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Information. Support. Compliance.

Environmental permits and licences – an overview


Business activities that may cause pollution or that pose another risk to the environment are regulated.

You must ensure that you have appropriate authorisation for the activities your business carries out. Some types of permit are issued by the Environment Agency, others by your local authority or water and sewerage company.

This guide outlines the main environmental authorisations including environmental permits and exemptions, trade effluent consents and agreements for discharges to public foul sewers, water abstraction and impoundment licences and hazardous waste registration.

Subjects covered in this guide

Environment Agency Helpline

03708 506 506


Contaminated Land and Contaminated Groundwater Assessments…/contaminatedland-and-contaminated-groundwater

ESG Geotechnical Services, Contaminated Land. Water Treatment and Hygiene Services Safety, Health and Environmental Management Services …. Next-day nutritional chemistry testing service launched Environmental Scientifics Group


Indicators for Land Contamination…/SCHO0805BJMD-E-E.p…

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
waters and contaminated land, and improving wildlife habitats. This report is ….. Four indicators have been developed to assist in the management of land contamination in. England affected by both chemical and radiological contamination.

Public health response to an incident of secondary chemical

by FJL Goodfellow – 2001 – Cited by 2Related articles
An Environment Agency report confirmed contamination of the beach with cyanide, public health doctors within health authorities to manage chemical incidents, has …. and compared with contaminated land and drinking water standards.

Contaminated land – Anglian Water…/contaminatedland.aspx

Floods and Water Management Act – New Build Standards and Mandatory Adoption An assessment is required to ascertain the chemical composition of the soil and Our contaminated land brochure provides detailed information about

Pollution control – Contaminated land | Barnsley Council Online

22 May 2012 – Barnsley Council maintains a list of potentially contaminated land in the borough. does not pose unacceptable risks to people, the environment, water and property. Model procedures for the management of Land Contamination (CLR11) Whilst the remediation of chemically contaminated land and

HPA – Chemical Hazards and Poisons Reports…/ChemicalsPoisons/ChemicalHazardsAndPoisonsR…

The reports share experiences in chemical incident management and allied issues. land contamination and contaminated private drinking water supplies.

Environmental Site Investigation, Contaminated Land, Planning and Development

ESG undertake site investigations and reporting in accordance with relevant guidelines including BS 10175: 2001, DEFRA and Environment Agency guidance. We have extensive experience in undertaking site investigations on a wide range of sites.


Over the past few years there has been an increasing awareness of issues surrounding land contamination and the potential for chemical substances upon, in or beneath the ground to impact upon people, animals and the wider environment. The government has set a target of 60% new build on previously used land, often referred to as brownfield sites. Frequently these sites have some form of contamination present upon them usually arising from past activities, particularly those sites of an industrial nature.

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment has become the essential tool for site investigations as the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) Part IIA requires a risk based approach to be used when assessing potentially or actually contaminated sites. This risk based approach is also required as part of the planning process for new developments.

Phased Site Investigation

Legislation and guidance regarding contaminated land requires the landowner and/or the developer of a site, which is potentially contaminated, to undertake a site investigation which is fit for purpose.

Site history is often complex and could involve several different industrial uses or activities that may have led to ground contamination from a wide variety of different sources.

Sites that have been used for one type of process may have become contaminated from a potentially large number of contaminants; processes change with time, chemicals are phased out of use and newer ones replace them, the layout of operations can be altered, demolition and reconstruction can also affect the likely presence and distribution of contaminants.

The investigation of contaminated land can be correspondingly complex and is ideally undertaken using a phased approach as identified in BS 10175. The need for and hence the cost of particular elements of an investigation are managed pro–actively depending upon the findings of the previous phase. Subsequent phases can then be carefully targeted. This avoids unnecessary work being undertaken. The phased approach typically consists of the following stages.

Site Investigation – Phase 1 Desk Study

Historical research and review of available information from sources such as archives, plans and records, databases and regulatory authorities to discover the past and current activities at a site and in the surrounding area and to assess them for potentially contaminative processes, to determine the potential for the presence of contamination.

The Phase 1 Desk Study identifies any potential sources of contamination resulting from the current and/or historical activities at the site and in the surrounding area.

The report will also identify any potentially sensitive receptors, e.g. humans, surface watercourses, aquifers, buildings or ecological receptors and collate the information relating to the site’s environmental setting i.e. geology, hydrogeology, industrial activity, location of controlled waters (canals, estuaries, lakes, ponds, rivers, springs, aquifers), pollution incidents and proximity to open/closed landfill sites.

This information is then used to undertake a qualitative risk assessment through the development of a conceptual model for the site. The conceptual model identifies any Significant Pollutant Linkages which may be present.

If Significant Pollutant Linkages are present then a Phase 2 site investigation may be required to quantify the risk and also to assess the potential for environmental liability associated with the site.

Site Investigation – Phase 2 Intrusive Investigation

An intrusive site investigation is then undertaken to investigate each aspect highlighted by the Phase 1 desk study, historical research and walkover survey. This comprises exploratory holes constructed using the most appropriate method for the site to investigate the local subsurface strata.

The Phase 2 intrusive contaminated land investigation is designed and implemented, using a variety of in situ exploratory methods, depending on factors such as sensitivity of the area, ground conditions (anticipated geology, hydrogeology, the expected presence of old foundations or other obstructions, which may have an impact on the technique selected), size of site and type of contaminants identified by the desk study as potentially present.

Chemical analysis of soil and water samples for common contaminants is performed to establish the concentration and extent of any contamination present. A risk assessment, using the “source-pathway-receptor” model would then be carried out, this assessment may be Qualitative or Quantitative dependent upon the site.

If a sensitive water receptor such as groundwater is identified beneath (or within the vicinity of) the site, then the investigation can also involve assessment of groundwater, using chemical analysis of water samples and computer modeling aided by various packages to quantify the risks posed. See (Groundwater Investigations).

Also see: On Site Chemical Analysis Investigation.

Site Investigation – Phase 3 Remediation Design, Execution and Validation

If remediation is deemed necessary following the Phase 2 works, then a site specific remediation methodology can be produced. Design of a site specific remediation methodology, as with all stages of investigation, involves consultation with the regulatory authorities to ensure satisfactory design and implementation of the remediation programme.

This can include delineation of contamination hot spots, further soil sampling, chemical analysis and additional monitoring, if additional information is required to supplement the previous investigation(s).

