Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

More water topics (P - Y)

More water guidance in alphabetical order from P to Y

Additional resources

What you must do

Make sure that your boreholes are properly designed and installed. If your land is contaminated, poorly designed and installed boreholes could cause water pollution and you could be prosecuted by your environmental regulator.

Protect boreholes from contamination while they are open.

Good practice

If you leave boreholes open or fill them incorrectly, there is an increased risk of groundwater pollution.

Comply with the work specification when backfilling or capping boreholes.

Always check that your site investigation takes into account the presence of land contamination and the potential for causing pollution.

Drilling and boring can mix up the layers of soil as they are excavated. This can move contaminants deeper into the ground, causing pollution of groundwater or creating pathways for contaminants to move around. Make sure that the design of your site investigation takes this into account.

Watch our short video:

How to manage water on a construction site

Further information

Site investigation and sampling to assess contamination

Settlement tanks remove suspended solids like silt from water.

What you must do

Effective removal of solids

In order to work, the flow of water through a water settlement tank must slow down sufficiently for suspended solids to settle out.

To achieve this, the settlement facility must be the correct size for the volume of water that will flow through it and the size of the particles suspended within it. The smaller the particle sizes, the longer they will take to settle out.

The greater the volume of water that you anticipate, the larger the capacity of the lagoon required.

CIRIA have produced a document called 'Control of Water Pollution from Construction Sites - Guidance for consultants and contractors' (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.'

If the particle size is very small or light and will not settle out, another option could be to dose the water with chemicals called flocculants. These make the solid particles bind together and encourage them to settle out. Flocculants are not suitable for all locations and can cause pollution if not used correctly. You must speak to your environmental regulator before you consider using flocculants.

Contact your environmental regulator

Potential pollutants

Water that enters settlement tanks from certain processes may contain pollutants in addition to suspended solids. A settlement tank will not remove these pollutants before the water is discharged. You may therefore need to consider treatment options.

For example, mechanical failure during tunnelling operations may result in high levels of hydraulic oil being present in water discharged to settlement lagoons.

When you design a settlement lagoon, ensure that discharge from the lagoon can be stopped and contaminated water contained if necessary.

Oil can be removed from settlement lagoons by installing an interceptor, by using a skimmer to remove the oil from the surface of the water or by containing the oil with absorbent pads and booms.

You must dispose of absorbent pads, oil removed by a skimmer or other waste materials that contain hydrocarbons as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

Authorisation for discharge from your settlement tank or lagoon

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.

Preventing 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 - managing liquid wastes

What you must do

You must not dispose of liquid wastes to landfill. It can be difficult to determine whether slurry is a liquid or not.

Your waste could be defined as liquid waste if it has either of the following characteristics:

  • any waste that near instantaneously flows into an indentation void made in the surface of the waste
  • any waste (load) containing free draining liquid substance in excess of 250 litres or 10%, which ever represents the lesser amount.

Your waste haulage contractor will be able to give you disposal options in your area.

Alternatively, to find contractors in your area who can recycle or dispose of your waste material, use the NetRegs Waste Directory.

Find your nearest waste site

Any waste that contains hydrocarbons, for example hydraulic oils or diesel, will need to be disposed of as hazardous/special waste.

This can include tunnel spoil and bentonite that have been in close contact with leaking equipment. You will need to have this material laboratory tested to find out whether it is suitable to deposit in a landfill and whether the site that you intend to take the waste to is allowed to accept it.

Even if you treat waste in a screening plant, centrifuge or a similar system, it may still be subject to waste management licensing. This is dependent on a number of factors, including whether it has undergone a complete recovery operation. For each case, consult your environmental regulator for an opinion.

Contact your environmental regulator

Handling slurry

Make appropriate provision for the control and storage of slurry on site and for its disposal before you begin work.

Where the spoil from your operations is slurry or is very wet, use wagons with tailgate seals to prevent leaks onto roads. Check that all handles on the tailgate are locked in place before the wagon leaves the site. If they are not, the seal will not be effective.

Slurry from tunnelling is very difficult to treat and control. It has led to a number of serious pollution incidents and subsequent prosecutions. Plan how you are going to control, store and dispose of slurry before you begin work.

These guidelines are for all operators of private fisheries in stillwaters, including those linked to other water bodies.

