ground oil storage tanks (Adobe PDF - 276KB)

PPG 21 Pollution incident response planning (Adobe PDF – 318KB)

This guidance is relevant if you produce liquid effluent from your metal finishing operations and you treat your effluent on site.

You should treat effluent before you discharge it because untreated effluent is likely to contain metals that could damage bacterial treatment beds at sewage treatment works, contaminate sewage sludge and cause water pollution. If you pollute water, you are very likely to be committing an offence. You could be fined or ordered to stop your operations.

What you must do

Check if you need a permit, licence or exemption

If you operate an effluent treatment plant at your site you may need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit, waste management licence or registered exemption.

Does your business need a permit, licence or exemption?

If you have a permit, licence or registered exemption you must comply with its conditions. If you do not comply with conditions you can be fined or even sent to prison.

You must speak to your regulator before you discharge treated or untreated effluent to a public sewer, surface water or ground waters. You may need consent or another authorisation. For more information, see our guidance on discharges to water and sewer.

Comply with your waste responsibilities

Most chemical effluent treatment plants treat the effluent by controlling pH levels and allowing metals to precipitate out (drop out as solids).

You must comply with your waste responsibilities when you dispose of waste from your treatment plant, including any sludge your plant produces.

You must be careful when you handle metal hydroxide precipitate. You must keep its pH close to neutral and must not expose it to acidic conditions or you will re-mobilise the metals.

You will need to treat some filter cake from electroplating operations as hazardous/special waste.

Good practice

Reduce the load on your effluent treatment plant by minimising the waste you produce and monitoring the volume of water your business uses.

Carefully control the pH of your effluent to prevent metals, particularly aluminium and zinc, going back into solution.

Cover your settling tanks to avoid clumps of solids settling due to high temperatures.

Monitor the efficiency of your filter press. If you reduce the water content of your sludge this might reduce your waste management charges.

If your precipitation methods do not achieve the effluent quality you need to meet your discharge consent limits you could use other methods - for example, evaporation, ion-exchange, reverse osmosis and electrolysis.

What you must do

Protecting watercourses

You must not discharge or allow water contaminated with silt to enter a watercourse or drain as it can cause pollution.

Channel run-off away from watercourses and surface water drains.

Protect all surface water drains and watercourses with cut-off ditches or earth bunds. These should be at least 10 metres from the watercourse.

Settlement tanks

In Scotland, discharge from construction sites operated after 1 April 2007 must be drained to a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) unless it is from a single dwelling or to coastal waters.

SEPA: The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 - A Practical Guide (Adobe PDF - 562KB)

Good practice

Protecting watercourses

Do not strip soil up to the edges of any watercourse, stream or drainage ditch because loose soil can be washed into the watercourse. This can silt-up the riverbed and harm wildlife. You can be liable for causing pollution even if the pollution was only caused by your indirect actions.

When you plan your works, think about where surface water will run once the vegetation is cleared.

Identify any watercourses, surface and foul drains, or field drains in or next to your site that your work may affect.

Existing field drains can provide a route for the discharge of polluted water to watercourses. It is essential that you know where they are and do not allow polluted run-off to enter them. This is particularly important where you choose to discharge silty water over the ground.

Plan ahead to manage silt run-off so that it does not pollute watercourses or ruin any Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) designed for the completed phase.

SUDS

Phasing your works

Produce a method statement to address how the amount of silty water you produce will be minimised and how you will stop it directly or indirectly entering watercourses or drains.

Your method statement should consider the phasing of the works. Large areas of cleared vegetation will increase the risk of run-off causing pollution.

Strip vegetation and topsoil in sequence, clearing only the areas where you need to work.

Minimise the amount of exposed ground and stockpiles of soil on your site. This will reduce the amount of silty water that you have to deal with.

Phase your works to ensure that mud from vehicles or roads or surface water run-off from areas under construction do not enter surface water drainage of areas already completed.

If the completed phase has Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS), include details of how these will be protected during the construction phase in your method statements.

If the site is on a slope, consider whether the up-slope works can be completed first to prevent silty water running down-slope into completed works and drainage.

For projects that require open trenches, plan your work so that the length of trench needed at any one time is kept to a minimum. Open trenches will produce silty water.

What you must do

You must not discharge silty water to a watercourse as it can cause pollution.

You must treat silty water prior to discharge to ensure that the silt settles out. This requires the use of lagoons, settlement tanks or grassy areas that slow the water down enough for the solids to drop out.

Removing silt

Before you start work, identify and mark out any areas of land you intend to use for sacrificial or temporary surface water drainage measures. This may include temporary settlement ponds or Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS).

Design and construct these areas so that they can accommodate the run-off from your work. If this is not considered before you start work it can be difficult to fit it around work that has already begun.

Ensure that any water you discharge over ground does not enter field drainage systems or highway drainage systems. These systems usually lead to streams or watercourses and you will be liable for any resulting pollution.

Clean water that has gathered in the base of an excavation or clean water discharged from a settlement tank can be pumped out over adjacent ground as long as you:

  • only pump over land that is part of your site or you have permission from the landowner to pump
  • pump at a rate that allows the water to be quickly absorbed into the ground
  • move the discharge point around to prevent ponds forming
  • don't pump onto land that is already saturated, as this can lead to pollution if water flows overland and into a watercourse.