A wide range of remediation techniques are available and the methods chosen are dependent upon a range of factors including contaminant type and distribution, environmental sensitivity of the site, intended end use, cost and timescale etc. For information on our remediation work see Waste Management, Groundworks and Remediation.


ESG has been involved in a wide range of development projects requiring site investigations of potentially contaminated sites. We are able to provide a comprehensive contaminated land investigation service including:

  • Production of Phase 1 Desk Study reports through extensive information gathering, analysis and interpretation;
  • Designing, commissioning and supervising Phase 2 Intrusive Site Investigations, to meet the requirements of both the client and statutory authorities;
  • Design & Implementation of remedial schemes and undertaking post remediation monitoring (Phase 3);
  • Validation of remediation (Phase 4) and production of Post Remediation Validation Reports and remediation statements;
  • Liaison with statutory authorities (e.g. the Environment Agency, local authorities, HSE etc.);

Registered office: ESG House, Bretby Business Park, Ashby Road, Burton on Trent, DE15 0YZ. Incorporated in England: 02880501 | Disclaimer | Developed by DDME | Design by Carrick


Tuesday 27 March 2012

Celebration of Excellence in Scotland

Craig Brown joins local businesses to celebrate ESG’s success in Scotland 23rd March 2012 – – Environmental Scientifics Group (ESG), the UK’s leading environmental Compliance Company was delighted to have Craig Brown join them for an exclusive celebratory event at the Falkirk Wheel. Over 50 local businesses came together recently at an exclusive event at the Falkirk Wheel to…


© 2012 Environmental Scientifics Group

Brownfield Risk Management Forum
Local Authority Contaminated Land Network
Contaminated land news alerts

home > links


Click on a category below to view its associated links:

UK Government and Regulators
Trade Associations and Professional Bodies
Contaminated Land Networks and Environmental Organisations
Magazines and Journals
International Links
Other links

UK Government & Regulators

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
Umbrella organisation for all local authorities in Scotland and links to local authority web-sites.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
Remit is the pursuit of sustainable development – weaving together economic, social and environmental concerns. Go to ‘Environmental Protection’ then click on ‘Land – soil & contamination’.

Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
Responsible for policy on housing, planning, devolution, regional and local government and the fire service. It also takes responsibility for the Social Exclusion Unit, the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit and the Government Offices for the Regions.

Environment Agency
Activities range from influencing Government policy and regulating major industries nationally, right through to day-to-day monitoring and clean up operations at a local level. Go to the ‘Land Quality’ section. Also hosts the CLEA home page.

Environment and Heritage Service Northern Ireland (EHSNI)
Protect and conserve Northern Ireland’s natural heritage and built environment, to control and regulate pollution and to promote wider appreciation of the environment and best environmental practices. Go to ‘Environmental Protection’ then ‘Waste’ for ‘Waste Management and Contaminated Land Unit’.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
Look after health and safety in nuclear installations and mines, factories, farms, hospitals and schools, offshore gas and oil installations, the safety of the gas grid and the movement of dangerous goods and substances, railway safety, and many other aspects of the protection both of workers and the public.

Health Protection Agency (HPA)
The Health Protection Agency is a national organisation for England and Wales dedicated to protecting people’s health and reducing the impact of infectious diseases, chemical hazards, poisons and radiation hazards. It brings together the expertise of health and scientific professionals working in public health, communicable disease, emergency planning, infection control, laboratories, poisons, chemical, and radiation hazards.

HM Revenue & Customs
HM Revenue and Customs is a Government department with responsibility for collecting billions of pounds in revenue each year in VAT, other taxes and customs duties. The site includes information on the landfill tax scheme, which HMRC administers.

Local Government Association (LGA)
Umbrella organisation for all local authorities in England & Wales and links to local authority web-sites.

National Assembly for Wales – The Department for Environment, Planning & Countryside
The Government Department responsible in Wales for environmental protection, including contaminated land. Go to ‘Environment’ then ‘Pollution’ then ‘Contaminated Land’.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
Protect the land, air and water – the core elements that form the fabric of our environment. We will do so in partnership with others, and in a way that enables Scotland to sustain a strong and diverse economy. Go the ‘Regulation’ section then ‘Contaminated Land’.

Scottish Executive
The Government Department responsible in Scotland for environmental protection, including contaminated land. Go to ‘Topics’, then ‘Environment’, ‘Pollution’ and ‘Contaminated Land’.

Trade Associations and Professional Bodies

Association of Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS)
A trade association established to improve the profile and quality of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering, including contaminated land related issues.

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
The CIOB is the leading professional body for managers in construction with now over 40,000 members worldwide.

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)
An independent professional body and representing those who work in environmental health and related disciplines.

Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM)
An independent multi-disciplinary professional and examining body for scientists, engineers, other environmental professionals, students and those committed to the sustainable management and development of water and the environment.

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)
The leading professional body for waste and resource management.

Environmental Industries Commission (EIC)
Trade association promoting and supporting the development of a strong, competitive UK environmental technology and services industry, including contaminated land-related services.

Geological Society
The Geological Society of London is the UK national society for geoscience. It is a learned and professional body, and a registered charity. It exists to promote the geosciences and the professional interests of UK geoscientists.

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
The leading organisation for professionals interested in or involved with civil engineering

Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)
Organisation established to promote best practice standards in environmental management, auditing and assessment.

National House-Building Council (NHBC)
The standard setting body and leading warranty and insurance provider for new and newly converted homes in the UK, including for land contamination issues.

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
Standards and membership organisation for professionals involved in land, valuation, real estate, construction and environmental issues.

Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
The largest organisation in Europe for advancing the chemical sciences.

Specialist in Land Condition (SiLC) Scheme
Professional accreditation scheme for the registration of individuals completing the Land Condition Record (LCR).

The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS)
(the Institute) has been in existence for over 125 years and has around 1,200 members the majority of whom are Environmental Health Officers working in that capacity for Scottish local authorities. The objects for which the Institute is established are for the benefit of the community to promote the advancement of Environmental Health by: stimulating interest in and disseminating knowledge concerning Environmental Health; promoting education and training in matters relating to Environmental Health; and maintaining, by examination or otherwise, high standards of professional practice and conduct on the part of Environmental Health Officers in Scotland.

