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What will the changing wastewater permits mean for industry?

  • What will the changing wastewater permits mean for industry?

If you need an environmental permit to discharge liquid effluent or wastewater, permit changes are coming into force with stricter standards.

News recently about water companies dumping untreated waste into our waters rightly elicited a furious response from the public. Changes to the Environment Bill aim to change this by holding offenders to account.

“The amount of sewage discharged by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable, “ the Government says, “We have made it crystal clear to water companies that they must significantly reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows as a priority.”

The Environment Bill 2020 sets out several amendments for water companies that enshrine into law requirements for handling waste.

One of these is an amendment to legislation to place a duty on companies to secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows, requiring Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans.

The permit changes come in response to increasing demand for fresh water and higher volumes of wastewater. Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan to deliver clean and plentiful water requires a robust response from industry, with changes to how wastewater and liquid effluent is handled, processed and released.

What permit changes mean for the industry

Under the Environmental Permitting Regulations, a permit is required for most industrial wastewater and liquid effluent discharges.

The Environment Bill 2021 changes permits and rules around wastewater and effluent discharge and management.

New duties for water companies

There are four new duties on water companies:

  • Water companies must have Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out a 25-year plan on management.
  • Water companies and the Environment Agency must publish data on storm overflow operations on an annual basis.
  • Water companies must be able to publish near real-time information – within one hour- on the operation of storm overflows.
  • Water companies must monitor water quality upstream, and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works.

New discharge rules

Any company that discharges liquid effluent or wastewater now needs an environmental permit, acquired through an installation permit or waste or mining waste permit. You do not need a permit to discharge uncontaminated water.

Discharging trade and industry wastewater and liquid effluent into a public foul sewer requires permission from the water company. Dumping trade effluent and wastewater in sewers without the correct permit is also illegal.

Wastewater Treatment

Pollution prevention measures

Rules around treatment and releasing wastewater and liquid effluent are tighter, requiring appropriate pollution prevention measures.

In addition, guidance published in 2019 for wastewater treatment works specifies levels of treatment based on the population the WWTW serves.

Drainable and management plans

As touched upon before, there is now a duty for companies to secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows, requiring Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans.

Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans are a commitment to managing water resources while meeting environmental and supply requirements.

The Government now has a legal basis to direct water companies that do not have adequate Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans.

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