Possibility for temporary landfill monitoring arrangements during COVID-19

Wiser Environment understands that the Environment Agency will take a pragmatic approach to landfill monitoring compliance whilst the COVID-19 restrictions are in force. Government advice is to cease unnecessary travel which may impact on the ability of operators to conduct monitoring activities. A temporary reduction in compliance will be agreed on a case by case basis, and Wiser Environment urges operators to confirm with the Agency.

Landfill monitoring guidance

It is commonplace for landfill operators to conduct compulsory environmental monitoring. In a risk-based approach, landfill operators analyse and review the impact their site has on the environment. This may include monitoring of potential leachate and gas emissions to groundwater, surface water, land and atmosphere. These measures assist in mitigating the polluting elements of landfilling activities.

Article 1 of the Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC states:
“…by way of stringent operational and technical requirements on the waste and landfills, to provide for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air, and on the global environment, including the greenhouse effect, as well as any resulting risk to human health, from landfilling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill.

These controls exist to demonstrate that the landfill is performing as intended. As monitoring is a requirement throughout the landfill’s lifecycle, it also forms a part of a permit surrender process; signalling when a site no longer presents a significant risk of pollution.

Compliance challenges

The core of the Government’s strategy to combat COVID-19 is to avoid all unnecessary gatherings and work from home where possible. As seen with technical competence,  the Government’s advice creates additional environmental compliance challenges. Wiser has made informal enquiries during which the Environment Agency has acknowledged these complications; outlining a need to contact them to request alternative landfill monitoring arrangements.

Our understanding is that sites with a positive compliance history will be looked upon more favourably, on a case by case basis. Broadly speaking, these sites may have the opportunity to defer their borehole monitoring and propose temporary alternative arrangements. Importantly, sites with critical infrastructure or poor compliance history may still need active management.

No matter how long or impactful the COVID-19 outbreak is, Wiser Environment will still be here to help businesses prosper. If you would like to discuss how temporary landfill monitoring arrangements could affect your business, then contact us.

COVID-19: Update for clients and suppliers

In response to the worldwide developments of COVID-19, the whole waste and resource industry is dealing with it as best as they can. From robust continuity planning to proactive collaboration with partners, this industry is going to come out of the other end of this crisis stronger. In likewise fashion, the following is Wiser Environment’s three-pronged approach to maintaining operations during the outbreak:

1) Business as usual

While the current situation is unprecedented in its scale, Wiser is committed to continuing business as usual. This means that the environmental consultancy is still fully operational; providing a comprehensive service to the wide and diverse client base. Furthermore, Wiser is using this economic downturn as an opportunity to communicate with its clients and provide actionable and practical advice – supporting businesses in their time in need.

2) Flexibility

Wiser has always been a company with a community and family focus at the core. Because of these core values and the swiftness of the outbreak, the consultancy has prioritsed adapting quickly to this crisis. After reviewing key processes and procedures, the team have greater flexibility in their work-life balance. Echoing Government guidance, the Wiser team are set up to seamlessly work remotely. This will also allow the team to continue providing clear and practical support to clients and spend more time with their family.

3) Transparency

The third approach is to be actively transparent. During what is a difficult time for everyone, Wiser Environment understands that businesses need the availability of full information. They need to what is happening, when is it going to happen and how will it affect their business. For this reason, Wiser will provide frequent updates on the status of the team. If one of the team comes into contact with the virus, then Wiser will inform the client base; providing an action plan that detailing how to maintain project momentum and achieve deadlines.

Getting through this together

As COVID-19 further impacts the waste and resource industry, the community needs to come together. Continuing to work hard, stay committed to values and open cooperation are the key approaches to maintaining operations throughout COVID-19.

If your organisation is affected by COVID-19 or you have concerns about any of Wiser’s team that you have been in contact with, then please contact the Group Administration Officer on 01480 462 232  or admin@wisergroup.co.uk at the earliest opportunity.

