Agency gives more ground on IPPC for pulp and paper industry

The pulp and paper industry's success in wresting major concessions from the Environment Agency over the requirements of the integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) regime was confirmed when the final guidance for the sector was published in November. 1 Companies have been given over three years extra to submit baseline information on waste, energy and water, and the Agency has also withdrawn proposals to introduce toxicity assessment of liquid effluents.

The pulp and paper industry is the first to come under IPPC, and the Agency's guidance for the sector may well have set precedents for others - although it may be that a tougher line will be taken with other industries which will have longer to prepare for the new regime.

The revisions to the draft guidance published this summer are broadly as reported by a speaker from the paper industry at an IBC conference in October (ENDS Report 309, pp 38-40 ) - with one or two additions.

An important new passage in the introduction will be of interest to other sectors. It explains the Agency's policy on the application of "best available techniques" (BAT).

The guidance says: "while BAT cannot be limited by individual company profitability, company finance may be taken into account in the following limited circumstances:

  • "Where the BAT cost/benefit balance of an improvement only becomes favourable when the relevant item of plant is due for renovation/renewal anyway?.In effect, these are cases where BAT for the sector can be expressed in terms of local investment cycles.

  • "Where a number of expensive improvements are needed, a phasing programme may be appropriate as long as it is not so extended that it could be seen to be rewarding a poor performing installation." Consistently with this policy, all deadlines for improving existing installations which featured in the draft guidance have been scrapped.

    As reported last month, the industry has persuaded the Agency not to require that detailed plans covering waste, water, energy, odours and noise be submitted as part of companies' permit applications. Instead, where the information is not available operators will have up to 30 June 2004 to submit the information, in a programme to be agreed with local inspectors.

    Other revisions include:

  • Environmental management systems: These are a basic requirement under IPPC, but different policies will apply within the UK. The Environment Agency will simply require a statement from operators that their systems match the detailed specification laid down in the guidance, whereas the Scottish Environment Protection Agency - which is more sceptical about the value of EMSs - will require a point-by-point explanation that they do so.

  • Raw materials: Deadlines for ending the use of certain raw materials which featured in the draft guidance have been removed. Substances such as alkylphenol ethoxylates, low-mercury caustic soda, elemental chlorine and all but low-formaldehyde resins were to be substituted within 12 months, as were pulps containing chlorine. The revised guidance says that these substtutions will be "given priority".

  • Water: A similar approach has been taken on water use. The draft guidance said that washwater from wet and dry wood debarking should be recycled within 12 and 36 months, respectively, and a cost-benefit analysis of tertiary treatment of mill effluent to facilitate further closure of mill water circuits completed within 12 months. The deadlines have been removed, and the revised guidance says that these issues should normally be "resolved" by June 2004.

  • Monitoring: The monitoring frequencies for liquid effluent parameters laid down in the guidance have generally been made more flexible, so that operators may monitor less often when they discharge substances in small quantities. Frequencies will also depend on "the sensitivity of the receiving waters and should be proportionate to the scale of the operations."

    The industry has also won its battle to delay toxicity consenting of effluents. An Agency project reported in October that the necessary techniques were "available for immediate deployment" (ENDS Report 309, pp 13-14 ). But the Agency says it will be providing "further guidance in due course", and "except in exceptional circumstances toxicity testing should await that guidance."

    In addition, improvement deadlines in areas such as waste, energy and accident prevention and management have been dropped, and site closure plans will apparently not be required with permit applications.

    The guidance has been tightened up in one place. To ensure compliance with the EC Directive on groundwater, operators have been warned that permits may not be granted if releases of more hazardous List I and II substances to groundwater are occurring. They have therefore been told to submit information on these substances, as well as data from desk investigations and groundwater monitoring "if necessary".

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