Do not pump water onto areas that have been stripped of vegetation or topsoil as it is likely to pick up high levels of silt. If this water enters a watercourse, it could cause pollution.

CIRIA have produced a document called 'Control of Water Pollution from Construction Sites - Guidance for consultants and contractors C532' (2001) which outlines methods of water control including retention time calculations for settlement lagoons.

Information can also be found in 'Pollution Prevention Guideline (PPG) 6: Working at construction and demolition sites.

PPG 6 Working at construction and demolition sites (Adobe PDF - 8.9MB)

SEPA: Silt control while dredging 2015

What you must do

Abstraction and dewatering

If, as part of your works, you are de-watering or pumping water that has gathered in an excavation, then you will not require an abstraction licence if the water is to be disposed of solely to prevent interference to your building operations.

If you intend to use water from a de-watering operation for dust suppression or pressure testing on site, you may require an abstraction licence.

In Scotland all abstractions are controlled by the 'Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011.

Disposing of water from dewatering operations

In most cases, excavations below ground level will accumulate water.

Before you start work, plan how you will treat and dispose of groundwater that enters your excavations, shafts or tunnels. You should include this information in your method statement.

You may require authorisation to discharge this water into the water environment. Contact your environmental regulator for advice.

If you need an authorisation to discharge to a watercourse, it can take up to four months to obtain.

For long term excavations or large jobs, consider well point dewatering. This method removes the groundwater directly from the ground before it reaches your excavation. As this can have an effect on the local groundwater table, you should contact your environmental regulator when considering this technique.

Contact your environmental regulator

Dealing with silty water

Settlement tanks

Good practice

When you operate a water pump, ensure that the pump outlet is positioned away from the excavation to prevent water running back in.

Where possible, switch off the pump before it begins to suck up the last dregs of water as these are likely to contain high levels of silt.

If the base of the excavation needs to be free of water, dig a small sump, put a perforated pipe into it and surround the outside of the pipe with a suitable grade of clean stone. Put the sump pump inside the perforated pipe. This will help stop the sides of the sump falling in and blocking the pump inlet. Although it will keep the base of your excavation free from water, any water produced may still be silty.

If the site is or could be contaminated, or you suspect that the water in your excavation is contaminated with anything other than silt, you must have samples taken and laboratory tested before you pump this water out. The results of these tests will help you decide how to dispose of the water. If the water is not contaminated, you may be able to discharge it over land. However, if it is contaminated you must have it taken off site for disposal. Signs of contamination can include colour, smell or an oily sheen. However, be aware that visual examination or smell alone cannot detect some sorts of contamination.

There is a type of harmless bacteria that can form a multicoloured sheen on the surface of standing water. This sheen looks similar to that caused by oil. The easiest way of distinguishing the two is to drag a stick through the material. If oil is present, then it will usually remain as a constant layer. If the sheen is caused by bacterial growth, then it will break up into smaller pieces with obvious and irregular edges. If in doubt, you should have the water tested before pumping it out. Water that contains oil should be disposed of at a licensed facility as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

Organic matter such as milk, food, crops, dirty water, silage effluent and slurry is highly polluting to watercourses. The bacteria that is already present in water uses organic matter to multiply and at the same time it removes oxygen from the water. Without oxygen the fish and small insect life in watercourses cannot survive.

If you let ammonia from slurry or manure run-off get into watercourses it can poison the fish and insects living there.

Substances such as oil, pesticides, sheep dip, fertilisers and silt can all pollute watercourses. If you allow any polluting matter to enter surface waters or groundwater, you may be committing a pollution offence.

What you must do

Ensure that contaminated drainage does not enter watercourses, surface water drains, land drains or groundwater. If you allow any polluting matter to enter surface waters or groundwater, you may be committing a pollution offence.

If you discharge any sewage effluent, trade effluent or contaminated run-off to surface waters or groundwater you must first have:

  • in Northern Ireland, a discharge consent, groundwater authorisation or pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit
  • in Scotland, an authorisation under the Controlled Activity Regulations (CAR) or a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit.

Water pollution

PPG 1 General guide to the prevention of pollution (Adobe PDF – 95.8KB)

If you discharge any effluents to a public sewer you must have either a trade effluent consent or have entered into a 'trade effluent agreement' with your sewerage company.

Trade effluent - discharges to sewers

Water UK: Contact your water company

Scotland on Tap: Water and sewerage providers in Scotland

You must not let effluent from cleaning and disinfecting animal housing enter soakaways, surface water drains or watercourses. You should dispose of washwaters by mixing them with slurry and spreading them onto land. If you need to dispose of unusually large volumes or concentrations of disinfectant then you may need prior written authorisation from your environmental regulator.

Contact your environmental regulator

Dairy washwater that contains animal excreta is defined as 'slurry'. You must therefore ensure that you store this washwater using the same precautions as you would use when storing slurry.

Storing slurry

Scotland

If you keep livestock in Scotland then you must prevent significant poaching of any land that is within 5 metres of any surface water or wetland.

Prevent livestock from entering land that is within 5 metres of any well, spring or borehole that supplies water for human consumption.

You must not position livestock feeders within 10 metres of any surface water or wetland.

Farming and Water: Keeping livestock

Good practice

Design animal housing to minimise the area that could be contaminated with slurry. This will reduce the amount of slurry you have to deal with. If you roof-over your yards you could reduce contaminated run-off.