UK Environmental Law Association
UK forum which aims to make the law work for a better environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law.

Contaminated Land Networks & Environmental Organisations

Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments (CL:AIRE)
A public-private partnership supporting the development of cost-effective methods of investigating and remediating contaminated land in a sustainable way.

Contaminated Land Assessment & Remediation Research Centre (CLARRC)
CLARRC is a multi-disciplinary centre of excellence drawing on the resources of groups across the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, the Schools of Life Sciences and Built Environment at Napier University and from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC).

Contaminated Land Rehabilitation Network for Environmental Technologies in Europe (CLARINET)
CLARINET is a Concerted Action within the Environment & Climate Programme of the European Commission DG Research, whose aim is to develop technical recommendations for sound decision making concerning the rehabilitation of contaminated sites in Europe.

Forest Research
Conduct research and provide technical advice on establishing greenspace on brownfield, degraded and contaminated land. Research is designed specifically to address issues such as site investigation, contamination, soil and water resource management and achieving integrated remedial solutions in collaboration with industry based, government and research organisations. Key objective is to conduct cutting-edge research that can be disseminated as best practice guidance to stakeholders involved in restoration and greenspace creation on brownfield and contaminated land.

Complete reference source to suit the needs of Local Authorities needing rapid, reliable and up to date online access to complete documents relevant to Architects, Building Control, Environmental Health, Trading Standards, Engineering and Technical Services.

Integrated Pollution Management Knowledge Transfer Network (IPM-Net)
IPM-Net assists industry to meet the demands of regulatory and business drivers for the integrated management and remediation of environmental pollution.  Drawing together organisations that deal with environmental pollution in land, waste and water, IPM-Net enables businesses to become more competitive, create jobs, increase wealth and enhance the position of UK environmental industries in the global marketplace.

Land Regeneration Network
A networking platform for all stakeholders of contaminated land and industrial waste management in Wales.

National Society for Clean Air & Environmental Protection (NSCA)
NSCA is the environmental protection charity that brings together organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors to promote a balanced & innovative approach to understanding and solving environmental problems.

Network for Industrially Contaminated Land in Europe (NICOLE)
NICOLE is the principal forum that European business uses to develop and influence the state of the art in contaminated land management in Europe.

SAFEGROUNDS Learning Network
A forum for developing and disseminating good practice guidance on the management of radioactively and chemically contaminated land on nuclear and defence sites in the UK.

Scottish Contaminated Land Forum
A forum to encourage and promote the effective and sustainable rehabilitation of contaminated land in Scotland.

Site Decommissioning: Sustainable Practices in the Use of Resources (SD:SPUR)
Initiative developed to establish through dialogue safe, socially, economically and environmentally sustainable practices in the use of resources arising from the decommissioning of nuclear sites.

Soil & Groundwater Technology Association (SAGTA)
SAGTA is a non-profit making association of major UK private and public sector landholders, which actively addresses technical challenges associated with the management of landholdings that are potentially contaminated.

Magazines and journals

Brownfield Briefing
Monthly publication by Newzeye with weekly electronic updates designed to cover the latest news in the area of brownfield development.

Contaminated Land Management
Monthly newsletter published by GEE Publications focusing on the issues facing decision makers in the contaminated land sector.

Environmental Industries Commission Land Remediation Yearbook 2006
An essential reference source on land remediation and an invaluable tool for information on suppliers of land-remediation services including: consultants, technology providers, contractors, laboratories, insurers and lawyers.

ENDS Report
Monthly journal for environmental policy and business in the UK, providing in-depth analysis; a weekly Bulletin provides a round-up of policy and legislation developments.

Pollution control online
The essential guide to UK and European pollution control legislation for local authorities, small to multi-national enterprises and education establishments.

Land Contamination & Reclamation
A quarterly peer reviewed journal published by EPP Publications covering risk assessment, investigation, containment systems, treatment technologies, natural attenuation and monitoring.

International links

Dutch National Institute of Public Health & the Environment (RIVM)
Main environmental research institute in the Netherlands, including soil and water contamination.

European Union Groundwater and Contaminated Land Information System (EUGRIS)
Information platform and links to contaminated land and groundwater information for the European Union.

German Federal Environment Agency
International Centre for Soil & Contaminated Sites (ICSS).

Health Canada
Home page for Health Canada, part of the Government of Canada providing information on health-related issues.

NATO Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society (CCMS)
Evaluation of Demonstrated and Emerging Remedial Action Technologies for the Treatment of Contaminated Land and Groundwater.

Remediation Technologies Development Forum (RTDF)
A US public-private partnership set up to undertake research, development, demonstration, and evaluation efforts to solve clean-up problems.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
This website has information on most environmental issues, including contaminated land, and in particular provides good data sets for contaminant transport.

World Health Organisation (WHO)
Home page for WHO including information on a wide range of health-related issues including information on specific contaminants and guideline values.

Other links

This site is a portal containing links to a range of contaminated land information for the construction and brownfield community; landowners and developers, advisors and regulators.

Ground Tech Jobs
Job Vacancies, Courses and Products within the Ground Engineering, Environmental and Water Sectors in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

Local Authority Network on Drainage and Flood Risk Management (LANDFoRM)
A CIRIA managed platform for sharing knowledge and expertise in flood risk management and sustainable drainage


Information. Support. Compliance.

Dealing with land contamination

Preventing land contamination

If you have hazardous substances at your site, such as oil and chemicals, you must ensure that you don’t cause land contamination or make any existing contamination worse.

Comply with your permit

You can prevent land contamination by following the terms of your environmental permit if you have one. See our guide on environmental permits and licences – an overview.

You can also prevent land contamination by complying with any authorisations you have that aim to prevent water pollution. See our guide on preventing water pollution.

Manage your hazardous substances correctly

If your business uses hazardous substances, consider if they need to be stored on site, or if you could use less harmful alternatives. If no alternatives exist, try to reduce the amount that you use and only store the amount that you actually need at any time.

Keep materials that could harm the environment or human health separate from other materials. These materials include:

  • oils
  • solvents
  • pesticides
  • chemicals
  • radioactive substances

You should store hazardous substances in appropriate containers that have pollution prevention features, such as secondary containment systems. Label containers clearly. See our guides on storing oil and chemical storage.

Handle any hazardous waste carefully. See our guide on managing your hazardous waste.

