JOINT INVESTIGATION BY SEPA AND THE WHISKY
DISTILLING INDUSTRY ON EFFLUENT TOXICITY AND DISCHARGE CONSENT
A working group was originally set up by the
Clyde River Purification Board and the malt distillers from Islay
and Jura in 1992 to explore areas of concern regarding the environmental
impacts of the associated aqueous discharges.
This group was expanded with the creation of
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in 1996 through
representation of all the major distilling companies. The group
met at least once a year to plan progress and discuss the results
of surveys and laboratory work on the chemistry of the effluent
streams and their potential toxicity.
The difficulties of obtaining adequate dilution
in the sea to meet environmental standards had become clear from
previous oceanographic surveys. At this point virtually all the
field environmental information had been collected by SEPA and
its predecessor bodies. Some of the data had been derived from
laboratory-based studies which gave conservative results. SEPA
suggested detailed field trials at a typical distillery and the
Malt Distillers Association proposed the Talisker Distillery on
Skye. A specification was agreed, the work was funded by the industry,
and consultants began the project in 1997.
When SEPA scientists received and reviewed the
reports in 1998 they felt that, while the results improved knowledge
to a degree, some of the conclusions relied on unproven relationships.
In consequence a revised second phase was jointly agreed.
The results of this second study were presented
to SEPA in 2000 and vindicated SEPA's previous doubts. The observed
reduced toxicity of effluent proved to be related to the degree
of peatiness of the discharged cooling water, rather than to the
mixing of spent lees and spent wash, as had been assumed by the
industry to be the case. During the period of this study there
was regular contact between SEPA staff and the industry technical
SEPA subsequently met with the industry to begin
to formulate general consent setting guidelines based on the results
of this joint work. SEPA guidelines have now been produced and
presented to the industry in November 2000. A final version will
be incorporated in SEPA's national consenting manual which will
be published soon.
There have been more than 30 meetings with individual
distilling companies over the last two to three years to help
companies with their particular discharge problems. Most recently
senior SEPA scientific and regulatory staff visited Islay on 12
and 13 February 2001 to discuss the latest developments at Caol
Ila, Bruicladdich, Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Jura Distilleries.
DETAILS OF SEPA'S CHARGING SCHEMES
SEPA currently has 11 charging schemes which
are detailed below.
Control of Pollution Act (COPA).
Radioactive Substances Act (RSA).
Waste Management Charging (Scotland) (WML).
Producer Responsibility Obligations (PRW).
Special Waste Regulations (SPW).
Integrated Pollution Control (IPC).
Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
Air Pollution Control (APC).
Groundwater Regulations (GRW).
Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations
Polychlorinated Biphenyls/Triphenyls (PCB/PCT).
The Dumfries Aquifer
1. The Dumfries aquifer is generally regarded
as the most productive aquifer in Scotland. In the Dumfries basin
the Permian consists of 1,000 metres of sandstone sediments. Sustainable
borehole yields of up to 60 l/s have been recorded and the aquifer
is being increasingly utilised by industry. In and around Dumfries,
groundwater is abstracted by manufacturing industry, fish farms
and as a source of potable supply by the water authority. SEPA
undertakes monitoring at a number of boreholes to gather information
on water quantity and quality. It is believed that the waters
of the aquifer might be as much as 10,000 years old and recharge
rates are not well understood.
2. Dumfries is the most densely populated
town in the region and land use over the aquifer extends to industrial
production, housing developments, agriculture and waste disposal
by landfill. Agriculture is a major industry and being mainly
beef and dairy leads to large quantities of slurry being disposed
of to land. Similarly, it has always been the practice in Dumfries
and Galloway to dispose of sewage sludge to land. Audits are made
by SEPA of these activities.
3. SEPA has concerns over a large landfill
located on the south-east fringe of the aquifer and has stressed
its concerns in respect of potential contamination of groundwaters
together with surface waters adjacent to the site. As part of
the licence review, impact studies were conducted on the waste
disposal site and recommendations made with regards to protection
of the aquifer.
4. Elsewhere, contaminated ground has been
found in connection with historical industrial activities and
clean-up operations limited the spread of the contamination before
returning soils to unpolluted conditions. The site has now been
redeveloped as a business park.
5. Outwith the sewered communities of Dumfries
and its environs, SEPA controls effluent discharges by Prohibition
Notices from the numerous ongoing domestic dwelling developments
in order to protect ground water resources. In the Terregles area
to the west of Dumfries the aquifer is used by a fish farm and
as a source of potable supply. SEPA has objected to development
within zone one of these abstractions in line with the groundwater
policy and as a result development has been restricted. The controls
extend to a surface water stream that is linked to the aquifer
and which drains the Terregles area. Indeed, flows in the stream
are artificially elevated due to the input of fish farm effluent
that emanates from the abstracted waters of the aquifer used to
support fish production.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency