Can you put that down the drain?

When running your business you’ll inevitably use some water. Much of this may be in the same way that you use water at home ‘ for washing up, drinking and flushing the toilet, but you may also use water in manufacturing or production processes. Your business will produce waste water that’s flushed or poured away.

The water that’s disposed of will either go down surface water drains, or foul water drains. Water that runs down surface water drains will end up in local watercourses like streams and rivers and water that goes down any foul water drains will eventually end up at a water treatment plant.

Although you might think that the way you use and get rid of water is very similar to how you use it at home, different rules apply to businesses that you should be aware of to ensure you don’t dispose of anything down surface water or foul water drains that you are not allowed to. The Control of Pollution Regs 1996, the Environmental Permitting Regs 2010 and the Water Industry Act 1991 are key pieces of legislation you should consider.

If anything other than uncontaminated rainwater is going down any surface water drains on your premises then you can look into whether an Environmental Permit for Discharge to Controlled Waters is required. In England, these are regulated by the Environment Agency and you’ll need to comply with the conditions laid out in the permit.

Discharges to the foul sewer are known as ‘trade effluent’ for which a trade effluent consent is needed from your local water authority. Trade effluent doesn’t include domestic sewerage which includes waste water used for domestic purposes such as washing, food and drink and for toilets.

Common activities that you might need a permit or consent for include vehicle washing, emptying floor cleaners, launderette facilities, and process activities where water is used for washing or cooling.

Do you have consent or a permit for waste water at your business? And, do you think you might need one?