Divert uncontaminated water, for example roof water, away from dirty areas. Only clean water can be discharged directly to watercourses or soakaways.

Store waste plant debris such as cuttings and rotten fruit in areas with contained drainage to prevent contamination of watercourses.

Further information

The codes of good agricultural practice provide more information on how to prevent water pollution.

In Northern Ireland, see section 4.1 of the DARD code of good practice for water, air and soil.

DAERA: Code of good agricultural practice for the prevention of pollution of water, air and soil

In Scotland, see section 4.30 of the Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity (PEPFAA) Code.

Scottish Government: Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity (PEPFAA Code) 2005 (Scotland) (Adobe PDF 1.34MB)

Information on preventing water pollution from farms is available from the Farming and Water Scotland website.

Farming and Water Scotland

If you pollute water or cause or risk causing environmental damage to water, you are committing an offence.

What you must do

Get authorisation to discharge to surface waters and ground waters

You must get authorisation from your environmental regulator before you discharge anything other than uncontaminated water to surface waters or ground waters. You must comply with all of the conditions of your authorisation or you may be prosecuted and fined.

Your authorisation could be:

  • in Northern Ireland, a discharge consent, groundwater authorisation or pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit
  • in Scotland, an authorisation under the Controlled Activity Regulations (CAR) or a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit.

In Scotland, certain discharges to surface waters are automatically authorised by general binding rules (GBR). In such cases, you do not need to apply for authorisation from SEPA, but you must comply with the conditions of the GBR. You can check to see if your discharges are covered by a GBR in the CAR practical guide.

SEPA: CAR practical guide(Adobe PDF - 562KB)

If you need to construct a new outfall structure for a discharge:

  • in Northern Ireland you may need consent from the Rivers Agency, and you should contact your local office for further information
  • in Scotland your discharge authorisation will cover any construction.

Rivers Agency: Area offices

Get permission to discharge to public sewers

You must get permission from your water and sewerage company or authority before you discharge anything to their drainage system. If you are a tenant you may need your landlord's permission to connect to a private surface water drain.

Water UK: Contact your water company

Scotland on Tap: Water and sewerage providers in Scotland

A public foul sewer collects foul water (sewage and trade effluent) only. A surface water sewer collects surface water drainage only. A public combined sewer collects both foul and surface water drainage.

You can discharge:

  • sewage from domestic facilities, eg toilets, basins and canteens, to a public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer
  • trade effluent to a public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer
  • clean uncontaminated water to a separate surface water sewer or to a public combined sewer.

Before you release trade effluent into a public sewer you must have a trade effluent consent or enter into a trade effluent agreement with your water and sewerage company or authority. Once you have ,a consent, you must comply with its conditions.

Trade effluent - discharges to sewers

You do not need permission to discharge sewage from domestic facilities to the nearest public foul sewer or to a public combined sewer. If you have any concerns about your discharges to sewer, contact your water and sewerage company or authority.

Water UK: Contact your water company

Scotland on Tap: Water and sewerage providers in Scotland

If your business is in an area where you can't be connected to a public sewer, you may have a septic tank or package treatment plant. See pollution prevention guideline (PPG) 4 for guidance. However, you should connect to a public sewer if it is possible.

PPG 4 Treatment and disposal of sewage where no foul sewer is available (Adobe PDF – 244KB)

Prevent environmental damage

Water pollution can be classed as environmental damage in some circumstances.

You must prevent and remediate environmental damage that occurs from water pollution caused by your business activities. If anyone else reports environmental damage as a result of your activities, your enforcing authority will have to investigate. For more information see our guidance on environmental damage.

Good practice

Store hazardous materials and chemicals safely

Store any hazardous materials, fuel, oil or chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills. This may be a legal requirement. This should be within a secondary containment system (SCS) such as:

  • an impermeable bunded area
  • a bunded pallet or spill pallet
  • a sump pallet
  • a bunded storage unit
  • a bunded drum store
  • a storage cabinet with an integral sump.

Your bund and any bunded pallets should be able to contain at least 110% of the volume of the largest tank or 25% of the total volume you are likely to store, whichever is greater.

For more information see our guidance on chemical storage and oil storage.

Follow the pollution prevention guidelines (PPGs)

Follow the PPGs to avoid causing pollution. This is particularly important if your business is in an area that has vulnerable groundwater.

Pollution prevention guidelines

In Northern Ireland, you can find out if you are in an area where groundwater is particularly vulnerable by using the GeoIndex tool on the British Geological Survey (BGS) website.

BGS: GeoIndex

In Scotland, contact your environmental regulator to find out if you are in an area where groundwater is particularly vulnerable.

Contact your environmental regulator

Label your drainage system

Keep an up-to-date and accurate drainage plan of your site. This will help you and your staff identify the locations of all the drains and sewers and where they lead.

Colour code your drainage system by painting manhole covers, gullies and grills using a recognised colour coding system: blue for surface water drains and red for foul water drains. This will help you to identify which system you are discharging to and also where any spills will end up.

If you store oil or fuel on your site, consider installing oil separators in your surface water drainage system. These will trap oil from contaminated run-off, which you can empty from the separator.

PPG 3 Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (Adobe PDF – 78.6KB)

Supervise deliveries

Supervise deliveries of materials and fuels to your site.

Clearly label tanks with their contents and storage capacity and provide a method for measuring the amount in the tank. This will reduce the risk of overfilling and spills.

