Conference on groundwater quality, organised last week at Burlington House

By Ovidiu Dulacioiu - Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

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Last week, at Burlington House, the Royal Society of Chemistry organised a conference covering topics on groundwater quality. Regulators, delegates from local authorities and water companies, hydrogeologists and manufacturers gathered to share their knowledge and discuss the challenges faced by public and private water supplies. As the work of some of our customers focuses on private networks, we decided to have our own representatives at the event in London.

Tightened standards for groundwater quality

In the morning session, we listened to Tim Besien, from the Environment Agency (EA), who talked about the chemical status of groundwater and how this changed over time. In a study from 2009, the groundwater body chemical status in England and Wales was categorised as 41% poor and 59% good. Six years later, another study covering England only was showing that 47% of the groundwater bodies were poor and only 53% good. It was interesting to find out that these figures may only be related to tightened standards, rather than a decrease in groundwater quality. During his presentation, Tim also said that EA is continuously implementing measures to protect groundwater and improve its quality.

“Should water companies be consultees for planning applications?”

Later in the day, other interesting subjects were addressed by Aidan Foley, from Mott MacDonald. Throughout his talk, the Principal Hydrogeologist spoke about the effectiveness of groundwater protection zones in managing the security of public water supplies. He raised intriguing questions about the approval of planning requests for potentially hazardous activities, such as building petrol stations. The Mott MacDonald representative suggested that it may be beneficial for water companies to become statutory consultees for planning applications and made a reference to the protection of heritage sites. If these are safeguarded and the construction of certain structures in their proximity is prohibited, Aidan asked why the same measures shouldn’t apply to something fundamentally important as water.

The challenges of sampling at private water supplies

Next on the agenda was Ben Ellis, from Stratford-Upon-Avon District Council, who tackled some relevant aspects of the private water supply regulations. The Environmental Health Officer pointed out how difficult it is for local authorities to decide what pesticides need to be monitored, considering that owners often have very little details regarding their private water supplies. Things like borehole depth, specifics of treatment used and historical catchment information are frequently unknown, while another serious problem is created by the lack of regulations for drilling boreholes.

“Appropriate source construction, competent advice and treatment installations”

Taking the floor after Ben, Richard Phillips (Drinking Water Inspectorate) mentioned that, although good progress has been made in the past eight years, there is still a long way to go to close the compliance gap between public and private water supplies. The DWI official believes that local authorities play a vital role and their officers should continue completing risk assessments and take enforcement action when unacceptable risks are identified. Richard finished his presentation highlighting the importance of appropriate source construction, competent advice and treatment installations.

We hope you find the information in this article useful and we are here to help if you need assistance with the testing of your private water supply. To discuss the range of analyses we can perform, please contact our Commercial Team.

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