What you must do

If your fishery is connected to surface waters or groundwater, you will need a discharge consent or authorisation from your environmental regulator before you:

  • use chemicals, for example disinfectants or disease treatments
  • drain your fishery for maintenance, desilting or any other reason resulting in a discharge to surface water or groundwater.

Contact your environmental regulator

Preventing water pollution

Good practice

Be careful not to spill any oil or fuel used on boats or for any other purpose into the water or on the land.

Store all chemicals in an area where spills can be contained. This should be within an impermeable bund or secondary containment system (SCS). The SCS should contain at least 110% of the volume of the largest tank or 25% of the total volume likely to be stored, whichever is greater.

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 spills from overfilling.

The Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) runs training courses on freshwater fisheries management and publishes good practice guidance.

Institute of Fisheries Management

This guidance is relevant to you if you have a swimming pool, or an exercise pool for animals such as horses.

What you must do

Get planning permission

If you want to build a pool, you must get planning permission and comply with building regulations. Contact your local council for more information.

Contact your local council

For environmental guidance on issues such as excavation, read our guidance for construction and building trades.

Inform your water company or authority

If you plan to install a pool with a capacity greater than 10,000 litres, which is designed to be refilled automatically with mains water, you must inform your water and sewerage company or authority before you begin work on it. You should also check whether your water and sewage company or authority has any specific requirements, such as using a water meter or supplying the pool from a holding tank.

You must ensure that the plumbing system for your pool is installed and maintained to national requirements. See the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) guides on the Water Supply Regulations and Water Byelaws for more information.

WRAS: Water Supply Regulations and Water Byelaws - What are they and how do they affect you? (Adobe PDF - 247KB)

WRAS: Water Supply Regulations and Water Byelaws - Information on notification of proposed plumbing work (Adobe PDF - 251KB)

Get authorisation to dispose of pool water

If you want to empty your pool, you should check the best way to dispose of water with your environmental regulator or your water and sewerage company or authority. You will need authorisation to dispose of pool water into sewers, surface waters or ground waters. Usually you will have to store the water in a vented storage pool to allow chlorine to disperse before disposal. This can take at least 5 days, depending on the volume of water.

Contact your environmental regulator

Water UK: Water and sewerage operators

Scotland on tap: Water operators in Scotland

You should dispose of backwash water from the pool filter to a public foul sewer or public combined sewer. Check with your water and sewerage company or authority to see if you need authorisation.

Water UK: Water and sewerage operators

Scotland on tap: Sewage providers in Scotland

If a sewer is not available, you may be able to discharge waste backwash water to a soakaway, but you must make sure that there is no run-off to drains or surface waters. Septic tanks and small package sewage treatment plants are not suitable to treat pool filter backwash as the volume of water and chemicals damage the treatment process.

You may need authorisation to discharge waste backwash water. If you are unsure about your discharges, contact your environmental regulator for more information.

If you cannot discharge waste backwash water to a sewer or a soakaway, you may need to get it removed from your site for disposal elsewhere. Check that anyone who takes your waste away from your site is a registered waste carrier.

You must dispose of hazardous substances such as chlorine as hazardous/special waste. If you are not sure whether the substances you use are hazardous, check with your supplier or your environmental regulator.

Who is allowed to deal with your waste?

Hazardous/special waste

Contact your environmental regulator

You must store all liquid wastes securely, so they cannot pollute drains, surface waters or ground waters, or surrounding land. This should be within a secondary containment system such as:

  • an impermeable bunded area
  • a bunded drum store.

Good practice

Make sure that you use and store pool chemicals carefully to avoid causing pollution.

Chemical storage

Ensure that you have suitable spill equipment for the chemicals you store. Keep spill kits close to where you might need them, and ensure that your staff know where they are and how to use them.

Further information for pools

Discharges to water and sewer

Preventing water pollution

Your business can generate wastewater through a range of operations including:

  • cleaning
  • flushing from manufacturing processes
  • acid polishing, polishing or etching that creates acid rinse water
  • cooling rock cutting equipment and transporting fines
  • quenching and cooling operations.

