Environment Agency launches guidance document on non-ferrous metals

The Environment Agency has launched a consultation on its new guidance document on emissions of non-ferrous metals from facilities, under the new Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) legislation.

The new Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Draft Guidance for the Non Ferrous Metals Sector, part of a series of sector guides covering all industrial sectors falling under IPPC control (see related story), and is based on the Best Available Technique (BAT) Reference document (BREF) issued by the European Commission. Under the scheme, companies will have to obtain permits in order to carry out certain polluting activities, with the permits only being gained if operators can show that they have systematically developed proposals to apply the BATs, and that they can meet other requirement taking into account relevant local factors.

The regulation covers the production of metals from both primary and secondary raw materials, including copper and its alloys, aluminium, zinc, lead, cadmium, precious metals, mercury, refractory metals, ferro alloys, alkali and alkaline earth metals, nickel and cobalt. Carbon and graphite production are also included due to their close technical association with metals manufacture. The new rules cover factors such as the use and reporting of emission data; management, design and training; receipt, storage and handling of raw materials; pre-processing and production; gas collection and air abatement; noise, vibration and odour; and decommissioning.

According to the document, key environmental issues for the sector include:

  • emissions to air from processes such as the generation of sulphur dioxide through certain primary extraction processes, and the contamination of scrap by chlorinated organic compounds such as plastics;
  • high energy requirements of the processing of the metals, particularly with regard to extraction from ores;
  • risk of accidents from substances such as stored liquid oxygen, and from flooding;
  • noise from processes such as the movement of scrap, casting installations, and rolling mills;
  • potential long distance and transboundary pollution;
  • heavy metal contamination;
  • solid waste recovery, recycling and disposal, with particular attention needing to be paid to slag from melting operations, sand from casing, and insulation and refractory materials from maintenance operations; and
  • site restoration, particularly of storage areas used for slag and other residues, and fuel storage areas.

Under the rules, permits can be reviewed or varied at any time, with new minimum review periods. Individual activities not previously covered by the old Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) or waste management licensing should normally be carried out within four years of the issue of the IPPC permit, and thereafter every six years. For activities which were covered by the old rules, reviews should be carried out within six years of the issuing of the permit.

The full consultation document can be found on the Environment Agency’s website. Comments on the guidance notes should be sent by 7 September to Graham Winter at the Environment Agency’s Technical Guidance Section by email to: graham.winter@environment-agency.gov.uk, or at: Environmental Protection National Service, Environment Agency, Block 1, Government Buildings, Burghill Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol BS10 6BF, telephone 0117 917 2868. The final guidance document will be issued on 1 October 2001, marking the start of the application period.

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