Pressure on industrial sites to meet strict trade effluent standards is mounting but with many companies lacking inhouse treatment expertise, onsite trials are becoming an increasingly appealing option says Adam Parmenter, business executive at wastewater specialist WPL
Increasing environmental scrutiny on water companies from government, regulators and customers is filtering down to their commercial and industrial customers, many of whom are feeling the pressure to improve their effluent treatment processes.
Trade effluent is liquid waste discharged into public sewers from a business or industrial process. Its contents are highly variable but may include substances such as chemicals and detergents that can be harmful to the environment if not treated correctly.
In giving consent for businesses to discharge trade effluent, water companies may require it to be treated to a specified standard before it enters the foul sewer and becomes the responsibility of the utility to manage. Breaching this agreement can result in fines or prosecution for the business and its owners. There are also reputational risks for companies that pollute.
With regulations and targets for water companies tightening, and customer expectations growing, the sector must not fail in its duties to create a cleaner environment – and that includes stricter controls and monitoring of trade effluent. While most industrial businesses share the desire to minimise their environmental impact, my day-to-day conversations tell me that many have a knowledge gap when it comes to effluent treatment and compliance and their historical processes may not meet today’s highly regulated standards.
The long-term solution of installing new or upgrading existing technology can be daunting, particularly for smaller companies and, in most cases, will mean a significant capital investment. In the current climate of business uncertainty, many hoops may need to be jumped before capex budget holders commit to big spends.
Full-scale operational trials of technology are providing an effective solution, offering immediate enhancement to onsite effluent treatment, meaning compliance is achieved and businesses have breathing space to plan out a permanent fix. WPL launched its full-scale trial service three years ago and has seen a growing year-on-year appetite from industrial clients seeking temporary but urgent support.
While designed and set up quickly, trials should not take a one-size-fits-all approach. Advance lab testing of effluent ensures the correct technology and treatment processes are in place to ensure compliance based on parameters including levels of fat, oil and grease, chemical oxygen demand (COD) and suspended solids. Once the process is up and running, data can be analysed to help inform a permanent, custom solution – having evidence to prove the effectiveness of the equipment is valuable when putting forward the case for capital funds.
WPL works closely with water utilities on their own wastewater treatment projects. While they have incomparable knowledge of environmental care and regulatory compliance, time pressures mean useful information may not always be shared with their trade effluent customers, many of whom are anxious and unclear about how they can fulfil their obligations and avoid penalties.
Opting for a trial can relieve some of this pressure while permanent options are considered and help build valuable in-house knowledge, with the natural environment being the ultimate winner.