The science of selling science
Southern Water is expanding its laboratory services by re-entering the commercial market. New technology is being used to meet the legistlative demands on its growing client base
One of the country’s ten water and sewerage companies is moving back into the
laboratory services competitive market. Since being sold by ScottishPower to
First Aqua, Southern Water is, once again, providing an environmental sampling
and analysis service.
The accreditation has given the stamp of approval to the company’s analysis
procedures, which are part of the quality assurance and management systems that
are designed to guarantee results for a wide range of water, wastewater and
The 90-strong scientific team operates from three sites around the company’s
region, at Chatham in Kent, Brighton in East Sussex, and Winchester in Hampshire.
The laboratories offer a range of testing capabilities, encompassing a number
of specialisms which include:
- clean water analysis,
- wastewater and effluent analysis,
- soils and solids analysis,
- environmental microbiology,
- landfill monitoring and assessment.
Rob Fuller, an experienced environmental scientist, heads SWSS’s commercial
team. “We are now focussing our effort on actively marketing our expertise
to other companies and organisations, many of whom are trying to keep up with
constantly changing national and European legislation.” Fuller said.
One way of achieving reliable and competitive service is through the flexibility
offered by a new integrated IT system – the integrated scientific information
ISIS is efficient and effective and offers many benefits. It is not only easy
for laboratory staff to use but easy for customers to understand. Laboratory
staff can interrogate data quickly and convert it into widely used software
programmes. Southern Water can also help customers work through specific queries
for a particular sample point, looking for patterns in data. This can be useful
when establishing or forecasting future works programmes. Other benefits of
- bar code tracking – an electronic chain of custody to keep tabs on where,
when and who receives samples, and what analysing laboratory is working on
- customer defined limits – ISIS can automatically highlight breaches, in
bold red lettering, after set limits are inputted. If required the system
can be configured to notify the customer via e-mail of results exceeding the
set limits entered on the previous day,
- statistical checking – compares results against the last 90 days of data
and shows all those results outside the norm. This flags-up trends to customers
and can be used as an early warning system,
- breach reporting – following on from the political limits, an automatic
e-mail report can be generated on a daily basis to inform a customer of authorised
tests exceeding the limit levels. The benefit is a rapid notification of a
result without having to wait for the whole sample to be completed and authorised,
- data transfer files – authorised samples can be supplied to a customer
in a specific data range. This means the system is format flexible and is
typically in Excel format, leading to savings and eliminating the risk of
transcription error when
customers enter data into their own database.
SWSS has a broad customer base covering a range of disciplines, with numerous
Facilities and property management companies and environmental health departments
within local authorities are typically involved in the management or operation
of public and private buildings. As such, their remit may include the analysis
and monitoring of drinking water, swimming pools, wastewater, trade effluents,
surface waters, environmental waters and recreational waters. The scientific
services client support team considers one of its key strengths is helping customers
understand the significance of their results, in terms of the regulations and
guidelines that apply to a particular scope of work.
Water management consultants and environmental consultants also place business
with SWSS, on behalf of third-party clients. Areas covered include air, land
and water monitoring, such as environmental impact assessments.
Water companies have also taken advantage of the facilities on offer. While
almost all public water companies have their own laboratories, there are times
when SWSS is able to offer help with sub-contracted analysis, or assist during
staff shortages or instrument down-time. As the laboratory team are already
working to Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) standards, external water companies
can expect the appropriate limits of detection and quality assurance.
Many clients work to an annual sampling programme. SWSS can provide a complete
sampling service or assist with the scheduling of samples, the provision of
sampler’s log sheets, labels and sample containers. For customers that have
their own sampling teams SWSS can arrange couriers from pre-defined pick up
The technical expertise and experience of the scientific services team comes
to the fore when assisting customers with problems. Customers sometimes need
help deciding what samples to take in order to best identify the source of a
problem – whether it be a taste and odour complaint, or contamination/pollution
The increasingly stringent legislative requirements which aim to protect the
environment are the real driver for a host of companies and organisations using
specialised laboratory services. In recent years there have been numerous developments
in legislation impacting on UK companies. Some of the key regulations include:
- HSC Approved Code of Practice and Guidance 2000 – gives practical advice
on the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control
of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 concerning the risk from
exposure to Legionella bacteria.
- The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000 – initially replacing
in part the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 1989, this comes into
force in its entirety on Jan 1, 2004.
- The Special Waste Regulations 1996 – recent regulations and developments
in European legislation and the Hazardous Waste Directive has meant a general
tightening of requirements for special waste handling. A continued harmonisation
with European law has meant that more waste types are being designated as
special waste. The current legislation is the Special Waste Regulations 1996,
but this is being reviewed to more closely reflect the EC Hazardous Waste
Directive and the Landfill Regulations, which more stringently control the
disposal of hazardous waste to landfill.
- Groundwater Regulations 1998 – implemented from the Groundwater Directive
the major development under this legislation is the increased control of the
discharge of List I and List II substances to groundwater. The regulations
now specify that List I substances must be prevented from entering groundwater,
while List II substances must be controlled to prevent pollution of groundwater.
- The Landfill Regulations (England and Wales) 2002 tighten and clarify the
regulations and conditions for landfill operators and specifically details
sampling and analysis requirements. It defines when a waste area becomes a
landfill and classifies the different types of landfill site, sets-out the
procedure and conditions of issuing landfill permits and details types of
waste exempt from the regulations. Potential sampling and anaylsis requirements
resulting from the regulations include leachate and surface water, gas emissions
and groundwater sampling.
Other developments include changes to the Nitrates Directive, new sludge to
land regulations, the EA Dangerous Substances Policy and the Pollution Prevention
and Control (PPC) Regulations.
For the team behind SWSS keeping abreast of the developments in environmental
legislation is key to offering a quality service. Its expertise in laboratory
analysis work is recognised as an asset which many customers consider they cannot