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Civil engineering works will need dewatering licences from next year

DEWATERING OF engineering works will need an abstraction licence under changes expected to come into force in the middle of 2006, according to Siltbuster managing director Richard Coulton.

The Environment Agency requirements will affect construction sites, mines and quarries.

Coulton, whose firm distributes mobile silt traps to remove solids and hydrocarbons from contaminated water (GE January 05), said the change will cover all ground water operations pumping more than 20m 3/day.

'These licences are in addition to the existing mandatory discharge consents that have to be in place before water can be pumped off site, ' he said.

Changes are being introduced under the Water Resources Act 1991 (as amended by the Water Act 2003). These will give the EA discretionary powers requiring reports to support licence applications.

'For larger schemes this may require publication and even public consultation, so contractors will need to consult the Agency and plan well ahead to avoid the process causing unnecessary delay, ' Coulton warned.

Failure to comply with new regulations could mean fines of up to £20,000 for each separate offence.

'But of more impact to the construction sector, the agency will have new powers to issue enforcement notices which could lead to an immediate halt to water abstraction if it is felt the operation risks signi'cant environmental damage, ' Coulton said.

'This could mean the indefinite closure of affected sites while the issues surrounding dewatering for foundation work, for example, are addressed.' To differentiate between the different durations and types of abstraction, three classes of licence are to be introduced in place of the current one:

temporary licence for pumping operations lasting less than 28 days;

transfer licence for the pumping of groundwater from an excavation into the nearby receiving watercourse (they will also cover the situation where groundwater is returned to the same aquifer but at a different point); and

Full licence where water is abstracted for potable or industrial use.

Although legislation allows emergency pumping to be carried out without a licence, such situations must be unforeseen or unplanned and not just down to poor management, Coulton said.

'While a small project may require a relatively straightforward application, involving a desk study, large scale works will need far more detailed investigations into the risks involved, such as the impact on the local water table.

'At its simplest, an application will need to be supported up front by some sort of hydrogeological impact assessment (HIA) using basic mass balance models to show that the impact of the proposed works is minimal.

The EA stressed guidance will be published before implementation of the new requirements.

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