Supervise refuelling and deliveries

You should supervise all refuelling operations and only refuel in a contained area away from watercourses or surface water drains.

Supervise deliveries of materials to your site. Make sure you clearly label tanks with their contents and storage capacity, and provide a method for measuring the amount in the tank. This will reduce the risk of spills from overfilling.

Prepare a pollution incident response

You should ensure you have a pollution incident response procedure for dealing with spills. Make sure your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it.

You should report pollution incidents as soon as they happen by calling the Environment Agency Incident Hotline on Tel 0800 80 70 60.

See our guide on pollution incidents and environmental damage – an overview.

Inspect and maintain equipment regularly

You should regularly inspect and maintain all plant, pipework and other infrastructure, checking for damage, leaks and overflows. Service your equipment, storage containers and other infrastructure regularly to reduce the risk of leaks or spills. Keep maintenance and service records.

Train staff on safety procedures

Make sure that all your staff have the right level of training and that they fully understand their responsibility to prevent pollution. You should carry out a health and safety risk assessment to identify hazards and allow preventative measures to be put in place. Keep records of the training and risk assessments you carry out.

Make sure you have written procedures for dealing with pollution incidents and that everyone in the business understands them.

Subjects covered in this guide

Contaminated Land

Whether you are a member of the public, an academic worker, a consultant, an owner/occupier of contaminated land or any other party with an interest in such land, this section of SEPA’s website will provide you with background information on most aspects of contaminated land. Others organisations are highlighted which may be contacted for further information.

How land is contaminated

Over the past 100 years, the industrial revolution saw the expansion of the steel, coal, chemical and other industries and with this expansion came huge economic and social growth. At the time of expansion, the consequences of industrial development to the environment were not fully understood and a sustainable future was not planned. Today, there is a much greater appreciation of the environmental impacts of industry and releases to the environment are regulated to guard against adverse impacts.

Previous industrial processes disposed of waste by tipping it on the land and raw materials and fuel were often spilt, contaminating the land at the sites. Even today land contamination may arise from unintentional leaks and spills at various sites. Contaminants can range from solvents, oil, petrol and heavy metals to radioactive substances. The sources of contaminants are not just restricted to industrial processes: other sources may include agriculture activities, inadequate waste disposal, deposition from the atmosphere and every day activities such as petrol distribution and dry cleaning.

For further information on the nature of land contamination associated with various industries, reference should be made to the Department of the Environment’s Industry Profiles external link.

Why is contaminated land of concern?

Contaminated land is of concern if it presents a threat to the environment or if it poses risks to users of the land. Such land is seen to have potential environmental liabilities, which are also of concern to land owners due to their financial and legal implications. Financial liabilities include reduced land values or the requirement to fund remediation.

As contamination can take a variety of forms, so it may impact in a variety of ways. Depending on the concentration and nature of the substances present, harm may be caused to human health, plants, wildlife, crops, property or ecological systems as a whole. Harm to human health can be caused in a variety of ways and the impacts may range from skin and respiratory irritation to cancer, birth defects or even death. Exposure to contaminants may occur in a variety of situations. Polluted dust can be inhaled, both on the site and in the surrounding area. Small children may directly consume the soil if they play in contaminated areas. Other exposure routes are skin contact, ingestion of vegetables that have taken up contaminants or have contaminated soil attached to them, inhalation of volatile contaminants and asphyxiating gases.

Pollution to rivers, groundwater, lochs and ponds can occur by the leaching of contaminants out of the soil into water courses through the natural drainage of the soil or through surface runoff of water eroding and transporting contaminant materials to water courses. This in turn can effect aquatic plant and animal life and contaminate human drinking water. Some contaminants may also pose a fire or explosion hazard or they may be corrosive and attack building materials or services.

Why remediate contaminated land?

Contaminated land is typically remediated to address environmental risks, risks to users of the sites, as well as financial and legal liabilities. In addition, with more and more pressure being put on our countryside for the development of new industries, business and also housing, there is an increasing tendency to build on existing sites so as to preserve greenfield sites for future generations. Some of these existing sites may be contaminated. The government has set targets for housing that 60% of all new housing should be built on existing “brownfield” sites to preserve our countryside. This requires the risks associated with brownfield sites due to chemical contamination be addressed before the sites can be redeveloped.

SEPA’s Involvement

SEPA is involved with contaminated land in a number of ways:

  • we regulate industries so that future land contamination is prevented
  • we control the disposal of waste so that future land contamination is prevented
  • when consulted by planning authorities, we provide comment in relation to our regulatory duties, in particular pollution of the water environment associated with land affected by contamination
  • we issue licences as appropriate for activities associated with the remediation of contaminated land
  • Under the provisions of Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 SEPA also has a duty to cause to be remediated, land designated as a special site
  • The Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007 come into force at the end of October 2007. SEPA has the  responsibility under these regulations for the investigation, identification, characterisation and regulation of remediation of radioactive contaminated land (RCL). The Statutory Guidance was issued 31 March 2008 and is available here external link or printed copy from

The objectives for the extension of Part IIA to radioactive contamination remain the same: to provide a system for the identification and remediation of land where contamination is causing lasting exposure to radiation for human beings and where “intervention” is liable to be “justified”. The same principles apply, namely “the polluter pays” and the “suitable for use” approach. Additionally,the new legislation ensures that the UK complies with its obligations to transpose and implement adequately articles 48 and 53 of the Basic Safety Standards Directive (Council Directive 96/29/Euratom) (BSS Directive) which lays down the basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation.

SEPA’s Dealing with land contamination in Scotland report can be downloaded from our land publications page. A summary version of the report is available at the same address.

The Scottish regulations will cover the water environment both as a pathway and as a receptor and will include “significant harm” or possibility of such to biota, ecosystems as well as harm to humans.

Planning and contaminated land

The planning system has a key role to play in addressing the problem of land contamination. The risks associated with contaminated land are a material planning consideration and are addressed by the planning authority in the preparation of development plans and in the determination of planning applications. The planning authority may consult with SEPA, particularly when drafting conditions covering areas for which SEPA has regulatory responsibility. The Scottish Executive have issued advice to planning authorities on the development of contaminated land, in the form of Planning Advice Note 33 external link. Further guidance on SEPA’s role in planning and contaminated land can be found here.

Contaminated land management


High levels of arsenic, lead and antimony have been found in soil on properties in the Thames suburb of Moanataiari.

