Water treatment: going green to go green

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Tristan Hughes is Head of Business Development at specialist supplier OSSO

Daily walks along riverbanks, canals, lakes, beaches – it was a familiar routine for many of us during the long months of COVID-19 lockdown. And I believe they have given us a better appreciation of our local aquatic environment – ​​a new sense of its value and a new awareness of the importance of protecting it.

Add to this the growing global recognition of freshwater as a finite resource that must be respected and it is clear that fundamental social changes are influencing companies as they consider how best to manage the wastewater resulting from their operational practices. .

Of course, any construction company or site owner has a duty to ensure that wastewater meets established criteria when it leaves the site through a sewer or surface watercourse. But there are other motivating factors at play, often directly reflecting these shifts in public perception.

The “zero harm to the environment” principles adopted by regulators are increasingly encompassing on-site water management. It is also increasingly imperative for companies, including those in the supply chain, to develop ESG strategies and put them into practice in their day-to-day operations.

fall under the law

Then there are the consequences of breaking environmental protection laws. You only have to go back a few years to find that the maximum fine for environmental pollution was around £50,000. That has now changed. Today, sentencing guidelines allow judges to impose fines based on factors such as company turnover, pollution category and degree of negligence.

Earlier this year, a homebuilder was fined over £400,000 over several instances of illegal discharge from a development site into a Welsh river.

It is in this context that we are witnessing a trivialization of strategic planning for water management – ​​where it is not already trivialized – within the framework of the preparatory phase of construction projects.

Although it has often been seen as a drain on development resources, it is increasingly making sense in the modern operating environment. In addition to helping companies circumvent water management issues that can arise in the short term – and impact project schedules – they help protect companies’ reputations.

“We see that strategic water management planning is becoming more common in the preparatory phase of construction projects”

Along the same lines, many tender documents now require construction companies – from prime contractors to supply chain companies – to disclose any association with pollution-related events in the past. Thus, companies’ future growth plans could be jeopardized if they failed to adhere to their practices.

What will be interesting to watch in the coming period will be the extent to which effective wastewater management moves up the list in the context of the broader health, safety and environment agenda. The well-being of on-site staff is, of course, a top priority, and in the environmental field, issues such as measures to reduce the carbon footprint are also highly publicized. But, in light of the drivers I’ve summarized above, we’re likely to see ever greater attention to protecting the immediate natural environment.

When you walk on a construction site there is usually a sign indicating how many days it has been clear of safety incidents. It would be great to see this same panel also record the site’s performance in protecting the local environment.

What actions can we take?

So, concretely, what can companies now do to achieve these goals?

Tanking has been the most common solution over the years, but it can be an expensive and inefficient option. And the number of tanker movements frequently involved represent an environmental disadvantage, as does the potential for local noise pollution and additional traffic congestion.

“As always, alternatives come from innovative thinking”

As always, alternatives come from innovative thinking. Our specialized sector is no different from others in exploring new ways to help clients meet their obligations. For our part, we examined how to refine the process of removing suspended solids from dirty water during its on-site treatment for discharge.

To do this, we have developed a solution with automated dosing capability, which measures how dirty the water is and then doses the chemical reagents in proportion to the flow rate and contamination levels. The dosing trigger point can be set to reflect relevant discharge measurements, eliminating unnecessary use of chemicals when water is already below required criteria and ensuring that only optimum levels are dosed when required.

This is an example of how the construction industry supply chain can adapt and improve on traditional techniques when demands for accountability come from a variety of sources – customers, employees, local communities and more.

I like to think that we are doing our part to contribute to robust and efficient wastewater management for modern industry – it brings us closer to the day when we see construction sites consistently and proudly displaying excellent waste protection statistics. the local environment on their doorstep.

Learn more about specialist fluid temperature separation and control solutions provider OSSO.

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