Skip to content

01823 355906 - General 

01823 355187 - Water Lab 

waste pipes sewage dirty water

Environmental Permits for Discharges to Surface Water and Groundwater

You may need an environmental permit if you discharge liquid effluent or waste water (such as poisonous, noxious or polluting matter, waste matter, or trade or sewage effluent):

  • into surface waters, for example, rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes, canals or coastal waters (known as water discharge activities)
  • onto or into the ground, for example, land spreading waste sheep dip, or discharging treated sewage effluent to ground via an infiltration system (known as groundwater activities)

You need to apply to the Environment Agency for a permit for any standalone water discharge or groundwater activity – standalone means the activity is not part of a waste operation, installation or mining waste operation.

You’re breaking the law if you operate without a permit if you should have one.

You must follow all the conditions of your permit. The Environment Agency will check you’re complying with your permit and you’re continuing to be a competent operator. They can revoke your permit if they decide you’re not a suitable operator.

Assessments and inspections

Your operation may be checked by the Environment Agency by:

  • an assessment – a desk based check of whether you’re complying with your permit, for example checking you’re sending in required information
  • an inspection – where an officer visits your site
  • sampling of your permitted water discharge

Inspections are usually planned, but can be unannounced. Environment Agency staff will look around your site and ask questions about what you’re doing. They may ask to see documents or talk to your staff. Where possible, the Environment Agency will work with other Defra regulators, such as the Rural Payments Agency, to co-ordinate inspections and keep the number of visits you receive to a minimum.

Waste operations, installations, complex flood risk activities and complex water discharges activities, like large sewage treatment plants, will definitely be assessed or inspected.

Other sites may be assessed or inspected if there’s:

  • a pollution incident at your site, or in your area
  • a flood incident at your site (for flood risk activities)
  • been a complaint about your activity

Compliance Assessment Reports

If Environment Agency staff carry out an assessment, inspection or attend an incident, they will complete a Compliance Assessment Report (CAR) and give you a copy.

The CAR will record anything you’re doing that does not comply with your permit and state what you have to do to correct this. For waste and installations this may affect your yearly permit fee (subsistence fee). See the compliance rating guidance for more information.

Enforcement Of Your License

The Environment Agency may take action if they suspect you’ve broken the law, or in some cases if they think you’re about to. Their actions might include:

  • giving you advice
  • changing your permit conditions
  • serving you with an enforcement notice, and for flood risk activities a remediation notice, which will state what you have to do to fix problems and by when
  • serving you with a suspension notice if there’s a risk you might cause pollution – this means you have to stop carrying out your activities
  • prosecuting you if they think it’s in the public interest

Intervention By The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency can carry out work to address an environmental, flood risk or land drainage problem and recover costs from you if:

  • your activity has caused serious pollution
  • your activity is creating a risk of serious pollution
  • you’ve deposited waste illegally and not removed it when told to
  • you’ve caused polluting substances to get into a watercourse or the substances are in a place where they are likely to get into a watercourse – or you’ve knowingly allowed this to happen
  • you have carried out any unauthorised works or caused harm to flood risk, land drainage or the environment (for flood risk activities)

Regular Monitoring Will Help With Compliance

Somerset Scientific Services offer a monitoring service to help you comply with the terms of your license. Regular sample analysis will alert you to any changes in the content of your discharge. Our testing is fast and reliable, carried out in our UKAS accredited laboratory by experienced staff. You will receive a comprehensive and easy to read report, along with impartial remedial advice where needed. Contact the team for a quote.