Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Pathogens at waste sites

Nuisance from pathogens at your waste site

Your waste or sewage site may contain microscopic organisms known as pathogens or bioaerosols that can be hazardous to human health. For example, if you operate a composting facility or anaerobic digester your site may contain:

  • bacteria, such as Salmonella and Streptococcus
  • protozoa, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium
  • parasites, such as beef tapeworm Taeniasaginate and potato cyst nematodes
  • fungal spores
  • viruses.

For information about pests, see our pests guidance.

What you must do

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

Good practice

Control pathogens at your site

Put appropriate measures in place to control any pathogens at your site.

You may use pesticides or chemicals to control rodents or other pests at your site. Make sure that you do not cause land or water pollution.

If you require assistance with pest control, contact the environmental health department of your local council.

Directgov: Find out about pest control

Contact your local council

Treat compost and sewage sludge to remove pathogens. You could do this by using:

  • sludge pasteurisation and mesophilic anaerobic digestion
  • lime stabilisation for liquid sludge
  • dewatering methods.

For further information about these treatment processes, see Table 1 in the Defra Code of Practice for agriculture use of sewage sludge.

You should also see our guidance on disposing of sewage sludge.

Be a good operator

  • Keep records of how you have managed pathogens at your site including details of any complaints.
  • Manage your site to ensure that it is not a source of human or animal infection.
  • Operate your treatment processes to maximise removal of pathogens from waste or sewage.

Be a good neighbour

  • Speak regularly with your neighbours about any issues with pathogens at your site.
  • If you receive any complaints about pathogens deal with them quickly.

Environmental News Blog

  • My Year at NetRegs, A reflection on my time as an intern with the NetRegs team at SEPA. An overview of all the activities and projects I had the opportunity to participate in during my Bright Green Environmental Placement.

  • A day with Hydrology, SEPA's hydrometry unit is responsible for around 400 gauging stations and 350 rainfall monitoring sites. River gauging stations are important as they allow river levels to be monitored so flood events can be predicted and flood warnings sent out.

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