Draft groundwater code on solvents

A consultation on a groundwater protection code for all solvent-using facilities was launched in late December by the Environment Department.1

The code, which applies in England and Wales, will be the second to have approved status under the 1998 groundwater regulations. The first, on petrol stations and other fuel dispensing facilities, was issued last November (ENDS Report 334, p 48 ).

Compliance with the code will be used by the Environment Agency in deciding whether to use its powers under the 1998 regulations to serve notices on sites to prohibit or control activities involving solvents. The code is not binding, but failure to comply will be a factor in any prosecution.

The code provides guidance on all aspects of solvent use, from purchase through to disposal. Checklists and audit sheets for each activity have been incorporated to assist operators.

Like the fuel code, the guidance advises operators to develop environmental management systems covering solvent use. Key components include a pollution incident response plan, a training strategy, and solvent audits using mass balances to help detect any leaks or spills.

In contrast to the fuel code, the guidance is less prescriptive on issues such as the use of automatic leak detection systems and secondary containment. Operators are advised to "critically assess" the need for the former, and that they may be required to have secondary containment where double-skinned solvent containers are not used on site.

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