For more information you can visit the following:

It is important that contaminated land is managed to avoid harm to people and the environment. Hazardous substances in soil (contaminants) can have significant adverse effects on human health, and on the quality of soil and water resources. At hazardous concentrations, contaminants can limit the use of land, cause corrosion that threatens building structures, and reduce land value.
This web page provides information on contaminated land management in New Zealand including:

New Zealand’s legacy of contaminated land

The past use of chemicals (hazardous substances) in industry, agriculture and horticulture has left a legacy of soil contamination in New Zealand. This contamination has been mainly caused by past practices in which chemicals were used, stored and disposed of in a way that is not safe by today’s standards.

Contaminated sites are commonly associated with past activities such as:

  • The manufacture and use of pesticides – these activities have resulted in contamination at locations where pesticides were manufactured as well as the wider contamination associated with the use of the chemicals (eg, agrichemical sprays).
  • Production of gas and coal products includes old gasworks sites located in most towns and cities.
  • Production, storage and use of petroleum productscontamination has occurred from leaking fuel storage facilities at tank farms and service stations.
  • Historic mining – usually associated with metals leaching from old tailings dams and mine shafts.
  • Timber treatment – pentachlorophenol (PCP) was one of a number of chemical formulations used routinely at most sawmills and timber treatment plants from the 1950s until 1988, when its use ceased.
  • Sheep dipping – from use of DDT, dieldrin, arsenic and other chemicals to treat parasites on sheep.  Old sheep dips can be located on farms with a history of sheep farming , as well as on public land used at the time as stockyards and railway sidings.

When contaminants in soil are a problem

Contaminants are a problem when the hazardous substances are at a concentration and a place where they have, or are reasonably likely to have, an adverse effect on human health and the environment. Contaminants are a greater problem in environments where food is grown or in close proximity to buildings, people, water bodies and important habitats.
Contamination is not always limited to a specific site. Hazardous substances may seep through the soil into groundwater, or be carried to nearby land and waterways in rainwater and attached to dust. Hazardous gases can also pollute our air. The different pathways by which humans can be exposed to contaminants in soil are shown in the diagram below.

Pathways by which contaminants in soil can affect human health

Pathways by which contaminants in  soil can affect human health

Read a description of this figure

Agencies responsible for managing contaminated land

The Ministry for the Environment provides leadership on land contamination across central and local government. Regional councils and territorial authorities have functions under the RMA, Sections 30 and 31 respectively, for the day-to-day management of contaminated land.
Further information about the roles and legislative responsibilities of all involved agencies is described in the Ministry for the Environment discussion document, Working Towards a Comprehensive Policy Framework for Managing Contaminated Land in New Zealand.

Tools and guidance for managing contaminated land

To help local government fulfil their RMA functions the Ministry for the Environment has developed a framework for managing land contamination that includes a mix of laws and regulations, guidelines and funding arrangements.
For more information see:

Contaminated land remediation projects

The Ministry for the Environment is taking a lead on addressing historical issues relating to land contamination. This includes helping investigate contaminated sites and remediate high-risk areas.
Examples of high-risk contaminated sites are:

You can receive email updates about Tui mine by subscribing to the Tui mine newsletter. Or check out the Environment Waikato website.

How to find out if your land is contaminated

If you are concerned that your land may be contaminated check out our How to find out if your land is contaminated web page.

Further information

For enquiries about the Ministry’s work on contaminated land please email

Last updated: 27 March 2012

Protocol for the disposal of contaminated water

Issued by Water UK

[Version 2.1 

September 2003]



1.       Introduction                                                                                      1

2.       Aim                                                                                         2

3.       Principles of containment                                                                 2

4.       Contaminants                                                                          3

5.       Identification                                                                           3

6.       Treatment                                                                                3

7.       Legal position                                                                          4

8.       Communication                                                                       5

  1. The treatment and disposal of wash water from small

scale and large scale decontamination activity

9.1            Outline                                                                           5

9.2            Small scale decontamination                                          6

9.3            Medium scale decontamination                                               7

9.4            Mass decontamination                                                   8

9.5            Effect on the operation of the sewage treatment

Works                                                                            10

  1. The treatment and disposal of contaminated water and

potentially contaminated water from the water supply

sites, water distribution network and service reservoirs

10.1   Outline                                                                           11

10.2       Decontamination of water supply sites, water

Distribution networks, service reservoirs and customer

Services                                                                         12

10.3       Action to be taken to protect the environment              12

Document Control

Version Date Change
1 July 2002 Original issue
2 April 2003 Amendments for changed Fire Service procedures
2.1 Sept 2003 Amendments to reflect comments from DoE NI:

  • Addition to para 1.5
  • New para 7.4


Appendix 1:         Disposal of wash waters                                                         13

Appendix 2:         Dealing with contaminated water in the portable water

supply system                                                              15

Appendix 3:         Guidance on identification of drainage systems             16

Appendix 4:         Fire Brigade Field Guidance                                          17

Protocol for the disposal of contaminated water

1.    Introduction

1.1     The purpose of this protocol is to ensure effective control and cooperation between the Emergency Services, Local Authorities, the Water Industry and the Environment Agency in England and Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland and the Northern Ireland Environment & Heritage Service in dealing with water based contamination incidents, which involve the potential pollution of the environment, the disposal of waste and/or the release of radioactive substances.

1.2     The protocol forms the basis of guidance to the Emergency Services and Local Authorities in developing their own plans. There are a number of developments and research projects that will have a bearing on the treatment processes. This protocol is therefore a working document.

1.3     This protocol develops a recommendation of a joint Water Industry/DEFRA working group considering emergency planning requirements beyond those covered by the Security and Emergency Measures Direction 1998 [SEMD].

1.4     Membership of the protocol working group is

Mike Parker          Severn Trent Water Ltd. [Chairman]

Julian Dennis Thames Water

John Gray Drinking Water Inspectorate

Dave Mathias Environment Agency

1.5     Water UK, the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency were consulted in the development of this protocol and it reflects comments by Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland.

1.6     In this report reference is made to sewerage undertakers and water undertakers.  In England and Wales the sewerage undertaker will be one of the regional water and sewerage companies.  In Scotland it will be Scottish Water and in Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Water Service. In England and Wales the water undertaker will be one of the regional water and sewerage companies or one of the water only companies.  In Scotland it will be Scottish Water and in Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Water Service. In some locations therefore the sewerage undertaker and water undertaker may be the same organisation.