Deal with spills

Keep absorbent materials such as sand and other containment equipment suitable for the type and quantity of fuel, oil and chemicals you store and use on your site. Keep them close to where you might need them, particularly in delivery areas. Make sure that your staff know where they are and how to use them. You can buy spill kits containing appropriate spill equipment for the substances you store.

Report pollution incidents as soon as they happen to the environmental regulators' UK-wide incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Prepare a pollution incident response procedure for dealing with spills. Make sure that your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it.

PPG 21: Pollution incident response planning

Further information on discharges to water and sewer

PPG 1 General guide to the prevention of pollution (Adobe PDF – 95.8KB)

QPANI: Guidance for the Wise Use of Water in the Aggregates and Quarry Producers Industry

Drip trays provide temporary storage for containers and drums. They are useful for preventing drips and small leaks onto the ground, mainly in operational areas where chemicals and small amounts of fuel or oil are needed. They are not bunds and will not prevent large quantities of chemicals or fuels from spilling onto the ground.

Good practice

There are several types of drip tray available for storing less than 200 litres of fuel. These include drip trays with built in oil separators (interceptors) and basic metal trays with upturned sides.

You must empty drip trays regularly. Otherwise they will have insufficient volume to contain any spill that may occur.

A sheen on the surface of water in a drip tray shows that oil is present. You can remove oil by using oil-absorbent pads that are suitable for use on water. You may need to dispose of used oil-absorbent pads and drip tray contents as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

Rainwater from drip trays used for storing oil and fuel should only be poured out onto the ground if there is no oil sheen on the surface.

Rainwater in drip trays that are being used for storing chemicals may be contaminated. But the contamination might not be visible. If in doubt, you should test the rainwater and remove it from the site as hazardous/special waste if necessary.

Further information

PPG 2 Above ground oil storage tanks (Adobe PDF - 276KB)

PPG 21 Pollution incident response planning (Adobe PDF – 318KB)

What you must do

You must not make any discharge to surface water or groundwater without consulting your environmental regulator. If you discharge without an authorisation, permit or consent from your environmental regulator you could be prosecuted and fined or imprisoned.

Water pollution

You must not discharge trade effluent to a public sewer without trade effluent consent or a trade effluent agreement with your water and sewerage company or authority. If you discharge without a consent or agreement you could be prosecuted and fined or imprisoned.

Trade effluent - discharges to sewers

You must deal with materials from your effluent treatment plant that you discard, such as sludges and screenings, as waste.

Your business is legally responsible for its waste, from the date it is produced until it is recycled or disposed of, including all storage and handling stages.

Your waste responsibilities

If you or your contractor spread sludge from your effluent treatment plant on land, you may need a waste management licence from your environmental regulator.

You may be able to register an exemption. Before you spread sludge on land you should discuss your proposals with your environmental regulator.

Whether you have a permit, licence or are registered as exempt, you must still ensure that your activities do not:

  • endanger human health
  • pose a risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals
  • cause a nuisance through noise or odours
  • adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest.

Waste management licences

NIEA: Waste management licensing exemptions

SEPA: Activities exempt from waste management licensing

Good practice

Managing your treatment plant

Carefully manage your effluent treatment plant to make sure that you comply with the conditions of your consent or authorisation from your environmental regulator or sewerage company or authority. You should minimise the strength and variability of the incoming flow through good housekeeping and process control.

Use flow and load balancing to reduce shock loads on your treatment plants. Use an online balancing tank to manage normal daily fluctuations. You can use an offline tank as a holding or dump tank in emergencies.

Cleaning

Minimise the amount of cleaning chemicals you use. Many cleaning chemicals are very polluting to the water environment and may adversely affect your treatment plant. Train your staff to make them up and apply them efficiently.

Before you clean equipment, ensure that you remove as much product as possible. For example, you could use pigging systems to push the product through to the next stage of production, or you could simply allow longer drain-down times.

Drains

Use grate covers and catch pots for floor drains. These prevent food scraps entering drains. Ensure they are in place during cleaning.

Fit grease traps to drainage systems to prevent sewer blockages. You should inspect and maintain grease traps regularly to ensure they remain effective.

Clean up all spills immediately. Use dry clean-up methods, such as brushing or vacuuming. Never hose a spill down a drain.

Construct drains using materials that are resistant to cleaning materials. Cleaning materials can be highly corrosive.

Storage

You should ensure that you have enough storage capacity for the quantity of sludge that your on-site treatment plants produce. Remember that you may not be able to spread sludge on land during spells of bad weather.

Further information

PPG 4 Treatment and disposal of sewage where no foul sewer is available (Adobe PDF – 244KB)

GG187 guide: Reducing water and effluent costs in fish processing

GG242 guide: Reducing waste for profit in the dairy industry

GG233: Reducing water and effluent costs in poultry meat processing

You will need to pre-treat most effluent from tanneries before you discharge it to sewer. You will need to extensively treat effluent before you discharge it to a watercourse.

If you carry out batch processes, you should carefully manage your effluent to avoid discharging large quantities to the treatment plant at one time. These 'shock loads' could affect the performance of the treatment plant.

What you must do

Get permission for discharges

You must have permission from your environmental regulator before you discharge any sewage, effluent or contaminated run-off to the water environment. You must have a discharge consent (Northern Ireland) or an authorisation (Scotland).