Wastewater can contain high proportions of suspended solids or other contaminants. Your business activities will determine the nature of these contaminants. For example:

  • ceramics wastewater may contain clay particles, glaze and dissolved substances such as sulphates or heavy metals
  • wastewater from areas where there is spilled batch material from glass production may contain metals or metal compounds
  • wastewater from rock cutting will contain high levels of fine particles
  • water from cleaning and washing out concrete mixers will be highly alkaline and will contain solids.

What you must do

Establish exactly what is in the wastewater that your operations produce. You may need to have laboratory tests carried out on samples of your water.

Decide whether you can reuse the wastewater within your process and if so, whether you have to treat it before you can reuse it. For example:

  • you will have to neutralise acid rinse water periodically
  • water you use for washing out concrete mixers will be highly alkaline and you may have to neutralise it before you reuse it
  • you may need to pass any wastewater that contains suspended solids through a settlement tank or dose it with flocculent before you can reuse it.

To reuse wastewater or to treat wastewater you may need a waste management licence or to register an exemption.

An exemption allows you to recover or dispose of waste at the place where it is produced. This is only if the waste was generated from an integral part of the production process.

You will usually need to register an exemption with your environmental regulator for these activities.

You must still ensure that your activity does not:

  • endanger human health or cause pollution to water, air or soil
  • cause a risk to plants or animals
  • cause a nuisance in terms of noise, dust, fumes, smoke or odour
  • adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest.

Waste management licences

You cannot dispose of liquid wastes in landfill.

If you cannot reuse your wastewater as part of your process, you may need to treat it to remove any contaminants before you dispose of it.

You could treat wastewater at your premises or this could be carried out off-site by a contractor. If your wastewater leaves your site for treatment elsewhere, the duty of care will apply to it.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

If you decide to treat wastewater on your premises, you will need to employ a specialist to design, install and commission a suitable treatment process. The treatment process should ensure that the quality of the wastewater after treatment will allow you to discharge it to:

  • the foul sewer, subject to a consent from your water and sewerage company or authority
  • surface or groundwater, subject to permission from your environmental regulator.

If you allow wastewater to enter the ground, watercourses, surface water drains or foul water sewers without permission, you may be committing an offence.

Preventing water pollution

Discharges to water and sewer

This guidance is relevant if your paper business treats water or liquid effluents on site, such as using an effluent treatment plant.

Process water may be contaminated with chemicals and organic water-soluble pulp components. You need to treat and dispose of this wastewater correctly to prevent harming the environment.

Water pollution incidents involving dyes and suspended solids are the most common complaint downstream of paper mills. Make sure that you treat and remove colour from any wash waters before you discharge them to the environment.

What you must do

Before you discharge wastewater to surface waters or groundwater you must have authorisation from your environmental regulator. You will need to treat effluent extensively before you can discharge it to surface waters or ground waters.

Before you discharge wastewater to a sewer you must get permission from your water and sewerage company or authority. You may need to pre-treat your effluent before you discharge it to the sewer.

Your process water may be contaminated with a wide range of organic water-soluble pulp components. You must treat this process water before you can discharge it to surface waters or groundwater.

Comply with your authorisation conditions

You must comply with all of the conditions in your authorisation or you may be prosecuted and fined.

If you have an effluent treatment plant you must manage it carefully to comply with the conditions of your authorisation. For example, you may need to monitor and stay within specified limits for the main components of your discharges, such as: flow rate, pH, temperature, suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand (COD). These requirements and limits will be explained in your authorisation.

Discharges to water and sewer

Waste sludges and screenings

Materials discarded from your effluent treatment plant, such as sludges and screenings, are classed as waste. You must comply with your duty of care responsibilities when dealing with these and other waste.

Duty of Care: Your waste responsibilities

You may need to deal with some sludges and screenings as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

Good practice

The paper industry uses large volumes of water in the production process. You can save money on your effluent treatment costs and your water supply by using water more efficiently. You should recycle and reuse water within your process wherever possible.

Keep your wastewater streams separate. This will make it easier to reuse the water and also prevent large wastewater streams being contaminated with concentrated toxic streams.

Review your chemical use

If you use biocides for system cleaning, for slime control or within de-foamers, consider using biodegradable biocides that degrade quickly, such as guanidine and isothiazolones.

Avoid using chlorine-containing bleaches or chlorine-bleached pulps. Bleaching chemicals react with organics and place a considerable load on water treatment systems.

