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Effluent treatment problems threaten compliance

03 July 2017

An independent study, commissioned by Siltbuster Process Solutions, found that 30% of companies, in a mix of industries, have had a significant effluent treatment problem in the past year which has put their compliance at risk, with effluent treatment plant failure or breakdown being the most common cause.

The UK Industrial Effluent Treatment study, which questioned production directors and engineers responsible for over 156 manufacturing sites in the UK, identified a lack of investment, production pressures plus poor understanding of the interplay between production and wastewater treatment as being at the root of the problem.

One-third of the companies questioned said that investing in waste treatment plant is a priority, however 28% of production heads report that there is significant underinvestment in treatment plant with 41% of the companies last investing in the plant over five years ago and 23% more than 10 years ago.  Fifteen percent argued that the Board was only interested in investing in production lines; a further 13% say that effluent treatment is viewed as a boring area which senior management doesn’t want to think about.

The research suggests this is symptomatic of the low-profile which effluent treatment generally has within some organisations.  For example, although 64% of companies want their plants to deliver major product innovations, 31% of production heads complain that they are not involved in new product development until all the decision-making is done.  This is a major issue as product innovation and effluent treatment are closely linked. A new product formulation can cause a change in effluent characteristics and for 26% in the study this leads to treatment problems.

In another example of organisations failing to consider the knock-on impact of their business decisions on wastewater treatment, 69% of companies studied are under pressure from senior management to boost plant throughput, yet one-in-five has no additional treatment capacity to cope with such an increase in production.

Rich Matthews, General Manager of Siltbuster Process Solutions said: “According to our research 28% of production sites routinely suffer from treatment problems which are directly due to spikes in production. These companies do not have enough effluent treatment capacity, yet most are under pressure to further boost production. In such a situation, something has to give – and if care isn’t taken that could be compliance!”

The research identifies a myriad of other causes of effluent problems including changes in: cleaning chemicals (18%), unreported spillages (18%), staff error (15%), production methods (10%) and shift patterns (5%).

“Greater consideration needs to be given to the effect of production decisions - such as changing shift patterns and chemicals or introducing new product formulations - on the treatment plant. The businesses also need to spend some time contingency planning, thinking about how they’d respond to problems, should they arise. At the moment unexpected effluent treatment problems currently cause considerable disruption and incur huge costs,” continued Matthews

To help companies Siltbuster Process Solutions is preparing to run a series of training courses on contingency planning. To find out more visit

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