Pollution incidents and environmental damage

Good practice to prevent pollution


You should take steps to reduce the risk of pollution from your site. If you follow good environmental practices you can avoid most pollution incidents.

You should carry out an environmental risk assessment to help you understand what pollution hazards there are on your site. This will help you plan for emergencies and decide what action you need to take to control your activities and prevent a pollution incident.

Store and handle hazardous substances safely

You should store hazardous materials, fuel, oil and chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills, eg a bund or other suitable secondary containment system.

Your bund and any bunded pallets should be able to contain at least 110 per cent of the volume of the largest tank or 25 per cent of the total volume you are likely to store, whichever is greater. This may be a legal requirement if you store oil.

You should review storage areas and check containers regularly. Avoid locating storage areas near waterways, drains and unsurfaced areas.

Prevent water pollution from site drainage

Uncontrolled releases or leaks can enter your surface water drainage system and cause water pollution. You should mark areas used to store or deliver hazardous or polluting substances and refuelling areas. Isolate them from the surface water drainage system by using bunds, drainage gullies, raised kerbs or appropriate falls.

Have procedures to prevent pollution from your drainage system, eg keep an updated drainage plan and colour code your drains.

Be prepared to deal with spills

You should ensure accidental spills and leaks can be contained and keep spill kits or other pollution control equipment at your site. Keep portable spill kits in vehicles used to transport hazardous substances and waste.

Make sure you can access your spill kit easily when you need it. This can include:

  • absorbent materials
  • drain sealing mats
  • gully seals
  • booms
  • sealing putty
  • earth or sand

Prepare a pollution incident response plan for dealing with spills. Make sure that your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it.

If a spill does occur, act immediately and try to prevent it from entering drains or surface waters. For example, use absorbent materials to help contain the spread of oil and soak it up, and drain blockers to protect surface water drains.

Use the NIEA Water Pollution Hotline on Tel 0800 80 70 60 to report an incident and ask for help and advice about what to do.

Store and transport waste to prevent pollution

You are responsible for storing and transporting your waste safely and legally. You must ensure that your waste does not harm the environment.

You must:

  • store and transport waste in suitable containers such as skips
  • label containers clearly with their contents
  • separate hazardous waste from other waste types
  • ensure materials cannot leak into the ground, waterways and drains
  • ensure your site and storage facilities are secure and check this regularly

You should store your waste on impermeable surfaces (such as concrete), ideally with a bund to prevent run-off from your waste causing pollution.

Avoid causing a nuisance

Dust, fumes or noise emissions from your site can cause a nuisance to your neighbours. If your local district council receives a complaint, they may request that you reduce or stop the nuisance, or ask you to carry out work to reduce or stop it.

Use an environmental management system

Your business can reduce its environmental impact and the risk of harming the environment by using an environmental management system (EMS). An EMS will help you to manage and control your activities, including emissions and discharges, resource use, and waste in a planned way.