Don't overdose water with water treatment chemicals, especially those containing halogens (eg chlorine and bromine). For high organic loads use chlorine dioxide (ClO2) in place of halogenated disinfectants.

Use dyes with solid pigments where they can be abated by clarification.

For more information see our guidance on raw materials.

Effluent treatment plants

Make sure that your systems are designed so that effluent cannot bypass the treatment plant.

If you make a change to your process, always consider the effect this change will have on your treatment plant. Effluent treatment plants are designed for specific processes, depending on the quality and quantity of the effluent. For example, if you implement water minimisation measures the concentration of your effluent will increase.

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

If there are a lot of coloured fines during de-inking, consider using dissolved air flotation (DAF) or membrane technology. You can use DAF as a primary effluent treatment, as well as in the de-inking process.

Balancing tanks can help to mix and standardise your effluent. Sludges with poor settlement characteristics (bulking) can be treated by stabilising fluctuations in effluent pH, flow, load and tank conditions and by maintaining your plant regularly.

Treat effluents containing suspended solids separately. This will prevent problems in biological treatment plants.

Cover containers to prevent emissions and odour from chemicals and sludge.

Monitor and maintain your treatment plant

Monitor your effluent plant regularly to make sure it is operating effectively. You could use turbidity meters to monitor effluent quality continuously. You could make someone responsible for inspecting and maintaining the plant regularly.

Check your sewerage and effluent disposal costs. Establish a baseline and investigate when costs deviate from it. This could save you money.

Employ suitably qualified engineers to make sure the treatment plant is designed to produce the required quality of effluent and that it will operate effectively.

Make sure you have enough storage capacity for the quantity of sludge your plants produce.

Minimise the amount of sludge you produce

Reduce the volume of sludge you produce by using dewatering presses or centrifuges. For example, use centrifuges to separate fines in white water and recover reusable material in your production process.

Reduce the load on your treatment plant by using waste minimisation techniques and monitoring the volume of water used by your business.

Recycle wastewater whenever possible to reduce the input and load on your water treatment systems. Reducing the water content of the sludge can reduce your waste management costs.

For information on water efficiency see our guidance on water use and abstraction.

This guidance is relevant to you if you take (abstract) water from ground or surface waters or store (impound) water on a watercourse to use for your business processes.

What you must do

Northern Ireland

If you abstract more than 20m3 of water per day, you must get an abstraction licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

If you abstract 20m3 or less of water per day you must:

  • be able to 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 also notify NIEA.

Scotland

If you abstract 10m3 or less of water per day you must comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs), and you will not need to contact SEPA.

If you abstract more than 10m3 of water per day, you must register with SEPA. If you abstract more than 50m3 of water per day, you will need an abstraction licence from SEPA.

SEPA's practical guide gives more information about GBRs and guidance on the level of authorisation that you will need for your activity.

SEPA: Practical guide to the Water Environment Regulations (Adobe PDF - 540KB)

Check if you need an impounding licence

Northern Ireland

You can impound water without contacting NIEA as long as your impoundment:

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

You will need an impoundment licence from NIEA to impound water in all other circumstances.

Scotland

You can operate existing weirs, such as a weir where the only purpose is to raise the water level upstream, as long as:

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

You will need a licence from SEPA for all other existing weirs and before you build any new weirs. You may also need an engineering authorisation under the Controlled Activities Regulations. See SEPA's practical guide for more information.

SEPA: Practical guide to the Water Environment Regulations (Adobe PDF - 540KB)

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, see our guidance on water use and efficiency for more detailed information, including guidance on how to apply for licences.

Reservoirs

In Scotland, if you have a reservoir that is capable of holding more than 25,000m3 of water above natural ground level, you must register it with SEPA before 30 September 2015. All Reservoirs currently registered with the Local Coucil will have to be registered with SEPA by thois date. You must appoint a panel engineer to supervise and inspect it.

For information about reservoir safety and how to register your reservoir, see the Scottish Government website.

Scottish Government: Reservoir safety

Good practice

Reduce the amount of water you use. This could reduce your water supply and effluent treatment costs, as well as your business' environmental impact.

Compare the amount of water you use with equipment suppliers' recommended levels of water use. This will help you to see where you might be able to save water.

Reuse water use wherever possible.