Maintaining technical competence throughout the COVID-19 outbreak

As a result of published Government guidance on COVID-19, Continuing Competence test centres will close. This will have a knock-on effect for Technically Competent Managers (TCMs) who are set to renew their technical competence. Accordingly, Wiser Environment is communicating with relevant regulatory bodies and persuading them to take a pragmatic approach.

What is Technical Competence?

For waste sites that have an environmental permit, there is a requirement for the operator to evidence and maintain their technical competence. To initially demonstrate technical competence, an operator would complete the CIWM/WAMITAB Operator Competence Scheme through an approved centre and become a TCM.

Once the operator has successfully achieved their Operator Competence qualification, they are then required to maintain their competence by passing a Continuing Competence Test (CCT) every two years. Under normal circumstances, the CCT is held at Pearson VUE test centres across the UK. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused complications and resulted in test centres closing.

Why are Test Centres closing?

Key parts of the Government’s strategy in combating COVID-19 is to avoid all unnecessary gatherings and work from home where possible. This guidance is persuading many institutions, including the Environment Agency, to close their office spaces and work from home. Correspondingly, the latest statement from PearsonVue states that test centres are closed:

“Test delivery is currently suspended at the Pearson VUE-owned and operated Professional Centers (PPCs) throughout the UK.

Exam delivery services will resume once it is determined safe to do so.

Candidates will receive email cancellations, and they can attempt to reschedule exams at a later date at PearsonVUE.com. Candidates with cancelled exams will either receive a refund (if paid to Pearson VUE) or an extension as determined by your exam sponsor. We will continue to deliver exams to any third-party test centres still operational in the UK.”

As a consequence, there are a significant number of TCMs who are unable to maintain their technical competence and avoid breaching their permit. In other words, TCMs whose competence is due within the next few months will be unable to complete the CCT and maintain permit compliance.

Advice on maintaining technical competence compliance

This is a serious situation where businesses will be unfairly put at risk of enforcement. Hence, Wiser Environment has pointed out the potential problem out to the Environment Agency (EA). Wiser Environment’s source has suggested that if sites are struggling to meet the technically competent manager attendance requirements, then they should follow the following advice.

TCM has to self-isolate:
  • Having a TCM is still a requirement for waste sites that have an environmental permit.
  • Just in case a circumstance arises where a TCM has to self-isolate, sites should have a contingency plan in place.
  • For example – a robust management system, managerial pipeline and the alarm systems are in fully operational. These contingency plans should ensure that the site can be safely monitored.
  • If a site cannot be safely monitored, then that site should inform the EA.
  • Lastly, operators should record in their site diary when their TCM has been self-isolating.
TCM is due to take a Continuing Competence Test:
  • Pending changes to the Government guidance on COVID-19, the EA will not penalise those sites who were unable to take the CCT.
  • If a site is unable to take the CCT, then they should inform their local EA officer and WAMITAB.

In summary, Wiser Environment understands that EA are actively working alongside the Government to deal with the virus. However, at this time there is no official guidance or national steer on how technical competence will be impacted. As a consequence of these special circumstances, Wiser has received assurance that local enforcement will take a pragmatic approach: “document what you are doing and why and trust us [EA] to be reasonable in the aftermath.”

COVID-19 could cause delays for the National Permitting Service

Following the Government’s guidance on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), all workplaces are encouraged to enable their employees to work at home. For that reason, the majority of the Environment Agency has followed suit and are now working remotely. Wiser Environment expects that to be the case until June.

Throughout the country, the virus is leading to many events and conferences becoming postponed. The Government is taking steps to mitigate the economic impact on businesses. Nevertheless, Wiser Environment contends that the waste and resource industry needs to take further action to protect themselves. Especially, if they are currently working with the National Permitting Service.

With the news that the Environment Agency is temporarily closing down their offices, there could be an impact on those seeking to apply for an environmental permit. Wiser has confirmed from several sources that the remote working challenges the Agency faces will cause delays in the National Permitting Service – introducing yet more delays to an already under-pressure service.

