SWAT technicians licensed to swill

British Water is launching an accreditation scheme for service engineers on package WwTWs. We look at the reasons behind the two-day residential course, which will cover the regulations governing the plants, treatment processes involved, engineering issues, fault finding, health and safety, and sampling and testing.

There is a move in the UK towards achieving higher standards of service, and greater consumer protection in the installation and maintenance trades. Most people have heard of the Council for Registered Gas Installers (Corgi), since it has been around the longest.

However, the number of trades that are the subject of self-certification and so requiring accreditation is growing – the list now extending to include installers of replacement windows and glazed doors, domestic electrical wiring and appliances, solid fuel combustion appliances, and plumbing of sanitary ware and drainage.

British Water has recently launched a scheme to ensure that the maintenance and

servicing of small WwTWs can be carried out by accredited personnel.

Small or packaged WwTWs can be found in locations such as small hospitals, hotels, caravan parks, military installations, offices, factories, golf courses, private estates, as well as small remote rural areas.

British Water’s Package Sewage Treatment Plant Focus Group was given a challenge around three years ago when the Environment Agency (EA) presented its views on the commercial small WwTW industry.

The main concerns were:

  • Inconsistent loading of plants, which were often undersized to achieve sales
  • Poor performance of treatment plants, especially with some questionable designs
  • No evidence of a regular maintenance policy, which meant that if a plant was not maintained its performance was worse than a septic tank

The EA’s concerns are basically the result of cost often being the major factor in purchasing decisions.

These issues could be resolved by increased regulation but this would be counter to the current government policy for better regulation which is intended to reduce the costs of regulation to both industry and the regulator.

An alternative is the adoption of codes of best practice and to widen the availability of relevant training to raise the competencies of industry personnel. The focus group has responded to these challenges from the EA with:

  • The publication in 2005 of a Code of Practice on Flows and Loads to be used in the sizing of small WwTWs, and getting the industry to agree to adopt it. The recommendations within this design guide have been incorporated into the recently revised Pollution Prevention Guidelines 4 (PPG4) published by the UK environmental regulators
  • Setting up regular liaison meetings with EA (England & Wales), SEPA (Scotland) and Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) to ensure their support

    · Active representation as part of the UK delegation on European standards group WG41 which is drafting the series of European EN 12566 standards, of which Part 3 Performance Testing will come into force in July 2008
  • By launching in 2006 a voluntary British Water accreditation training scheme. A code of practice for the maintenance of packaged treatment plants will be published shortly
  • Planning further guidance publications, aimed primarily at owners of package treatment plant, on installation, de-sludging and the influence of household activities on the effluent input and effective operation of package treatment plant

At the heart of the new British Water training scheme is a two-day residential course which covers the regulations governing small WwTWs, treatment processes employed, engineering issues, fault finding, health and safety, and sampling and testing.

On completing an examination, successful candidates will be issued with a photo ID card, a certificate of competence and their details included on British Water’s web-based register of accredited service engineers. The register is to be searchable by postcode to identify companies and service engineers closest to the plant.

To ensure service engineers are kept up to date with developments in standards and designs, accreditation will last for three years, after which retraining will be necessary via a refresher course and examination. The training scheme will encourage continuing professional development by the maintenance and service engineers who will contribute to an increase in the competence level within the industry.

This in turn will lead to improved confidence in the sector by owners and users of package treatment plant and, most importantly, the environmental regulators.

The course material was developed in conjunction with Develop, www.develop-solutions.co.uk, and contains case studies supplied by British Water members of British Water’s Package Treatment Plant Focus Group.

The courses are being run at Develop’s residential training centres or arrangements can be made for the course to be delivered at individual company sites.

The number of service engineers who will undertake the course during its first year is expected to exceed 120. While the scheme is voluntary at present, if accreditation becomes the accepted norm for the industry, the total number requiring training could exceed 200.

If, as is possible, the EA decides to make it mandatory for all small WwTWs to be serviced by accredited personnel, then the total number of potential service engineers might be in excess of 500.

The information required to be included in Home Information Packs is likely to gradually increase to include information on all aspects of construction, provision of services and maintenance.

It is likely that the requirement for maintenance information will include evidence that the work has been completed by competent personnel. So providing for staff to attend training schemes leading to registration of competent personnel could become not just a commercial advantage but a commercial necessity.

British Water is the leading association for the UK water and wastewater industry in the UK and overseas and its technical forum contains focus groups for different sectors within the supply chain.

The Package Sewage Treatment Plant Focus Group contains more than 20 companies including the major design, manufacturing, installation and servicing companies providing non-mains sewerage systems in the UK.

Its regular meetings are attended by regulators and government representatives. British Water will be publishing more guidance documents produced by the group during the year.

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