Envirowise: Reduce your water use and collect savings

Further information on water use and abstraction

Northern Ireland Water: Water efficiency

NIEA: Water abstraction and impoundment licensing

Business Stream: Water efficiency pages

Contact your environmental regulator

This guidance is relevant to you if you use water-based cleaning systems during your production process.

What you must do

Comply with your permit

If you have a permit, licence or registered exemption you must comply with its conditions. For example, if you have a permit because your activities release acid-forming oxide of nitrogen, your permit is likely to contain conditions limiting the quantity and concentration of aqueous effluents, including:

  • soluble and insoluble metal compounds
  • anions (eg cyanide)
  • acids
  • alkalis
  • suspended solids.

You should treat these effluents on site before your discharge them to foul sewer. For further information, see our guidance on chemical effluent treatment plant.

Check if you need any discharge consents

Do not discharge to public sewers, surface waters or ground waters without consulting your regulator. You may need a permit. For further information, see our guidance on discharges to water and sewer.

Comply with your waste responsibilities

You must comply with your duty of care responsibilities when you manage your waste.

For example, you will need to remove and dispose of sludge and tank bottoms from your water cleaning systems.

If your waste has hazardous properties, you may need to deal with it as hazardous/special waste, including:

  • contaminated wash water
  • wastes containing cyanides
  • contaminated filters
  • strong acids
  • phosphating sludges
  • wet scrubber solutions
  • saturated or spent ion-exchange resins.

For further information, see our guidance on hazardous/special waste.

Good practice

Reduce your emissions

Cover your tanks when you are not using them. This will reduce your air emissions.

Regularly monitor and service your baths, extraction system, mist eliminators and wet scrubber systems to ensure that your processes remain effective.

Consider which acids you use. If you use strong and heated acids they will produce more fumes than weak, cool acids and you may need to treat them before you release the fumes into the air.

Optimise the temperature of your system and consider using wetting agents to reduce your solution viscosity and drag-out. Do not increase temperatures on any cyanide or hexavalent chromium baths.

Hexavalent chromium is a particularly toxic electrolyte that is hazardous to both the environment and human health. You should contact your environmental regulator for information on how to use it safely.

Contact your environmental regulator

Use your resources and systems efficiently

Use polypropylene balls (chroffles) to cover your heated tanks. This will reduce your evaporative losses and energy consumption.

Look for ways you can reuse rinse water, for example in a counter-current rinsing system. This will reduce your water usage.

Use spent acids and alkalis to neutralise waste streams.

Agitate your rinse baths, either manually or air-assisted, to promote better, faster rinsing.

Train your staff to operate baths at the correct concentration. You can also use regularly calibrated automated dosing.

Use mist sprays over the exits of your heated process tanks to reduce the concentration of the process solution film on components.

Use conductivity cells to control your water flow. This is particularly useful when no work is going through or during break times.

Reduce contamination in your cleansing tanks by carrying out a pre-wash stage.

Manage your waste

De-water your sludge to reduce its volume and your waste management charges.

Send waste from your tanks that could be contaminated with cyanide to a separate cyanide treatment or containment system.

If possible use de-ionised water instead of tap water to reduce the amount of sludge you generate.

What you must do

Water from wheel washing areas can contain oil and diesel, as well as high levels of silt.

Ensure that water from wheel washing facilities and wash down areas is contained and not allowed to soak into surrounding ground. Channel the used water to a containment tank.

Water from a wheel wash can be recycled and reused.

Disposal

You can dispose of the wastewater in two main ways:

  • to foul sewer with prior, written consent from your chosen water company in Scotland, or Northern Ireland Water in Northern Ireland

Trade effluent - managing liquid wastes

  • as hazardous/special waste, if it contains oil, diesel, petrol or certain chemicals.

Hazardous / special waste

Treatment

Treating water from your wheel wash may make it more likely to be suitable for disposal to foul sewer. Use a settlement tank to remove solids from water. The settlement tank must be large enough to deal with the volume of water passing through it. An oil separator can be used to remove oil, petrol or diesel.

You will be able to get an idea of how contaminated the water is by looking for an oily sheen on the surface and by the colour of the water. The only way to be sure of the quality of the water is to take regular samples and have these tested at a laboratory.

Your chosen water company in Scotland, or Northern Ireland Water in Northern Ireland, may need laboratory test results that show the quality of the water you want to discharge before they can decide whether to issue consent.