You must comply with any conditions in your consent or authorisation.

Preventing water pollution

Contact your environmental regulator

Before you discharge trade effluent into a public sewer you must have a trade effluent consent or enter into a trade effluent agreement with your water and sewerage operator. Once you have a consent or agreement, you must comply with its conditions.

Trade effluent - managing liquid wastes

Water UK: Contact your water company

Scotland on Tap: Water and sewerage providers in Scotland

Comply with regulations for spreading sludge

If you spread sludge from effluent treatment plants onto agricultural or non-agricultural land, you must have a waste management licence or registered exemption. For information on what you must do, see our guidance for farmers on landspreading waste.

Good practice

Effluent treatment plants are designed for specific processes, depending on the quality and quantity of the effluent. If you make a change to your process, always consider the effect this change will have on your treatment plant.

Consider changes to your processes which can reduce the load on the plant, such as CO2 deliming.

Use suitably qualified engineers to make sure the treatment plant is properly designed to achieve the required quality and that it will operate effectively.

Minimise the strength and variability of the incoming flow by good housekeeping, process control and flow and load balancing. You may have to segregate waste streams and carry out pre-treatment to provide the most effective treatment.

Further advice on pollution control techniques is available from Envirowise.

Use self-cleaning screens on all drains in the process area to prevent coarse material such as skin, leather, hair and fat entering the drainage system.

Use fat traps, skimming or dissolved air flotation before the main treatment to remove oils and greases from the effluent.

Pre-treat your beamhouse or limeyard effluent to prevent hydrogen sulphide emissions. Techniques you can use to remove sulphide include aeration in the presence of manganese salts and precipitation by aeration in the presence of iron II salts.

Never allow untreated beamhouse and tanyard effluents to mix. This will change the pH and result in the generation of foul smelling and potentially harmful hydrogen sulphide.

Pre-treat the tanyard effluent to remove chrome. Chrome can be removed by precipitation, by using alkalis to increase the pH to above pH 8.

Pre-treat wet dyeing effluent in a sedimentation tank to remove the suspended pigment. You should treat supernatant liquor in your effluent treatment plant.

Monitor the effluent plant on a routine basis to make sure it is operating effectively.

Waste from fish cages can have a negative impact on the environment. It can:

  • smother bottom-dwelling animals and plants
  • remove oxygen from the water
  • increase the concentration of nutrients such as ammonia, nitrogen and phosphate.

Your discharge consent or authorisation from your environmental regulator will limit the number of fish held in cages to help minimise the impacts of fish waste.

Discharges to water or sewer

What you must do

If you use chemical treatments in cages, you must comply with any limits on chemical use included in your discharge consent or authorisation.

Good practice

You should use fallow periods, when fish are not held in cages, as they allow the lakebed to recover.

Use tarpaulins to minimise the amount of chemicals applied to the water.

You should take care to ensure that oil or fuel used for boats is not spilt onto land or into watercourses.

When you harvest fish, avoid spilling dead fish or blood into the water. Collect and remove all blood and fish waste. Take care not to spill any ice or water slurry into the water.

Frequently monitor cages for dead fish and remove them from the water as soon as possible.

This guidance is applicable if you wash down vehicles or machinery used on golf courses e.g. grass cutting machinery/equipment and golf buggies. It is also relevant to you if someone else visits your site to clean vehicles, as it is your responsibility to ensure they do not cause pollution.

If you wash down equipment used to apply pesticides or if you wash your vehicles or machinery at a commercial vehicle wash such as a car wash, this guidance does not apply to you. For information on pesticide equipment washing visit our ‘Pesticide or biocide equipment washing’ guidance pages.

What you must do

You must not allow wash water to enter the water environment. This will cause pollution and you could be prosecuted.

Washpad

Where possible wash down your equipment on a vegetated area well away from any watercourses or surface water drains. Alternatively try to use a raised area where the washings can run-off to a grass filter strip or swale.

Where suitable grassed areas are not available or you intend to collect the washings for disposal you may need to create a suitable wash pad area. This should be contained / bunded to allow the wash water to be directed through some form of grass trap. This could be a small chamber in the corner of the bunded area with a removable metal mesh to remove clippings. This should be cleaned and emptied at regular intervals and any waste removed from the grass trap should be appropriately disposed of.

Using water from surface waters or groundwater

If you use (abstract) water from surface water or groundwater for cleaning vehicles, you may need an authorisation from your environmental regulator. In Scotland refer to the CAR Practical Guide for further information.

Water use and efficiency

Discharging wash water

If you want to discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated water into a surface water drain, or directly into surface water or groundwater, you must have:

  • a discharge consent from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
  • an authorisation from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

If your business discharges trade effluent to a public sewer, you must have a valid trade effluent consent from your water and sewerage company.

 

Good practice

Remove pollutants before washing

Grass clippings contain a high quantity of Nitrogen and Phosphorous which can cause pollution if released into the water environment. Following grass cutting, use a maintenance track which will allow the majority of grass clippings to fall off the machinery wheels before you reach the maintenance yard.

Use water efficiently

Minimise water use by appropriately planning the frequency of wash downs.

Use brushes and air hoses where applicable to reduce water use.

Use trigger-operated spray guns. Make sure they have an automatic water supply cut-off.

You could use vehicle washing facilities and equipment that filter and reuse water, or set up a wash water recycling system.

