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Top five ways of reducing contamination in wastewater

According to recent statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, more than 11 billion litres of wastewater are collected every day in UK sewers. This water is then treated by water treatment plants, including those managed by Total Water Solutions, before it is returned to the ecosystem, and any solid matter or contamination is safely disposed of, or used to create alternative energy. Without treatment, wastewater could be potentially hazardous to wildlife, or indeed humans and potentially the environment as a whole.

Households and businesses can all take action to reducing contamination in wastewater, as this reduces the risk of sewers becoming blocked, and improves the quality of water across the UK and helps maintain the longevity of the waste water systems.

Contaminated wastewater can also increase business costs, as additional work carried out by water companies to treat sewage will incur extra costs. In fact, it can hit four times over, in the cost of the mains water, the cost of the effluent volume, the cost of solids in the Mogden formula (the calculation used to find the required charges to collect, treat and dispose of industrial wastewater) and the cost of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD).

 

  1. Keep solids and contaminated items out of the drain

This includes solids, hazardous chemicals, medicines, and toxic materials. Solids should always be swept or vacuumed before they reach the drain, as they can cause blockages if they are flushed. This will also protect equipment, as particularly large solids can cause damage. Chemicals, medicines and toxins can affect the quality of water, even when it has been treated, and could potentially be poisonous. Instead, these should be disposed of correctly, with the business providing separate, specialist bins for chemical waste, medical waste and toxic materials.

 

  1. Install oil interceptors where needed

Capture oil and grease before it goes down the drain as it can build up and cause blockages in the sewerage systems, preventing the water from completing its journey to the treatment plant. Oil interceptors efficiently separate oil from any wastewater by passing it through a number of chambers, trapping the oil to be disposed of safely by a professional company.

 

  1. Only treat what you need to treat

Not all waste products need to be treated, as this will be a costly exercise for many businesses. Make sure that some discretion is applied when deciding what should go down the drain, to avoid unnecessary treatment and charges. Liquid waste can be segregated into a separate vessel from sediment, suspended solids, and other waste that it is not beneficial to treat. By separating effluent material prior to disposing of the waste, the water can be treated more directly and at a lower cost that the treatment plant separating it afterward.

 

  1. Reuse and Recycle

If the wastewater will not be harmful to the environment, you may consider reusing it as opposed to sending it for treatment immediately. It could be used for washing vehicles (although care should be taken to ensure any grit or solids have been removed to avoid scratches), watering plants and greenery, or rinsing external areas. This additional usage of the water will reduce the volume of effluent that needs to be treated and paid for.

 

  1. Monitor your wastewater

Keep accurate records of the volume and composition of wastewater, including when there are higher volumes of solids, chemicals, and other contamination. This means the business can identify peak periods where wastewater will need to be processed more substantially. A plan can then be drawn up to reduce this waste by refining manufacturing processes and introducing training to highlight how to reduce contamination during peak times.

 

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Ensuring Compliance with Health and Safety

Every business has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees, customers, or tenants.

For low-risk businesses like offices, health and safety can be a simple process. However, for businesses in other sectors there are a much wider range of issues to consider, particularly in terms of water compliance, and it can be challenging to stay up to date with these.

The risks of non-compliance are also high. There’s real potential for people to become ill if standards aren’t maintained, as well as legal and reputational consequences for businesses who do not meet the required standards.

Health and Safety Areas to Consider

Some of the water health and safety risks that you might need to act on include:

Water hygiene

Mains water is treated to be clean and safe for drinking. However, in some circumstances your business may be required to carry out additional water quality testing to make sure that your supply is up to standard. This is particularly important if your organisation has responsibility for vulnerable individuals, for example if you’re a healthcare organisation or a housing association.

Your business’s water infrastructure, such as pipes and tanks, could become a source of contamination if they’re not correctly maintained. Regular bacteriological testing as well as chlorination can help to manage this risk and prevent any problems.

Legionella

Every business has a responsibility to manage the risk of a legionella outbreak. While legionella occurs naturally at low levels in clean water, maintenance or infrastructure problems can provide a breeding ground where the bacteria could grow to dangerous levels. An outbreak can cause serious illness or even prove fatal, so regulations on legionella control should be high priority.

A legionella risk assessment can identify any areas of your business’s water infrastructure where the bacteria might be able to multiply. Simple changes and hygiene processes can then be put in place to prevent this from occurring.

Ensuring Health and Safety Compliance

To ensure your company stays on top of changing legislation and provides a safe environment for your employees and customers, there are a few steps to follow:

Conduct Thorough Risk Assessments

A risk assessment is the first stage of any business’s health and safety responsibilities. Risk assessment is the process of examining your business’s operations, working practices and equipment, and identifying any situations which could pose a risk to the health and safety of the people who are involved.

Getting risk assessments right is the key to ensuring that your water health and safety practices are fully compliant. The risk assessment will indicate what maintenance your water systems need and identify and remedial actions that need to be taken. It’s also important to ensure that they are kept up to date. If your processes change, new equipment is brought in, or new working practices are established, this could introduce new risks, so it’s important to conduct a new risk assessment.

Keep on top of changing legislation

Health and safety legislation and best practice changes regularly to reflect changes in industry practices or in available equipment to manage risk. It’s important that your company is aware of any changes that might affect them well in advance, so that you’re able to update your policies accordingly.

If your business is low-risk, such as an office, it’s quite possible that you’ll be able to stay on top of changing legislation yourself. However, if you’re in heavy industry or another higher-risk sector, the number of regulations you’ll be subject to is much higher, so an outside consultant might be better placed to help you stay up to date.

Maintain regular communication with your team

If you employ more than five people, your business has a legal responsibility to consult with employees on Health and Safety. While risk assessments will tell you a lot about the potential risks in your workplace, it’s important to also maintain regular communication with your team. As the people most familiar with your operations, they’re perfectly placed to advise you on risks that haven’t been identified, or procedures that aren’t working as well as they should be.

Put the right monitoring processes in place

No matter how carefully thought-through your health and safety processes are, their success depends on how well they’re implemented. Procedures are useless if they aren’t followed correctly, so ensuring compliance is a major priority for all businesses. Regular monitoring is a good way of ensuring that standards are being maintained. Monitoring doesn’t have to be complicated – even a simple checklist could give you the confidence that your policies are being implemented correctly.

Keep Your Business Compliant with TWS

At its heart, Health and Safety legislation is based on simple principles. However, getting the right processes, equipment and checks in place to fulfil your business’s responsibilities can be challenging.

TWS offers a range of services to help your business stay compliant with environmental health legislation, and maintain a safe working environment for your employees.

To find out more about our services, read our case studies or contact us.

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