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Standard Fools Permits

We know that The Environment Agency has the powers to revise standard rules permits, doing so on a regular basis, with many of the consultations passing by without notice. So when Standard Rules Consultation No.12 landed on my desk I was tempted to feed it to the shredder until I noticed that it involves five documents, namely:

1. Fire Prevention Plans
2. Metals Recycling
3. Asbestos Waste Transfer Station
4. Household Waste Packaging
5. Industrial Emissions Directive (IED)

As usual there is too much to cover in this column but I have tackled the most significant proposal from the five documents, which could easily have been issued as one given the amount of repetition in them. View the documents here.

This consultation will only affect your company if you have an existing standard rules permit or are thinking of applying for one. Regulations 26 to 30 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 are concerned with Standard Rules and provide the power to make changes to rules sets following consultation with permit holders. As usual it is important to respond before it closes on 6th March 2015 because the change to a standard rules set, once implemented cannot be appealed i.e. if you have a standard rules permit and the rules set changes you will be stuck with it with the only way out being a more expensive bespoke variation or new permit application. New standard rules sets take effect 3 months after they are formally published, which permit holders should be notified of.

Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs)
Many standard rules permits do not have storage limits or timescales for storage of potentially polluting or combustible wastes, which has always seemed a little bizarre. For example, the SR2008 No.3 (75,000kte) rules set for household, commercial and industrial waste transfer station with treatment only limits the storage of tyres and places no restrictions on other waste storage. So it is no surprise that following the issue of TGN7.01 (Reducing Fire Risk) that someone in the Agency has worked out that hundreds of sites could be a potential risk.

21 existing rules sets are affected and will have a condition which states “following a fire or if required by the Environment Agency, submit to the EA for approval within a specified period a fire prevention plan;…”. The plan will have to include details of storage quantities, timescales for different types of combustible waste, fire breaks, stockpile volume limits, safe access for fire fighting etc. Sites storing combustible waste outside will be limited to 3 months’ storage.
Waste wood sites will be limited to a throughput of 5,000 tonnes per annum. How this has anything to do with risk is beyond me. Surely the FPP which has to be agreed with the Agency will cover the storage limits etc. A site with a higher throughput is no more risk if the waste held on site is managed properly.

I have no doubt that once issued most standard rules permit holders will be required to submit a FPP, even if they have not had problems on site. Most of this information is already in management systems anyway but it essentially means that the FPP will be an Agency approved document and should therefore be separate to the management system.

The consultation asks five questions (some leading), which are reproduced below. If you have questions please email me and I will respond. I’ve put my own answers in as food for thought.

Q1. Do you recognise the need to control fire risk at sites dealing with combustible waste by the production of a fire prevention plan approved by the EA?
A: Yes, but the FPP should be approved by the Agency or the local fire service in line with TGN7.01 rather than just the Agency as many officers are not fire risk experts.

Q2. For sites without a building storing or treating combustible waste, is the three month residence time on site for waste an effective fire prevention measure?
A: No. The three months should be a standard in the absence of other information i.e. if the FPP can be agreed with the Agency a more site specific solution may have shorter or longer timescales depending upon the waste types stored.

Q3. For sites treating waste wood for recovery, do you recognise the need for the reduction in waste tonnage limits and the introduction of a distance limit to safeguard human receptors?
A: The distance limit makes sense but could be waived or reduced if the FPP was considered robust enough to provide the required degree of protection. The annual throughput reduction is ridiculous as it is not risk based, contradicting the whole ethos behind the requirement to agree a FPP.

Q4. Have we correctly identified all the risks for this activity, as described in the generic risk assessment?
A: Yes, as far as they are standard risk assessments. The operator will have to review the site specific risks in any event to produce a FPP.

Q5. Please tell us of any further views or comments you have on these proposed changes that you feel we ought to be aware of.
A: Good job I’ve run out of space!

Another consultation (No.14) is open until 20th March 2015 and involves changes to standard rules for use of waste in construction, land reclamation and land spreading affecting a further 13 rules sets. The changes include additional advisory text on meeting end of waste status for recovered materials, modification of waste acceptance procedures for soils from known or suspected contaminated sites and the clarification of authorised treatment activities for mobile plant permits for the treatment of soils. I’ll run through that one next month as the consultation will still be open.

Marco Muia BSc (Hons) MSc MCIWM is the Managing Director of Oaktree Environmental Limited. He specialises in all aspects of waste planning and regulation consultancy. He also holds the level 4 COTCs for Hazardous Waste Treatment and Transfer. You can contact Marco on 01606 558833 if you have any questions about this article or e-mail him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wastechat.