1.7            This document has been revised to incorporate the latest guidance on decontamination.

2.  Aim

2.1            The aim of this protocol is to prevent the discharge of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear materials from the site of origin to the wider community and to establish the procedures for:

2.1.1  The treatment and disposal of wash water from small scale and large scale decontamination activity,

2.1.2  The treatment and disposal of contaminated water and potentially contaminated water from water supply sites, water distribution networks and service reservoirs.

3.  Principles of containment

3.1     The general principle to follow is that contaminants and contaminated materials should be contained either at the scene or in a holding tank until they have been properly identified. Once identified, a decision can be made on what treatment is needed to render the material harmless for disposal, or, alternatively, which properly managed safe disposal process, chosen on the basis of a knowledge-based risk assessment, can be used.

3.2     This principle should be adhered to unless to do so would significantly increase the potential risk to the health of those attending or managing the incident.

3.3     The following points should be followed:

  • Contain all potentially contaminated material, pending confirmation of contamination.
  • Treat all potentially contaminated material as a serious risk to health until proven otherwise.
  • Solid material should not be touched. It may be covered with plastic sheeting or other containment method by the fire service, to prevent material being blown around or walked in. The actual removal and bagging of such material is the job of specially trained emergency personnel.
  • Small volumes of potentially contaminated liquid at an incident location should be dealt with in a similar manner to other solid material.

4.  Contaminants

4.1     For the purpose of this protocol contaminants are classified as:



Radioactive (contamination caused as a result of release of radioactive material associated with industrial or other non-nuclear industry uses)

Nuclear (contamination caused as a result of the explosive detonation and release of material used in nuclear processes).

5.  Identification

5.1     The identification of the contaminants in water or sewage may be made by the Environment Agency or under arrangements made by the emergency services but most likely it will be made by the Water Industry’s laboratories or by using the Water Industry’s call off contract. The call off contract will assist with the identification and quantification of a limited number of materials. Other laboratories may be able to offer assistance e.g. Environment Agency, National Radiological Protection Board as well as Laboratory of the Government Chemist, Dstl [Porton] and Public Health Laboratory Service [PHLS] outside the contract.

5.2     Any other material found will be sampled by the emergency services.

5.3     If the police suspect that the contamination was a deliberate act, they will designate the site where the material has been found as a crime scene.

6.  Treatment

6.1     The treatment regime required would be governed by the contaminant and it’s concentration. Advice on the processes available can be obtained from those laboratories listed above, from the Health Protection Agency, which includes the PHLS, poisons units and chemical incidents units, from some Universities and from other toxicology services. Before the event the water and sewerage undertakers should have established these contacts.

7.  Legal position

7.1            In general, pollution law clearly recognises that in an emergency involving risk to human health, protection of human life is paramount.

7.2     In England and Wales it is a legitimate defence to the offence of causing pollution of controlled waters if the pollution was caused in an emergency to avoid danger to health, that reasonable steps as were practicable at the time were taken to minimise the pollution and that the Environment Agency (EA) was informed as soon as reasonably practicable. [Water Resources Act 1991 Section 85 and 89]. Similarly there are defences covering the unauthorised deposit, treatment or disposal of waste where it is done in an emergency to avoid danger to the public. [EPA 1990 Section 33(7)(c)]. Similar defences also exist for the controls on the movement of special wastes.

7.3     For Scotland, the relevant water pollution offence is given in the Control of Pollution Act 1974 Section 30F(1), and is causing or knowingly permitting any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter or any solid waste matter to enter any controlled waters. It is a defence in terms of Section 30J(1) of the 1974 Act, if the discharge was made in an emergency to avoid danger to life or health, if the discharger takes all such steps as were reasonably practical in the circumstances for minimising the extent of the discharge and its polluting effects, and if the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was informed as soon as reasonably practical. The EPA 1990 defence also applies in Scotland.

7.4    For Northern Ireland, Article 7 of the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 (the 1999 Order) contains a similar water pollution offence provision.  The protection of human health in water pollution incidents is covered by Article 4(2)(c) of the 1999 Order which states that “the Department (of the Environment) shall, in exercising its functions in relation to the conservation of water resources and the cleanliness of water, have regard to the protection of public health”.  Similarly there are defences covering the unauthorized  deposit of controlled waste where it is done in an emergency to avoid danger to the public [Article 5(4)(d) of the Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978]. Similar defences also exist for the controls on the movement of special wastes.

8.  Communication

8.1     If discharge to sewer is planned, it is essential that the sewerage undertaker be informed before any operation to dispose of contaminated water is undertaken so that management decisions on appropriate actions can be taken. It may be necessary to instigate Health & Safety measures in the sewerage system and to separate the material from the main flow at the works by diverting into storm tanks. In order to identify the commencement of the flow into the works it may be necessary to introduce a substance such as fluorescein into the flow at the decontamination site.

8.2            It is essential that the EA in England and Wales or SEPA in Scotland is informed, also at an early stage, and their advice and procedures followed.

8.3            A copy of the field guidance to the Fire Service is at Appendix 4.


9.  The treatment and disposal of wash water from small scale and large scale decontamination activity


9.1             Outline

9.1.1  The general principles of containment apply to all wash water where this is reasonably practicable. The nature and amount of contaminants need to be identified so that the wash water can be correctly treated before disposal.

9.1.2  In most cases the large dilution afforded to any chemicals present in decontamination wash water will ensure that it will have no, or minimal, environmental impact. The Fire Service system of removing a casualty’s clothing before washing will also considerably reduce potential impact. However there are a few contaminants which may cause problems even with the recommended rates of dilution.

9.1.3  The decontamination of victims should take place in close proximity to the scene of the incident. This should result in an improved prognosis for the casualty, and, reduce the possibility of spreading the contamination to other people and locations.

9.1.4  The decontamination process is to treat the casualty with water and bacteriological soap. A mixture of 0.5% bacteriological soap in water is used for the following materials:

  • Suspected chemical weaponry
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Biological
  • Radioactive material
  • Unknown materials

9.1.5  It is considered by HM Fire Service Inspectorate, in their document “Mass decontamination of contaminated casualties”, to be the best available material to be used in this process.

