Trade effluent is defined as any liquid waste which is discharged into the public sewerage system from a business. Sewage and waste produced in residential homes is not defined as trade effluent, only waste which comes from a commercial establishment.
Trade effluent includes water used at any part of the production process, as well as water used in washing or cooling components in a factory.
It also includes liquid waste collected at public sites like landfill or recycling centres.
In effect, it’s any liquid waste which isn’t domestic sewage from a toilet, bath or sink, or rainwater which flows off the roof of a building into the drains.
How to tell if your wastewater is trade effluent?
Sometimes it can be difficult to establish whether the waste being produced is trade effluent or not.
If you are unsure, it’s best to get advice from the company which supplies your water.
Sewage or waste water from the kitchens of hotels, care homes or doctors’ surgeries is not trade effluent.
Neither is waste water washed down the sink after the junior shampoos your hair at a salon, or from baths or toilets at care homes.
If however you are running a commercial car wash or launderette, the waste water your business produces is classed as trade effluent.
The category also covers water used in any food and drink production process, water filtered from a public swimming pool, or used in factories or engineering businesses.
Trade effluent may be produced by your business on a regular basis, or as a temporary discharge.
Examples of temporary trade effluent would be the water produced after flushing through your office block’s heating system, or after groundwater remediation.
If you haven’t dealt with trade effluent before don’t assume that you know the process, seek advice from the experts at Water Treatment Services.
Understanding trade effluent consents
Water companies are used to treating sewage and wastewater from people’s homes… it doesn’t tend to vary much in terms of its composition.
However, trade effluent is a very different matter.
Depending on the type of business which is producing the waste, it can vary enormously in terms of contaminants, strength and in volume.
Trade effluent from some types of business can contain chemicals and other substances which can pose serious health risks.
Even if not dangerous to health, the substances contained within the effluent could damage the sewage network or the environment.
All water companies across the country have controls and limits in place to try to reduce the risks from trade effluent to acceptable levels… these form the basis of any consent they issue.
These are also designed to make sure that the system is not overloaded by being faced with high levels of trade effluent during a certain time period.
If you run a business which produces trade effluent, then you need formal consent to discharge it into the public sewerage or drainage network.
If you discharge effluent without the correct paperwork, then you are committing a criminal offence and can face prosecution, prohibition notices and substantial fines.
Trade effluent consent register
Water companies don’t have to accept your trade effluent for treatment if they don’t want to.
Their main responsibility is to manage the public sewerage network to protect the environment, prevent damage to their infrastructure including drains, water treatment works and pumping stations, and to look after the health and safety of both the general public and the water company staff.
Most water companies hold a register of businesses which have been granted trade effluent consent online, and this is a register which can usually be searched by members of the public.
Applying for a trade effluent consent
Most water companies won’t ask organisations to go through a consent process if their discharges are low risk and similar to domestic sewage.
However, most companies still reserve the right to put organisations through the consent process if they think it might be necessary.
Water companies can also take legal action against companies found to be discharging effluent illegally.
They can also prosecute companies whose effluent causes damage to sewers or other infrastructure under the provisions of the 1991 Water Industry Act.
If your business is an office, or other operation which only produces domestic sewage from staff toilets or sinks, it’s unlikely you will need a consent for trade effluent either.
People running food service outlets such as restaurants, staff canteens, takeaways or cafes won’t need a trade effluent consent either.
However, if you are running a food producing business the water company will expect you to have processes in place to manage the levels of grease getting into the public sewer.
You will also need to take steps to stop food waste from going down the drain too.
Consent is also not needed for discharge of effluent from healthcare settings such as GP offices, dentist practices, veterinary surgeries, hospitals or care homes.
There are exemptions to this rule though for certain substances which are often produced in healthcare operations.
Some examples of substances which do require consent are effluent produced by a hospital laundry, or boiler blowdown from the heating system.
There is lots of guidance on what discharges from healthcare settings need consent, and if you are still unsure you can seek guidance from your local water company.
Other types of businesses which produce trade effluent but which don’t require formal consent include businesses such as hairdressers, butchers, fishmongers, food retailers, stables, boarding kennels or florists.
What types of discharge conditions do water companies set?
If you do require consent, this will usually be granted under certain discharge conditions.
Usually, the water company will put a limit on the volume of effluent you can discharge over a set period of time.
There may also be limits on the concentration of particulates and organic matter within the water, and you’ll be banned from releasing any dangerous or toxic chemicals into the water – you’ll have to find a way of removing them first which may involve specialist advice.
If your trade effluent contains too many chemicals to be flushed into the sewerage system, the only option is to have it removed by tanker and dealt with professionally off-site.
Trade effluent appeals
You should be aware that Ofwat, the UK’s water regulator operate an appeals procedure dealing with trade effluent consent disputes.
Most disputes involve the practical implications of the consent conditions, any imposed timescales, or the costs of complying with the conditions.
What happens if there are on-site waste spillages or emergencies?
If you have a serious spillage or emergency onsite, don’t just wash all of the effluent into the drain and hope for the best.
You can get advice on the best course of action from the Environment Agency, or from the help line at your local water company.
Expert wastewater and trade effluent solutions
Water Treatment Services offer a comprehensive range of industrial effluent and wastewater management solutions.
Find out how our experts can help reduce your costs, achieve regulatory compliance and improve environmental performance.
We can provide advice and full support to help you identify the most appropriate strategies for managing your liquid waste and effluent streams.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained engineers, wastewater specialists and technicians we offer cost effective environmental support solutions across the whole of the UK and Ireland.
Contact us today to learn how our specialist wastewater management solutions can help improve your environmental performance, reduce costs and achieve cost effective discharge consent standards.
Learn more about our expert solutions for the optimisation of wastewater and trade effluent discharge.