Even after treatment to remove oil and suspended solids, the wastewater is unlikely to be suitable for disposal to surface waters or groundwater.

Solids that settle out from wheel wash water may also contain road salts, antifreeze and brake dirt. There is no simple method available to remove these materials from wheel wash water on site.

You should consider having any solid residues analysed before disposal as these solids may be hazardous/special waste. Your local environmental regulator or your waste haulage contractor may be able to advise you on testing facilities in your area.

What you must do

Water pollution

If you pollute a watercourse, water body or groundwater, your environmental regulator can serve you with an 'anti pollution works notice'. This requires you to clean up the pollution that you have caused. This could lead to construction work on site being halted for a time.

You should place on drip trays static plant and equipment that operates near the water environment or drains. This will help to prevent water pollution from oil spills and leaks.

Empty drip trays regularly to make sure that they can contain any spills.

PPG 5 Works and maintenance in or near water (Adobe PDF – 894KB)

Drip trays

In Northern Ireland you must have consent from the Rivers Agency before you place structures in any waterway that are likely to affect its drainage. Contact your local Rivers Agency office for further information.

Northern Ireland - Rivers Agency Area Offices

Removal of vegetation

If your works require the removal of vegetation close to or on a riverbank:

In Northern Ireland , it is an offence to deposit any polluting matter, or anything which could impede the water's proper flow, into a watercourse. You should consult the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Rivers Agency if your work is near a watercourse.

In Scotland, it is an offence to allow any polluting matter or solid waste matter to enter a watercourse.

Invasive weeds such as japanese knotweed and giant hogweed are commonly found on riverbanks. If these species are present in or around your working area, you will need to take additional precautions to avoid their spread and to protect the workforce.

Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and other invasive weeds

Further consent

In Northern Irelandyou must have consent from the Rivers Agency before you place structures in any waterway that could affect its drainage. Contact your local Rivers Agency office for further information.

Northern Ireland Rivers Agency: Contact details

In Scotland, if you carry out building and engineering works that could significantly affect the water environment, you must either:

  • comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) which apply to low-risk activities
  • register your activity with SEPA, or
  • get a licence from SEPA.

SEPA: Practical guide to the Water Environment Regulations (Adobe PDF - 540KB)

SEPA: Silt control while dredging 2015

Pollution prevention guideline (PPG) 5 contains guidance on how you can avoid causing pollution during works and maintenance in or near water.

PPG 5 Works and maintenance in or near water (Adobe PDF – 894KB)

Good practice

Noise and vibration

Noise and vibration from heavy machinery and construction activities such as pile driving can disrupt and disturb fish migrations and breeding. Extreme vibration can even kill fish. Noise and vibration can also disturb wildlife such as birds and otters, especially during the breeding season.

Under conservation legislation, including the Habitats Directive and the Environmental Liability Directive, if your activities kill or disturb protected species, or damage biodiversity you could be committing an offence.

If you are working close to a stream or river you should:

  • monitor and reduce vibration levels
  • use hydraulic or vibro-piling for smaller pile driving operations
  • schedule works for when fish migrations are not happening
  • use bubble curtains
  • leave intervals between noisy activities.

If you have any concerns about noise and vibration and its impact on wildlife, contact your environmental regulator.

Contact your environmental regulator

Further information

Oil storage

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

If you pollute the water environment, you are probably committing an offence.

In Northern Ireland you must have consent from the Rivers Agency before you place structures in any waterway that are likely to affect its drainage. Contact your local Rivers Agency office for further information.

Northern Ireland: Rivers Agency Area Offices

In Scotland, if you carry out building and engineering works in inland waters or carry out activities close to waters that could significantly affect the water environment, you must either:

  • comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) which apply to low-risk activities
  • register your activity with SEPA
  • obtain a licence from SEPA.

SEPA: Practical guide to the Water Environment Regulations (Adobe PDF - 562KB)

SEPA: Silt control while dredging 2015

SEPA: Removal of sand, silt or clay from the bed of previously straightened rivers and burns which are ≥1m and <5m wide

Pollution Prevention Guideline (PPG) 5 contains guidance on measures you can take to avoid causing pollution during building and engineering work.