9.1.6  The need for decontamination may be obvious e.g. from an industrial chemical leak or as a result of advice from the Emergency Services following the finding of a suspect device.

9.1.7  The means for decontamination will depend on the number of victims and severity of injuries, the facilities available and the speed required to decontaminate so that medical attention can be provided.

9.1.8  In the case of chemical contamination, speed of decontamination is of paramount importance, but in the case of radioactive and most biological incidents, unless the casualty has other life threatening injuries, speed is not such an issue.

9.1.9    The figures shown in the following sections are not definite. The number and type of casualties that would trigger each category will depend on the available facilities, the urgency of decontamination and the capabilities of the local Emergency Services.

9.1.10                         If the discharge is to be made to the foul sewer, the discharge needs to be managed prudently, as decontaminated water rapidly released into the sewer may not reach its intended destination. All parties concerned need to be alert to the possibility of premature operation of Combined Sewer Overflows [SOS].

9.2 Small scale decontamination [1 to 10 persons]

9.2.1  If the casualties require urgent medical treatment, the first responders to arrive will remove the casualties’ clothing and utilize the equipment carried on the first vehicles to wash the casualties. Due to the requirement for rapid decontamination and the limited equipment available, it may not be possible to contain the run off.

9.2.2  Any victims not requiring urgent treatment will simply be disrobed and will not be washed.

9.2.3    The Environment Agency and the sewerage undertaker must be informed so that management decisions on appropriate actions can be taken. It may be necessary to instigate Health & Safety measures in the sewerage system and to separate the material from the main flow at the works by diverting into storm tanks, but no additional action is likely to be required.

9.2.4    Drains should be identified and surface water drains blocked off so that the wash water is directed towards the foul sewer. Advice is available for Emergency Service personnel to help identify foul water drainage systems [see Appendix 3].

9.2.5  In order to identify the commencement of the flow into the works it is recommended that a substance such as fluorescein be introduced into the waste flow from the communal shower facility before the decontamination process is started.

9.2.6  A flow chart is at Appendix 1.

9.3 Medium scale decontamination [11 to 50 persons]

9.3.1  If the casualties require urgent medical treatment, the first responders to arrive will remove the casualties’ clothing and utilize the equipment carried on the first vehicles to wash the casualties. Due to the requirement for rapid decontamination and the limited equipment available, it will not be possible to contain the run off.

9.3.2  Any victims not requiring urgent treatment will be disrobed and will await the arrival of the specially designed decontamination vehicles from either the Ambulance Service or the Fire Service.

9.3.3  The Ambulance Service pods have a capability to decontaminate between 5 to 8 casualties an hour. If this capability is exceeded the Fire Service vehicles have the capability to decontaminate up to 100 casualties an hour and up to 400 ambulant victims per hour.  If the Ambulance Service requests the assistance of the Fire Service, it will be declared as a Mass Decontamination incident. Both of these systems can retain run-off for a maximum of 60 minutes.

9.3.4  In some cases decontamination may be undertaken in a communal shower facility – such as a swimming pool or sports facility, if one is available near to the incident.

9.3.5              Drains should be identified and surface water drains blocked off so that the wash water is directed towards the foul sewer. Advice is available for Emergency Service personnel to help identify foul water drainage systems [see Appendix 3].

9.3.6  The Water Companies and Environment Agency will be informed as soon as is practical and advice will be sought. Advice may be given remotely or on-site if circumstances allow. In the absence any advice the Fire Service will endeavor to run the waste to a foul sewer.

9.3.7  If communal shower facilities are to be used the Environment Agency and the sewerage undertaker must be informed before the facility is put into operation for decontamination so that management decisions on appropriate actions can be taken. It will be necessary to consider instigation of Health & Safety measures in the sewerage system and to separate the material from the main flow at the works by diverting into storm tanks. In order to identify the commencement of the flow into the works it is recommended that a substance such as fluorescein be introduced into the waste flow from the communal shower facility before the decontamination process is started.

9.3.8  A flow chart is at Appendix 1.

9.4 Mass decontamination

9.4.1  The incidents that might invoke the mass decontamination of members of the public are uncommon and fall into five main categories

  • Use of recognised chemical weapons.
  • Spillage of chemicals in transit.
  • Release of chemicals from an industrial site storing highly toxic material in large quantities.
  • Use of biological weaponry.
  • Incidents involving radioactive contamination either during transportation, from activation of a terrorist device or on site.

9.4.2  The numbers of casualties that would determine the activation of mass decontamination arrangements will be determined locally and therefore will vary across the country.  [The worst case mass decontamination scenario was the Bhopal incident in 1984, which resulted in 2,000 immediate casualties and 100,000 injured]

9.4.3  The fire service will be responsible for the overall management of mass decontamination assisted by the other Emergency Services and agencies. The fire service will be responsible for establishing and organising the area in which the decontamination process will take place. The fire service personnel will also be responsible for the initial containment of the wash water [for up to 1 hour].

9.4.4  Containment of wash water has to be considered in any mass decontamination incident. In the case of chemically contaminated casualties, speed of decontamination is of paramount importance so that medical attention can be provided and, therefore, containment may need to be a secondary consideration. In the case of radioactive and most biological incidents, speed of decontamination is not such an issue, unless the casualty has life threatening injuries and it is reasonable to expect that the wash water from this process be contained.

9.4.5  However containment and treatment of the wash water in these circumstances may be difficult to achieve. Some containment method similar to that used to contain firewater may be possible provided that time permits. As a minimum drains should be identified and surface water drains blocked off so that the wash water is directed towards the foul sewer. Advice is available for Emergency Services personnel to help identify foul water drainage systems (see Appendix 3)

9.4.6  Some treatment of the wash water will be achieved by the use of bacteriological soap in the decontamination process. Additional treatment of the wash water is unlikely to be achievable.

9.4.7  It is essential that the Environment Agency and the sewerage undertaker are informed at an early stage during the setting up of the facility and before it is put into operation for decontamination so that management decisions on appropriate actions can be taken. It will be vital to instigate Health & Safety measures in the sewerage system and to separate the material from the main flow at the works by diverting into storm tanks.

9.4.8  In order to identify the commencement of the flow into the works it is recommended that a substance such as fluorescein dye be introduced into the waste flow from the decontamination facility before the decontamination process is started.