In other words, businesses that are in the process of applying for or varying an environmental permit should prepare for face setbacks. In response to this situation, Wiser Environment recommends that such businesses should engage with their local regulators. Discussions at this level can result in Local Agreements or temporary derogations. It is likely that local response will be on a case-by-case basis and would be heavily dependent on an operator’s current compliance rating and potential risk posed.

No matter how long or impactful the COVID-19 outbreak is, Wiser Environment will still be here to help businesses prosper. If you would like to discuss how changes at the Environment Agency could affect your business, then contact us.

COVID-19 update from the Wiser Group

The Wiser Group continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation. As always, the safety of Wiser’s employees, customers and partners is a top priority. In line with Government advice, the following is the Wiser Group’s current approach to COVID-19:

What the Wiser Group is doing
  • Wiser continues to review Government and NHS advice, and also practices generally in businesses.
  • The consultancy team, Head Office and sites currently continue to work as normal.
  • Self-isolation is in place as necessary and has been communicated to staff.
  • With best-practice being to reduce contact we are encouraging and ensuring facilities are in place for remote meetings within the teams, with customers and with suppliers.
  • All team members are now set up for home working and our systems are in place to enable so with immediate effect.
  • Flexibility is in place so that if any of our team has particular health concerns, or have concerns about close relatives, then working from home is possible with immediate effect.
  • Communication within the Team and with customers will continue using video conferencing and telephone.
  • Team members will continue to work to project deadlines.
  • Key processes and procedures are being reviewed, updated and training delivered to relevant staff to ensure coverage and continuity.
  • Site visits in the open air are not considered currently to be high risk though we are discouraging contact during those visits.
  • Monitoring of staff who have had leave or sickness to ensure that they have not visited Category 1 or Category 2 areas in the past 14 days.
  • Questioning visitors to Head Office and sites to ensure they have no symptoms or visited Category 1 or Category 2 areas in the past 14 days
  • Improving and testing our communication methods to ensure that we continue to manage projects, communicate and co-ordinate successfully as a team if working remotely.

If your organisation is affected by Covid-19 or you have concerns about any of Wiser’s team that you have been in contact with, then please contact the Group Administration Officer on 01480 464 111 or admin@wisergroup.co.uk at the earliest opportunity.

Murfitts Industries achieves ISO 14001 & 9001 certifications

Murfitts Industries has obtained the ISO 14001 and 9001 certifications. This further establishes them as an organisation with effective environmental management systems and a strong customer focus. The certification audit was performed by the BSI Group and completed successfully.

Murfitts ISO 14001 9001For close to a decade, Wiser Environment has been working closely with the UK ‘s leading tyre recycler – Murfitts Industries. Throughout that period, Murfitts has gone from strength to strength. The recycler’s latest achievement sees them obtain certification for the International Standard for Environmental Management ISO14001 and Quality ISO9001.

Achieving the standard

ISO14001 provides a framework whereby an organisation can optimise its environmental performance. When audited by the BSI Group, Murfitts confidently demonstrated that they meet the international standard. Murfitts reached this by evidencing their environmental responsibilities and the systems they have in place to continually improve.

Standing alongside Murfitts’ stance on environmental sustainability is their belief in providing high-quality service for their customers. This was demonstrated when Murfitts achieved ISO9001 certification. Here, the recycler illustrated their commitment to sustainable development by evidencing their quality assured processes and customer-focused systems.

With one of Wiser Environment’s management system experts, Andrea Petrolati, Murfitts were able to develop and set up this integrated management system. Designed from the ground up, Murfitts’ bespoke system truly reflects their strategic direction and operations; unlocking increased productivity.

With commitment from all levels and functions, organisations can achieve an ISO certification. As seen with Murfitts Industries, Wiser Environment has the dexterity needed to develop and integrate an organisation’s management system. For example, Wiser Environment will work closely with the prospective organisation and install simple and practical systems that meet their unique requirements; avoiding duplication of tasks and minimising additional paperwork. For more information how such organisations can grow their businesses, contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232.