The effect of climate change on rivers and water courses and increased demand for water due to growing urban populations are all influencing the way water is managed, treated and discharged to the environment. Increasingly strict legislation is focusing attention on the quality of discharged effluent, placing added emphasis on the effective management and control of wastewater.
Continuous Water Analysis
Continuous Water Analysis (CWA) systems are the best way to meet these demands as they give highly accurate, up to the minute information on process conditions. Under the UK’s Environmental Permitting Regulations or EPR, all industrial companies discharging 50m3 or more effluent per day to a watercourse or the sea must self-monitor their effluent flows. In the final discharge from a water utility’s treatment plant or industrial site, some of the main parameters to monitor or control are ammonia, temperature, phosphate, pH, flow and turbidity/suspended solids.
In 1996 the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive was introduced, which extended ‘Best Available Technique’ to cover the control of emissions to water and land, as well as air.
BAT vs CATNAP
We should all be pretty familiar with the concept of BAT (best available techniques) for pollution prevention by now. It was over 20 years ago that the Air Framework Directive (AFD) first introduced BATNEEC (best available techniques not entailing excessive costs) for air emissions from major industrial polluters. This was followed in 1996 by the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, which extended BAT to cover the control of emissions to water and land, as well as air.
Even so, some industrial operators continue to try and cut corners by adopting what could euphemistically be termed the ‘CATNAP approach’ (cheapest available techniques narrowly avoiding prosecution). Although it might make short-term cost savings, this approach is actually a short-sighted strategy that not only endangers our environment, but also the profits of the very companies which insist on adopting it.
BAT is not simply about investing in the latest pieces of accurate kit. It’s about looking at the best way of reducing emissions in practice, whether that’s through well engineered innovative equipment, novel processes, improved procedures or good engineering practices. Importantly, minimising emissions is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for business.
The MCERTS scheme
First introduced just before the turn of the new Millennium, the MCERTS scheme was designed to introduce a unified standard for the measurement and reporting of environmental data from industrial and utilities sites.
Initially just covering emissions to air, the standard has grown to encompass liquid waste emissions, and, most recently, to cover the means by which data is stored as well. The MCERTS scheme has done much to improve standards of air and water quality.
The focus on self-monitoring
Here in the UK, IPPC was initially implemented through the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations, but these have recently been incorporated into the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR). The latest step in the legislation is the obligation for all industrial companies discharging 50m3 or more (some operators with lower levels may also need to monitor if mentioned in permit consent due to a sensitive aquatic area) of effluent per day to a watercourse or the sea to self-monitor their effluent flows.
The self-monitoring obligation requires operators to comply with the Environment Agency’s MCERTS certification scheme. Under this scheme, companies should be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of a qualified MCERTS inspector that they are using BAT.
As far as selecting the right kit goes, it means that if there are MCERTS accredited examples of a particular measurement technology, operators must use them in preference to competing products based on the same technology. However, this requirement need not apply if there is an alternative technique available that can outperform the MCERTS accredited instruments for specific applications. There may not be any MCERTS-approved examples of the superior technology available, but inspectors will usually be happy for companies to use it because it constitutes BAT.