PPG 5 Works and maintenance in or near water (Adobe PDF – 894KB)

Good practice

You may be committing an offence if you allow a watercourse to become blocked or polluted. The following good practice guidance will help you avoid this.

Ground preparation

Consult your environmental regulator and your water company or water authority at the planning stage to check if there are any water protection measures for your site that you must comply with.

Contact your environmental regulator

Water UK: Water suppliers

Scotland on Tap: Water suppliers in Scotland

Construct silt traps or other forms of sediment control in areas where there is a high risk of erosion. Fine sediments such as clay, silt and fine sand can have an adverse affect on flora and fauna, such as blocking the gills of fish and preventing light from reaching the leaves of plants. Coarse sediment can have a serious impact on fish spawning grounds and can block channels in rivers and streams.

Install collector drains immediately after cultivation especially where large volumes of run-off could reach a forest road.

Collector drains should not end close to a watercourse. Ideally they should end on flat ground to allow sediment-laden water to fan out and soak away. You should protect watercourses and the surrounding vegetation by establishing a buffer area, a zone of undisturbed vegetation between the cultivation area and the watercourse.

When deciding the width of the buffer area around a stream you should consider:

  • if the stream is up to 1m wide, you should establish a buffer of at least 5m on each side
  • if the stream is important for fish spawning and is less than 1m wide, you should have a buffer area of at least 10m on each side
  • if the stream channel is 1 to 2m wide, you should use a buffer of about 10m on each side
  • if the stream channel is over 2m wide, you should create a buffer of about 20m on each side.

Planting

If your supplier has treated your planting stock with insecticide, you must not store or soak it in a watercourse before you plant it.

Trees, especially conifers, can capture and transfer atmospheric pollutants to surrounding ground. This can cause the acidification of surface waters, especially in upland forests. This can prevent successful fish spawning and can cause damage to a number of plants, including sphagnum mosses in upland bogs.

Speak to the Forestry Commission or Forest Service Northern Ireland when planning your planting operation. They will be able to help you identify which areas are most at risk.

Forestry Commission

Forest Service Northern Ireland

Tree maintenance and lifting

If you produce Christmas trees you will need to shape trees by pruning and shearing to maximise their selling potential. Keep streams free from cut branches as far as possible.

Lifting is the term used to cover all methods of removing (felling or digging) young trees from the ground either by hand or by machine.

When you remove or lift young trees from the ground, you are likely to cause silty water run-off. This could pollute nearby rivers or streams.

If your site is prone to erosion, only work during spells of dry weather to reduce run-off.

Inspect local watercourses regularly for evidence of discoloration or sediment build-up, particularly at the drainage outlets in plantation sites. Install sediment traps if you find signs of pollution.

Harvesting

If you are harvesting in a water supply catchment area you should contact your water company or water authority. They will want to make sure that your work is not affecting the water supply.

After harvesting, make sure that you clear drains and natural watercourses of any blockages that have occurred.

Before you begin work, you must check to see if there are any protected species such as otter and water vole in any streams or watercourses close to the site where you intend to harvest.

If you find or suspect that protected species are there, you must change your felling plans to protect their habitat and limit any disturbance.

Nature conservation and forestry

Keep streams and buffer areas free from harvested branches and tops.

Consider cableway extraction for sensitive sites and catchment areas.

If you plan extraction routes on steep slopes, dig shallow cross ditches to reduce water movement and erosion.

Create adequate brash mats and maintain their structure.

Fell trees away from watercourses to reduce the risk of brash and logs causing blockages and disturbing freshwater habitats.

Forestry Commission: Forests and climate change guidelines (Adobe PDF - 6.5MB)

Forestry Commission: Forests and water guidelines (Adobe PDF - 3.44MB)

What you must do

In Northern Ireland you must have consent from the Rivers Agency before you place structures in any waterway that are likely to affect its drainage. Contact your local Rivers Agency office for further information.

Northern Ireland - Rivers Agency Area Offices

In Scotland, if you carry out building and engineering works in inland waters or carry out activities close to waters that could significantly affect the water environment, you must either:

  • comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) which apply to low-risk activities
  • register your activity with SEPA
  • obtain a licence from SEPA.

SEPA: Practical guide to the Water Environment Regulations (Adobe PDF - 540KB)

Good practice

Pollution Prevention Guideline (PPG) 5 contains guidance on measures you can take to avoid causing pollution during building and engineering work.