Treat machinery wash water

There are various options available to treat machinery wash water, depending on the facility size, chemical activities and proximity to the water environment. These include:

Discharge direct to public foul sewer - The wash water will be treated in a waste water treatment works. You will be charged for this under your waste water charges. For further information contact your water and sewer provider.

Northern Ireland: Water UK - find your supplier

Scotland: Scotland on Tap - suppliers

Pipe to a sealed underground containment tank - Should be large enough to hold the full amount of washdown water. These will require regular emptying by a licensed contractor. 

Discharge to a grass filter strip or swale - This will cope with light background contamination (allowing degradation in the topsoil) and potentially could be built into the landscape of the course. A well designed swale with check dams to slow down the water flow may give sufficient treatment. For swale design download the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) Manual (CIRIA C753 2015).

For further treatment, any flow passing across the filter strip or swale can be directed to:

  • A vegetated area. This can be an area of open ground away from any water courses or a ‘designed’ soakaway. If the discharge to vegetated area is in line with SEPA General Binding Rules (GBRs) 10 and 11, it will not need a registration or licence from SEPA. Refer to the CAR Practical Guide
  • A detention basin or pond for final treatment. Refer to the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) Manual (CIRIA C753 2015)

A reed bed system that treats the waste water prior to release or reuse in wash down water is becoming a more appealing method of intercepting and treating washdown water. It can also create a new ecological habitat and can blend in well with the landscape of the golf course. They require minimal maintenance and when combined with another SUDS system on the course can be an additional control for surface water on the course.

Other designed filter system - There are suppliers working in the golf sector that provide technical filtering systems to remove particulates and oils from washdown water through a series of sumps and filtration sand and specialist granular activated carbon.

Biological wastewater treatment and recycling systems (closed loop systems) - Wash down water is filtered through a grass trap / sand filter and then treated biologically in above or below ground containers by micro-organisms to break down any contaminants. This produces clean water and carbon dioxide. Water passes through a final filter into secondary storage with a submersible pump for recycling the water back to the water gun/hose.

Cleaning chemicals

Minimise the amount of cleaning chemicals you use.

If you use detergents, choose biodegradable and phosphate-free products as they are less harmful to the environment.

Store all cleaning chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills. This should be within a secondary containment system (SCS) such as:

  • an impermeable bunded area
  • a bunded pallet or spill pallet
  • a bunded storage unit.

See our guidance on chemical storage for more information.

Train your staff

Train all staff to follow your machinery washing procedures. Display details of the procedures in the work area so staff can check them easily.

Further information relating to machinery washing

SEPA: CAR Practical guide (Adobe PDF - 562KB)

Scottish Golf -Environment - Machinery Wash Water Case Study

Businesses pay for the water they use, so making water efficiency an every day part of your work practices will save your business money as well as reducing its impact on the environment.

Start by monitoring water use and see where you use most water. This allows you to focus efforts on where most water is being used, and to record the reductions over time.

You can train and encourage staff to:

  • Shampoo once rather than twice
  • Turn the tap off between washes and report any leaks
  • Washing up/mopping floors – use half buckets as standard
  •  

Use water reducing basins/shower heads

  • Use low flow aerators; these can give you water savings of up to 10 litres/min per tap per use
  • Use shower heads that are designed to reduce water consumption. These can deliver water savings of up to 330 litres/day

Towels

You can use eco-towels. These can be made from a variety of materials such as bamboo pulp, or made from wood pulp which is a by-product, normally thrown away. They are more absorbent than towels, biodegradable and single-use, meaning you are guaranteed hygiene and you don’t need any detergents, water and energy to clean them.

Segregated paper towels can be taken for composting or anaerobic digestion. Check with your waste contractor.

Elan Hair Design, winners of a VIBES awards has removed washing machines and switched to compostable towels, and installed a water-saving system and low flushing toilets, enabling it to reduce its water demand by more than 80 per cent.

Read the case study on the VIBES website

Elan Hair Design

Cleaning

It is possible to almost eliminate the use of detergents by adopting a cleaning system that uses microfibers to clean mechanically rather than with water. A number of products exist that are designed for different applications, such as floor cleaning, furniture cleaning etc.

Also, rather than use disinfectants and anti-microbials it is possible to achieve a high standard of hygiene by using steam cleaners. These produce a small jet of steam and have low energy requirements. Hand held units are often rated at a maximum of around 1000watts.

There are products that combine microfiber and steam cleaning technologies.

Further information

 

Eco Hair and Beauty: Advice to clients on saving water/energy

Eco Hair and Beauty: Sustainable hairdressing (powepoint)

Eco Hair and Beauty: Video clips

Any business that wants to reduce its water use should contact:

In Scotland - Resource Efficient Scotland

In Northern Ireland – WRAP Northern Ireland

The Virtual Salon

Ecohair and beauty have developed their Virtual Salon. You can log on and enter the virtual salon to learn about sustainable hair care in a fun and engaging way. Once finished you can get the Sustainable stylist certificate. Why not get all staff to work through the salon and be eligible for the Sustainable Salon Certificate.

Find out more ands sign up for your free access to the virtual salon.

Ecohair and Beauty: Virtual Salon

If you operate a tree nursery, short rotation coppice or grow Christmas trees, you may need to supply water to the crop to ensure that the trees develop.

