New Impact Assessment of Industrial Wastewater as of February 1st 2021

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A new or existing discharge of wastewater can never lead to a deterioration in the status of the water body to which it is discharged. The quality objectives for that water body must also remain attainable.

- Flemish Environment Agency (VMM)​

From February 1st, 2021, a new directive will come into force regarding the discharge of industrial wastewater. The VMM will apply a new method in the permit procedure to assess the impact of discharging company wastewater. 

Why the New Directive? 

The new method of assessment is a consequence of the ‘Wezer judgment’ of July 1st, 2015 from the European Court of Justice. This judgment states that a new discharge must not adversely affect the water quality of the receiving water body. Upon application, the discharge must therefore be assessed against the water quality requirements of the European Water Framework Directive. Each water body (stream, river, brook,…) must meet certain quality requirements imposed by Europe. If a new discharge causes the quality requirements not to be met, then this discharge can be refused, making alternatives or additional treatment necessary. 

In many placeshowever, Flanders is struggling to meet the environmental quality objectives of water bodies. Any additional discharge would therefore effectively cause ‘deterioration‘, since the quality requirements aren’t even met without the additional discharge. To circumvent this challenge and still be able to apply the Weser ruling in Flanders, the VMM has drawn up a step-by-step plan for subjecting the discharge of industrial wastewater to an impact assessment. 

What Does the New Directive Entail? 

VMM will apply a new tool in the advisory process, which assesses the risk of deterioration and whether the quality requirements are being met. This will apply from February 1st, 2021, and will be applied in the permit application for each existing discharge (at renewal) and for each new discharge. 

The tool includes 9 steps to evaluate the impact of existing or new discharges. Through a preliminary assessment, it is first estimated whether a full impact assessment is meaningful. If relevant, the step-by-step plan is further followed to assess what the impact is and whether the impact is acceptable. Based on this assessment, final advice is given on the discharge, possibly together with additional actions to be included in the permit (such as extra treatment requirements). 

What is the Consequence for Your Organization? 

If you have to renew your discharge permit soon or if you want to expand, it is best to be proactive in dealing with this new directive so as to prevent growth from being hampered. An ideal preparation is to draw up a water master plan, in which all elements are included to achieve sustainable and integrated water management. 

Water Experts can guide you through the process of preparing a water master plan. This ensures good preparation against future challenges. You can focus on growth, while we take care of your water management. 

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