9.4.9  A flow chart is at Appendix 1.


9.5 Effect on the operation of the sewage treatment works

9.5.1  In the majority of options available for the disposal of contaminated water the ultimate use of the sewerage system and the sewage treatment works is the most practical. The diversion of the contaminated water by the sewerage undertaker to storm tanks buys time for the method of final disposal to be properly planned.

9.5.2  If the decision is made that the contaminated water can flow through the treatment processes at the sewage treatment works without harming the processes, it may produce contaminated sludge. If the normal operation is to spread sludge on agricultural land, this may no longer be acceptable. Initially this sludge will be retained in the sludge lagoon, where these are available.

9.5.3  In the managed disposal of the sludge, the following options will be considered, depending on the nature of the contamination, in consultation with the Environment Agency in England and Wales or SEPA in Scotland:

  • Incineration or advanced sludge treatment
  • Landfill [with or without pasteurisation]
  • Onsite encapsulation [with or without pasteurisation].

10. The treatment and disposal of contaminated water and potentially contaminated water from water supply sites, water distribution networks and service reservoirs


10.1 Outline

10.1.1         The basic principles of containment, identification, treatment and disposal apply to water supply sites and distribution networks. If contamination is confirmed or suspected in the supply or distribution system, the water undertaker should isolate that part of the system to prevent further spread of contamination. The contaminated water should be contained until such time as the contaminant can be determined and the appropriate treatment identified. Once the water has been treated and the contaminant made safe, further treatment may be necessary to make the water fit for disposal to the environment.

10.1.2                         Containment within the distribution system as opposed to the immediate flushing out of the system means that the customers are still potentially exposed to the risks from the contaminant. A pre-determined plan to notify the customers at risk will be initiated by the water undertaker.  The information passed to the customers will depend on advice from the local health advisor, usually the Director of Public Health or the Consultant for Communicable Disease Control.

This advice will be communicated according to the water undertaker’s established notification procedures to customers to  ‘boil’, ‘do not drink’, or ‘do not use’ water.

10.1.3         In the managed disposal of the water from the distribution system, water undertakers should consider the following options in consultation with the EA in England and Wales or SEPA in Scotland, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the local Environmental Health Officer and the sewerage undertaker based on the hierarchy shown below:

  • In situ treatment and continued use
  • Drain to temporary storage facility, treat and discharge
  • Discharge via off site disposal [tankering]
  • Discharge to foul sewer [after in situ treatment]
  • Discharge to land [after in situ treatment]
  • Discharge to surface water [after in situ treatment]

10.1.4         A flow chart is at Appendix 2.

10.2   Decontamination of water supply sites, water distribution networks, service reservoirs and customer service pipes and plumbing system


10.2.1         Once the decontaminated water has been removed from the system, the water undertaker can then take actions to restore the system for normal use. These actions will be dependant on the contaminant and its’ effect on the assets. Advice on the appropriate actions can be provided by the Health Protection Agency, by external laboratories, by some Universities and some toxicology services.

10.3   Action to be taken to protect the environment

10.3.1         In most cases the contaminated water will pass through a sewage treatment process or be diverted in its diluted state to storm tanks. However, despite best endeavors, it may not be possible to divert contaminated water into the foul sewer and that the flow will be direct to a watercourse. If this happens, the EA in England and Wales or SEPA in Scotland will take the appropriate action to mitigate the effect on the environment.

Appendix 1: Disposal of wash waters

  1. a.                   Small scale decontamination


Effluent from domestic shower

used to decontaminate the general public

Contact Sewerage Undertaker and EA or SEPA

Discharge to foul sewer

  1. b.                  Medium scale  and mass decontamination

Effluent from communal shower or portable shower unit used to decontaminate the general public

Effluent from specially constructed temporary field structures used to decontaminate general public


Appendix 3:  Guidance on identification of drainage systems


As part of the contingency planning arrangements for dealing with contaminated or potentially contaminated liquids from people or premises affected by a biological or chemical terrorist emergency, The Water Industry and the Environment Agency have adopted the stance of containment, identification, treatment and controlled disposal.

In many cases, however, it is recognised that this sequence of events will not always be possible or even practicable and in these circumstances it is recommended that discharges should be directed to foul or combined sewerage systems (with the agreement of the sewerage undertaker) in preference to surface water drains.

The identification of appropriate drainage systems is therefore essential if any contamination is to be prevented from spreading out uncontrollably into the wider environment.

The purpose of this note is to help Environment Agency staff, Emergency services and others identify foul water drains for the disposal of contaminated liquids where they cannot be contained.

The guidance on the identification of drainage systems is as follows:

  • If possible consult a drainage plan for the area/site – consult site managers, local authority, sewerage undertaker or talk to local people who may know.

Visual         Identification

Foul Water Drains

  • Manholes may be coloured red
  • Distinctive ‘sewage’ odour
  • Sewage debris visible e.g. faecal solids, toilet paper, condoms etc.
  • Detergent foam sometimes visible
  • Water usually opaque

Surface Water Drains

  • Manholes may be coloured blue
  • Musty odour
  • Tend to be dry or low flow in

dry weather conditions

·         Water usually clear & colourless

Confirm identification by

  • Flushing a nearby toilet or kitchen waste system or in larger drainage systems induce flow from the toilet block using fire hoses. Any increase in flow through manhole indicates foul water drain.
  • Introduce dye such as fluorescein into the toilet block or kitchen waste system. Appearance in the manhole will indicate foul water drain.
  • Tap sewerage pipes in the vicinity of the toilet block and ‘listen’ in the manhole of interest.  If the tapping is heard then this may indicate a physical connection to a foul water drain.


If this advice is followed by the emergency services then you have done the best that you can to contain the incident.  However, because of missed connections or wrong assessment a discharge may occur into the wider environment so you will still need to:

  1. Tell sewerage undertaker that a discharge may be made to their foul sewer.
  2. Tell the Environment Agency in order that they can assess the potential impact of any discharge to the wider environment and consider the need to inform users of that environment that may be affected.

Appendix 4          Field Guidance for Discharge of Waste Run Off from the Decontamination of Casualties

On Receipt of call

If during the emergency call, it is indicated that casualties are contaminated and in need of decontamination.  Brigade Control should inform the respective Water Company and Environment Agency as soon as practicable



On arrival at the scene if it is necessary to carry out emergency decontamination, the Water Companies and Environment Agency should be informed and if possible the run off directed to foul sewer.



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