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“The polluter pays” – UK companies at risk due to new EU emissions rules

The EU's new Industrial Emissions Directive places a tighter set of guidelines on the corporate production of harmful industrial emissions that particularly affects water-intensive industries like food and drink, electronics, leisure and pharmaceuticals

Tens of thousands of companies face potential fines and disciplinary action as a result of the EU’s updated Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), a water and waste asset management company warns.

According to Alpheus Environmental – a subsidiary of water and sewerage service provider Anglian Water Group – UK business is unaware of the scope of the new, more severe regulation set to come into effect later this year.

It stipulates that companies must reduce harmful industrial emissions, including waste water, and requires them to upgrade their own facilities and pay for any environmental damage caused as part of its “polluter pays” principal.

Water management expert Declan Maguire, operations director at Cambridgeshire-based Alpheus Environmental, said: “Despite the fact that this legislation is in place since 2013, the extent of the new obligations are only now becoming apparent as sectoral guidelines come into place.

“Companies that were previously IED complainant will suddenly become non-compliant as they fail to achieve the new standards.

“If companies are not proactively establishing baseline reports of emissions and addressing deficiencies it will lead to penalties and, ultimately, facility closures – and no business can sustain this.”

The EU regulators behind the IED have also raised concerns over the lack of awareness among some industries concerning the stricter rules, which experts say will be maintained in UK law despite Brexit.

They predict companies in water-intensive industries like food and drink, electronics, leisure and pharmaceuticals will be the most affected via increased responsibility concerning  the design, construction, and operation of facilities.

Mr Maguire added: “In order to be compliant with emerging regulatory requirements but also cost-efficient in the face of increasing pressures on global water resources, companies will need to look at how they can ensure their water management continues to be fit for purpose.

“We are seeing a rapid shift towards a ‘polluter pays’ approach to water, so companies will need to be prepared to minimise their wasted water or face rapidly increasing costs.

“With water technology developing at a rapid pace and the requirement on organisations to seek out the most efficient means of delivering water treatment, the process of managing water in-house will also become progressively more inefficient and financially unsustainable.

“Therefore I expect we will see more companies looking to outsource their water management to specialised experts.”

The IED reflects the need to protect global water systems over the coming decades in light of increasing demand, rising competition, and soaring costs.