PPG 5 Works and maintenance in or near water (Adobe PDF – 894KB)

When you work in or near watercourses, it is important that run-off from your site does not contain soil or sediment.

If soil enters a stream or river it can have serious effects on the life in it.

  • Insects living in the bed of the watercourse can be killed through lack of light and oxygen and change in habitat.
  • Fish may be killed when sediment blocks their gills.
  • Sediment deposits on the bed of a watercourse can prevent fish spawning.
  • Nutrients in the sediment cause excessive weed growth.

What you must do

In Northern Ireland you must have consent from the Rivers Agency before you place structures in any waterway that are likely to affect its drainage. Contact your local Rivers Agency office for further information.

Northern Ireland: Rivers Agency Area Offices

In Scotland, if you carry out building and engineering works in inland waters or carry out activities close to waters that could significantly affect the water environment, you must either:

  • comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) which apply to low-risk activities
  • register your activity with SEPA
  • obtain a licence from SEPA.

SEPA: Practical guide to the Water Environment Regulations (Adobe PDF - 540KB)

SEPA: Silt control while dredging 2015

SEPA: Removal of sand, silt or clay from the bed of previously straightened rivers and burns which are ≥1m and <5m wide

Pollution Prevention Guideline (PPG) 5 contains guidance on measures you can take to avoid causing pollution during building and engineering work.

PPG 5 Works and maintenance in or near water (Adobe PDF – 894KB)

Good practice

If you pollute the water environment, you are probably committing an offence.

You should only strip land of vegetation when it is absolutely necessary. You should carry out the work in short sections to avoid bare earth being exposed for long periods of time. This should help to minimise the risk of run-off, soil erosion and silt getting into watercourses.

Use buffer strips (strips of land where the vegetation is not disturbed) along the edge of watercourses to avoid run-off containing pesticides or soil.

Where possible you should work across slopes, rather than down them. This will help to minimise the risk of soil erosion.

Use earth banks and cut-off ditches to channel the contaminated drainage away from surface waters and drains.

You should divert clean water away from the stripped area as only uncontaminated surface water can be discharged direct to watercourses without a discharge consent.

Plan ahead and carry out operations leading to bare or disturbed soil in periods of dry weather.

Ensure that dirty water does not enter surface water drainage systems.

Ensure that sediment does not clog porous paving, filter drains or other sustainable urban drainage systems.

Ensure that grass cuttings and other cut vegetation do not enter the water environment.

What you must do

Provide adequate settlement capacity for yard run-off and washout from wagons. Where possible, reuse water from settlement within your business processes.

Make sure you take adequate measures to prevent run-off and washout from your site entering and polluting drains and watercourses.

Connect delivery areas to the foul drainage system, as run-off is likely to cause contamination.

You must get permission from your water company or water authority before connecting to the drainage system.

Water UK: Water and sewage operators

Scotland on Tap: Water and sewerage providers in Scotland

Use roll over bunds, and ramped or stepped access, to isolate the area from the surface water system.

If possible, install pipelines above the ground and protect them from collision damage. If you install a pipeline below the ground, you should:

  • preferably avoid roadways where transient loads from vehicles may cause breaks in the pipe
  • be engineered to withstand all reasonably expected loads and stresses
  • place it in a leak proof sleeve or duct
  • build inspection chambers at its joints, as these are the most likely places for leaks
  • inspect and test it regularly.

Do not connect pipeline ducts to the surface water system.

Good practice

Reducing the amount of water you use may save you money and will lessen your impact on the environment. You can identify areas where you can make reductions by carrying out regular reviews of water use.

Water use and efficiency

Where raw materials mix with water the resulting run-off can be highly polluting. For example:

  • If cement dust on your yard mixes with rainwater, the resulting run-off will be highly alkaline (pH of between 9.5 and 14). Water that is highly alkaline is also highly toxic to aquatic life.
  • Where dry plaster mixes with water, the resulting run-off will be high in suspended solids.

Where yard run-off is likely to have mixed with raw materials or process chemicals, you should not allow it to enter watercourses or the foul sewer without prior written authorisation. Capture it and if necessary, have samples laboratory tested to identify the most appropriate disposal method.

Where possible, rather than washing the area down, you should sweep up spilled materials.

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