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Everything you need to know about The Environment Agency and how they could impact your business in just over 8 minutes. If you prefer to read the transcript is below.

What is The Environment Agency and what impact could they have on your business?

Transcription Details:

Date: October 23, 2019
Input sound file: https://youtu.be/frIxkxAj5Kc

[00:00:03]: What is the environment agency?

Speaker [00:00:09]: Hello, my name’s David Cole. I’m the Technical Director for Sandfield Penstock Solutions, and I’m going to talk to you a little bit about the Environment Agency.

What is The Environment Agency?

Speaker [00:00:20]: So, the environment agency’s the is England’s regulator for the environment, so other parts of the United Kingdom will be covered by the National Resource Wales, and you’ve got SEPA in Scotland, and Northern Ireland office comes under the IEA.

How has The Environment Agency evolved?

Speaker [00:00:39]: So, this is an interesting subject because I’ve, I’ve sort of worked with the environment agency as in I’ve had ideas and I’ve took them to the environment agency over many years saying, “Is this a good idea for pollution containment?” And probably baffled them a few times with some of my comments. But the IEA really had a major structural change back in 2015 when it was pushed from, from financing really from the government, away from being a guidance-driven regulator to more purely now as a regulated working a very similar way to the HSE. So back in the, the notice, and that we had PPG’s (Pollution Prevention Guidelines) which lots and lots of businesses used. These now have been archived and this is a major step because this means that the environment agency no longer really support any documents and such, but companies can use to say, “We’ve covered this. We’ve done this. We followed what you said.”

It’s kind of a difficult subject because in my point-of-view is when the regulator gives out the Pollution Prevention Guidelines, technology moved along but the guidelines didn’t. And if the guidelines don’t move along with technology, it means that companies stick to very old systems. So what you’ve got really is now, is the regulator has one job and that’s to protect the environment and make sure that we’ve all got a country to live in that’s safe.

What is the role of The Environment Agency?

Speaker [00:02:01]: So the environment agency really is there to protect the environment and that’s what they all do. They have no other real issues really. They look at, we know the environmental agency when it comes to flooding, so they’re trying to protect those environmental impacts that flooding us. They’re not just looking at, purely looking at fish and protecting the fish; they are actually looking at and nurse us, human beings, and making sure that the environment that we live in is safe. So their role really is making sure that the, that the world or specifically the country that we live in is meeting certain regulations that keep us safe.

What is The Environment Agency not concerned about?

Speaker [00:02:38]: So the environment agency isn’t there to give you guidance and tell you how to run your business, how you can make better improvements and you don’t fall foul of the law. They’re there purely to make sure that you’ve got one task and that is to protect the environment, and they’re going to make sure that you do that and you work your business within our laws. So really the environment agency doesn’t really care about your day-to-day running of the business, the problems that you may have when trading, and the fact that you can’t afford to implement some sort of environmental sort of system that protects the environment because your costs or your sales have gone down. But they have one role and that is to make sure that if you’re business is producing something that can pollute and harm the environment and harm Public Health, that you don’t do that.

So what they’re there for is, is if you fail, so if you caused the pollution if that something goes wrong, it’s too late really. The environment’s been damaging but they have a duty to make sure that that is protected, that any damage was done and is repaired probably by you to make sure really that you learn from your mistakes and it doesn’t happen again

What powers do The Environment Agency have to ensure businesses comply?

Speaker [00:03:47]: So the environment agency actually has got lots and lots of different powers. They’ve got things like the civil sanctions; they’ve got the environment sentencing guidelines that they use; they’ve got all sorts of things. They can actually stop your business trading so if you’re actually trading and they see that you’re actually working unsafe and you’re putting the environment at risk, they can remove your operating permit. They can close you down. So, it really is important, they’re exactly the same really as the HSE. They’ve got the same sort of powers. They’re going to cost you when they turn up. But really if you listen to what they’re asking for which is they want you to run your business, how you want to run your business, just one thing is don’t impact the environment and don’t impact the public’s health or animal’s health–that’s what they’re there for. They’re there really to protect and to make sure that we’ve got a sustainable business.

What are The Environment Agency particularly interested in right now?

Speaker [00:04:35]: So I think there’s been a lot of focus with the environment agency recently on a guidance CIRIA c736. It’s quite interesting because this is evolved from, from the Buncefield fire in 2005, which I was involved with and you will see several of my case studies within that document. Now, why I’ve interested in this is because one of the biggest problems we’ve got is businesses have disasters, so they have a fire; they have a major pollution event, and anything that then enters the water stream is causing a pollution incident. So they’re very focused on this guidance. And the way they got around this really was that they actually funded the guidance. They funded the team and they funded this guidance and they made it free. So this is the Construction Industry Research Association Guidance normally used by many civil engineers all around the world and builders. They made this document unlike many others where you have to pay for it, so it’s restricted. They made it free, and they made it and that it was a usable document, so it’s there for all. So it’s not less beauty for people designing sites. It’s there for site operators, people who run small businesses, so they can look at it, they can understand it, and they can actually make an impact and make their business environmentally friendly.

How do The Environment Agency get involved in the event of a pollution event?

Speaker [00:05:48]: So when you have a pollution event and it’s a release into what we call controlled waters, so you might have killed some fish where you’ve caused an impact off your site now, the chances are the environment agency may come to site. They may sort of create an investigation, that’s very similar to if you’ve had an accident at work, and the HSE have to get involved. It’s almost identical. They will make a decision; they will look at your processes; they will look at your maintenance records and will look how your environmental management system was developed if you’ve got one. Or how your attitude to the environment; what you can show that you’ve looked at and how you’ve tried to protect it. They will look at all those things and make a decision that maybe they might prosecute. Their aim is really is to neutralize the fall that’s happened. But if they feel that it was done with, there’s some elements of blame there in other words, this, there’s a deliberate act or somebody has been negligent in what they’ve done, just like any, any criminal, criminal case because pollution is a crime. They have a duty to make sure that they punish or action punishment to do the course.

What advice do you have for anyone that is getting attention from The Environment Agency?

Speaker [00:06:55]: So on the key areas at the moment is the information seem to be bringing up this CIRIA c736 water pollution containment design, fire water container. So if you’re getting asked about CIRIA c736, I think you should look, talk to us to speak to us about our six- point checklist: understand regulation; understand how regulation impacts your business; complete a full risk assessment, so you understand what your risk really is; carry out a design, so you’ve actually got a design that will work; implement that design; monitor, maintain, and then document the system that you’ve installed and make sure you keep it up to date. And if you need to improve it because guidance change, move it along.

If you need to contact us, why don’t you go to www.penstocksolutions.co.uk.

David Cole MSEE

David Cole MSEE

Technical Director

David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.

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