You may want to:

  • construct artificial ponds or water holes
  • abstract water from rivers, streams or boreholes
  • impound water using dams or weirs.

What you must do

If you divert water you may need a licence or consent from your environmental regulator.

In Northern Ireland you may need to submit an environmental statement to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for water management projects such as spray irrigation, if you impound, abstract or divert more than 200m³ of water a day. You may also need an abstraction or impoundment licence.

In Scotland, you may require a water abstraction licence to fill an excavated pond, but not a licence to abstract water from the pond.

You must not dam a stream without authorisation from your environmental regulator.

Water abstraction

In Northern Ireland, if you abstract more than 20m3 of water per day, you must obtain an abstraction licence from the NIEA.

If you abstract less than 20m3 of water per day you do not need an abstraction licence if you:

  • can demonstrate the volume of water you abstract
  • minimise water leaks
  • prevent any contamination or pollution.

If you abstract between 10m3 and 20m3 of water per day you must contact NIEA. If you abstract less than 10m3 you do not need to contact NIEA.

In Scotland, you must obtain authorisation from SEPA if you abstract more than 10m3 of water per day. If you abstract 10m3 or less of water per day and comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) you do not need to contact SEPA.

You can find more detailed information in the NetRegs water use and efficiency guidance.

In Northern Ireland you can impound water without contacting NIEA provided your impoundment:

  • does not control the water level upstream
  • is not associated with an abstraction of water
  • does not create a difference in height of more than one metre between the upstream and downstream water surfaces.

You must have an impoundment licence from NIEA to impound water in all other circumstances.

In Scotland, under a general binding rule (GBR), you can operate existing passive weirs, for example a weir where the sole purpose is to raise the water level upstream, without contacting SEPA if:

  • the height difference between the upstream and downstream water surfaces is one metre or less
  • the water level cannot be varied
  • there is no impact on migratory passage of salmon or sea trout.

You will require authorisation from SEPA for the operation of all other existing weirs, dams or impoundments and to build any new weirs, dams or impoundments.

SEPA's CAR Practical Guide gives more information about GBRs and what level of authorisation you require for your activity. Contact your local SEPA office if you are unsure of which level of authorisation you need.

SEPA contact details

SEPA: CAR Practical guide (Adobe PDF - 562KB)

Good practice

If you operate a tree nursery, short rotation coppice or grow Christmas trees, you may need to construct an artificial pond or water-hole to ensure a ready supply of water.

Construct these by diverting water into an excavated pond to one side of the stream channel. You should ensure that the inlet is set at a level that will maintain sufficient flow in the watercourse during dry weather conditions.

You should only construct and maintain ponds in dry weather between June and September. This avoids salmon spawning and incubation periods.

SEPA Habitat Enhancement Initiative: Ponds, pools and lochans (Adobe PDF - 299KB)

Forestry Commission: Nature conservation guidelines

You must manage solids at your mine or quarry so that they do not cause water pollution. If you discharge excessive solids to a watercourse you could smother the aquatic life, or cause flooding by blocking channels.

Your run-off may contain solids from:

  • extractive operations that use water, eg hydraulic processes to extract china clay
  • mineral washing and processing activities
  • water removed from your excavations, eg during dewatering
  • spoil heaps and stock piles
  • washing vehicles, work areas and equipment.

What you must do

If your business has a permit, licence or exemption you must comply with its conditions, including any conditions about solids. If you do not comply with conditions, you can be fined or sent to prison.

Does your mining or quarrying business need a permit, licence or exemption?

You may need a permit or permission from your regulator if you discharge water from settlement ponds to the public sewer, surface water or groundwater. For further information, see our guidance on discharges to water and sewer.

You must comply with any requirements in your waste management plan about managing solids at your site.

Good practice

Design your mine or quarry so that contaminated run-off is prevented from leaving your site.

Minimise the amount of ground you expose and stockpiles you use at your site.

Cover or screen stockpiles, tips and mounds, plant vegetation or use retaining fences to prevent solids from being washed or blown away.

Do not remove vegetation from your site until you need to work in that area.

Divert clean water and prevent water from entering your excavations by using cut off ditches around your working area.

Use settlement ponds, tanks or lagoons to collect run-off from your site and let suspended solids settle so you can remove them from the water. You must make sure that you:

  • design your settlement pond carefully so it can take the amount of water that will flow through it
  • can stop discharges from your pond if the water becomes contaminated
  • do not cause water pollution from any flocculants you use, such as polyelectrolytes or alum
  • treat water entering your settlement pond if it is contaminated by pollutants other than suspended solids.

Use sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) to control surface water run-off at your site, such as grass swales, ponds or infiltration trenches. SUDS deal with run-off close to the source by slowing and holding back the run-off from your site and allowing natural processes to break down pollutants. For further information, see our SUDS guidance.

Collect run-off from your roads by using ditches and build bridges to cross watercourses.

Clean your site roads regularly and keep them free from dust and mud.

Use designated vehicle washing areas and collect contaminated water in a sump. For further information, see our vehicle cleaning guidance.

Consider whether you need to build any flood attenuation ponds and spillways upstream of your site to prevent your settlement ponds from overflowing and causing pollution after heavy rain.

Further Information

QPANI: Guidance for the Wise Use of Water in the Aggregates and Quarry Producers Industry

Waste from fish cages can have a negative impact on the environment. It can:

  • smother bottom-dwelling animals and plants
  • remove oxygen from the water
  • increase the concentration of nutrients such as ammonia, nitrogen and phosphate.

