Do you think your business might need consent to discharge trade effluent? Navigating your responsibilities can be confusing. Our guide answers some frequently asked questions about consent to discharge and the steps your business needs to take. 

What is trade effluent?

Trade effluent is any liquid waste your business discharges to the UK’s water ways or sewers which could be harmful to the environment.

The Water Industry Act 1991 defines it as “any liquid, either with or without particles of matter in suspension in the liquid, which is wholly or partly produced in the course of any trade or industry carried on at a trade premises.” 

This means if your business discharges any liquids to the public sewer system that is not considered domestic waste (e.g. toilets) or rainwater (e.g. roof drainage) then you are producing trade effluent and you may need a permit from your local authority.

Which businesses need consent to discharge trade effluent?

The majority of businesses which produce liquid waste require permission – but there are exceptions which are considered ‘low risk’.

Do:
  • Swimming pools
  • Food/drink manufacturers
  • Car washes
  • Laundrettes
  • Chemical processing plants
  • Engineering plants
Don’t:
  • Hairdressers
  • Food service (e.g. restaurants, takeaways, pubs and hotels)
  • GP surgeries/dental and veterinary practices
  • Residential homes (e.g. care homes)
  • Grocery retailers (e.g. butchers, fishmongers and supermarkets)
  • Office buildings

Why is consent important?

Domestic waste discharged to our sewer systems is usually fairly easy to monitor. This is because water authorities can be confident what the strength, volume and content of this waste will be.

However, because trade effluent can come from so many different sources, it is difficult to predict what it contains and the harm it can do to people, the network and the environment. Above all, water authorities need to be confident that their treatment works will be able to process the effluent effectively and won’t be overloaded by the volume.

Water authorities reserve the right to refuse to accept any trade effluent they believe will cause undue harm to the environment, damage their sewerage systems or treatment processes, or have an impact on the health and safety of the general public or authority staff.

It is a criminal offence to discharge trade effluent to a public sewer system or waterway without consent, consequently it’s essential to obtain a permit before doing so. If you discharge without consent you could receive a fine of up to £5,000 in a Magistrates court, while more serious cases can be referred to Crown Court where fines are unlimited.

How do I apply for consent?

If you think your business requires consent to discharge trade effluent you will need to make an application via your retailer, who will complete a Trade Effluent Notice (G/02 Form).

What will my consent include?

Your consent will include several limits and conditions including:

  • Maximum discharge and daily volume rates
  • Solid particulate/organic matter concentration limits
  • pH level restrictions – normally this is between 6 and 10

Substances which could produce flammable or toxic vapours which could be harmful to people or the environment are not allowed and you will also be banned from discharging any liquid with a temperature higher than 43.3°C. Additionally, depending on the nature of your trade effluent, your local water authority may also impose additional conditions if required by the Environment Agency.

How can I be sure my business is being compliant?

Your consent to discharge trade effluent permit will include monitoring stipulations set out by your local water authority. Your permit may also include a requirement to comply with the Environment Agency’s Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS). You may be required to conduct regular sampling of your trade effluent or monitor it on an ongoing basis.

Compliance with MCERTS ensures that your business is providing accurate emissions information to the Environment Agency. You can read more about MCERTS requirements here.

How can SIRIS help?

We offer an MCERTS compliance guarantee to ensure your business is fulfilling its consent to discharge permit. This gives you peace of mind that you are meeting your certification requirements. Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more.