Your discharge consent or authorisation will limit the number of fish held in cages to help minimise the impacts of fish waste.

Discharges to water or sewer

What you must do

If you use chemical treatments in cages, you must comply with any limits on chemical use included in your discharge consent or authorisation.

Good practice

Place your cages in an area with good tidal flushing and water exchange so that waste is quickly diluted and dispersed.

Use fallow periods to allow the seabed to recover and help reduce sea lice populations. You can maximise environmental benefit by co-ordinating fallow periods at all fish farms that are close to one another.

Minimise the use of chemicals on your fish farm in order to reduce their impact on the environment. For example, you may be able to reduce the frequency of chemical application for sea lice treatment if all farms in an area treat their fish within a short timescale.

In Scotland, voluntary Area Management Agreements between farms have been used to co-ordinate sea lice treatments and stocking. This has maximised the effectiveness of the treatments and therefore reduced overall use of chemicals.

You should take care to ensure that oil or fuel used for boats is not spilt onto land or into watercourses.

When you harvest fish, avoid spilling dead fish or blood into the sea. Collect and remove all blood and fish waste. Take care not to spill any ice or water slurry into the sea.

Frequently monitor cages for dead fish and remove them from the water as soon as possible.

A well-maintained oil separator is very effective at removing petrol, diesel and oil from water.

Before you set up your site, decide how you will deal with run-off from car parks, storage areas and vehicle wash down areas.

You may need to channel run-off from your site to more than one method of treatment.

For example, if you use detergent to wash vehicles in a car park or vehicle wash down area the detergent will emulsify any oil in the water and make an oil separator ineffective.

Yard water may not require a separator if suitable sustainable drainage techniques (SUDS) can be used. See PPG 3 for further information.

PPG 3 Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (Adobe PDF – 78.6KB)

Discharges to water or sewer

Wheel washing at construction sites

What you must do

Sizing

Make sure that the oil separator is big enough to cope with the volume of water that will pass through it. If the flow of water is too fast, the water will be churned up and the separator may not work properly.

You may need to install a storage tank to regulate the flow of water through your separator.

Maintenance

Oil separators (interceptors) that are not maintained do not work properly. They require regular maintenance to ensure that they work correctly and efficiently.

The separator should be filled to its operating level with clean water when it is first installed and every time it is cleaned out.

Any surface scum or debris that has gathered behind the skimmer should be regularly removed and disposed of.

Oil absorbent pads can be used periodically to remove oil and fuel from the surface of the water within the separator (interceptor).

Do not leave oil absorbent pads on the water surface within the separator during periods of high water flow or for longer than the manufacturer's instructions suggest.

These should be disposed of as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

If you are hiring oil separators, contact the plant hire business to establish whether they can undertake their maintenance as part of your hiring agreement.

Authorisations

When planning the layout of your site, consider where the discharge from the oil separator (interceptor) will go and what authorisation you will need for the discharge.

Discharges to water or sewer

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

Water use and abstraction

Whats new on NetRegs

  • Waste – Duty of Care Roles and Responsibilities

    The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has published a short guide to the duty of care responsibilities including advice and information for waste producers, carriers and those accepting, storing and treating waste.

    https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/waste-duty-care-responsibilities

  • Please let us know your thoughts on our new website

    What do you think about our new and improved website. We want your feedback on what you like, what you don’t like and ways we can continue to improve the website. Follow the link to complete the very short survey: NetRegs website – User feedback

  • NEW guidance on Environmental Management Systems

    We have recently updated and improved our guidance on Environmental Management Systems (EMS). You can find the guidance via the Environmental Topics tab or alternatively select the following link Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

  • Consultation on proposed changes to the packaging recycling business targets

    See NI Future legislation or Scotland Future legislation for details of the Consultation

  • NetRegs:- FREE, ANONYMOUS, PLAIN ENGLISH GUIDANCE FOR BUSINESSES

  • NIEA Guidance - Greenfield Excavated Matrials in Construction

    NIEA and the CEF have developed a Regulatory Position to promote Sustainable re-use of natural excavated material from Greenfield sites.

    NIEA: Guidance on the Regulation of Greenfield Excavated Materials in Construction and Development

  • New GPP 2 Above Ground Oil Storage

    The replacements for the PPGs are being developed. Now available GPP 2 Above Ground Oil Storage

  • SEPA Consultation on an Intergated Authorisation Framework

    SEPA is asking for your views on the proposals for integrated authorisations.

    Consultation documents

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    NEW GPP 24 now available: Stables, Kennels and Catteries

  • ENDS Award winner

    NetRegs; Winner of a prestigious ENDS award 2017

    Knowledge development category winner, see the ENDS Awards

  • NetRegs wins an ENDS Environmental Impact Award

    Knowledge development category winners, see the END Awards

  • EIA (Agriculture) Regulations for Northern Ireland

    Any person intending to alter the use or management of areas of uncultivated or semi-natural land must obtain prior approval from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

    Read more on the DAERA website

  • Download our NEW leaflet today: Duty of Care for waste

    NetRegs have produced a new leaflet for Scottish businesses explaining what you must do to comply with YOUR duty of care for waste.

    Duty of Care for waste (Scotland) leaflet (PDF - 775KB)

     

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Permits

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