How oil water separators can help you meet environmental regulations

Cleanawater on 28 September 2021

Australia has a strong commitment to protecting the environment through progressive legislation and empowered regulatory bodies. Any business discharging liquid trade waste must first obtain a permit and comply with the conditions set by their local water authority. Failure to do so could result in severe fines or shutdown.

A key solution in complying with environmental legislation is to use oil water separators. Oil water separators pre-treat wastewater discharged by commercial activities, and limits the amount of pollutants and other materials that will be released into local sewerage systems.

Cleanawater offers a wide range of oil water separators to help your business comply with trade waste requirements. Get in touch with us for a tailored solution that will ensure you stay compliant with local environmental regulations.

Oil water separator regulations and regulatory bodies

Each state in Australia has an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). This body has several powers and responsibilities under environmental legislation. The EPA has authorised officers and enforcement officers who have the power to enter premises and assess compliance with oil water separator regulations. Their powers include the right to:

  • Take samples of wastewater before it enters stormwater systems
  • Ask questions about oil water separation
  • Access records about past processes

The EPA works with businesses, local government, and individuals to ensure compliance with environmental protection legislation.

Local water authorities also have powers and responsibilities in terms of environmental legislation. These authorities issue permits to discharge trade waste into their sewer network and set limits for contaminants in the trade waste. They have the power to impose fines and even shut down businesses for non-compliance to trade waste permit conditions.

Stormwater regulations

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The purpose of the stormwater sewer network is to capture rainwater and discharge it to a safe location. This rerouting prevents commercial areas like car parks and roads from flooding. Stormwater is treated as rainwater and, as such, is not expected to contain any pollutants.

Stormwater is strictly protected in Australia as this water enters the environment without any treatment. Contaminants that enter the stormwater system will migrate to our water systems and can cause severe damage to plant and animal life. It is a serious offence to deliberately allow trade waste or contaminated water to enter the stormwater sewer network.

Wastewater regulations

The wastewater system in Australia contains used water from homes and businesses. It is more than 99% water as most of the volume comes from showers, baths, and washing machines. However, even small amounts of contamination can be harmful to the environment. Just one litre of oil can contaminate 1 million litres of water.

Local authorities process wastewater in treatment plants before discharging it into the environment. These treatment plants use bacteria to consume organic waste. Oil contamination starves the bacteria of oxygen and affects their ability to process waste. It is, therefore, vital to keep oil out of the wastewater system.

Trade waste permits and limits

Every local water authority manages the quality of trade waste entering the wastewater system through trade waste permits. It is unlawful for any business to discharge their trade waste into the wastewater system without a licence. Failure to comply with this regulation can result in severe fines and even prosecution.

Trade waste permits are linked to trade wastewater standards that describe the maximum limits for contaminants. These limits may vary from one region to another depending on the capacity of the wastewater treatment plants and the technology they use. Always check with your local water authority to verify the specific limits for your area.

Most local water authorities issue trade waste permits on a risk basis. The higher the risk of contamination in the trade waste, the more stringent the permit requirements. Typically, trade waste permits require treatment to remove oil from trade waste before discharging to the sewer. Permit conditions may also include the need for regular servicing and maintenance of an oil water separator.

Consequences of failure to comply with oil water separation regulations

There are severe financial consequences of non-compliance. For example, South East Water in Frankston will impose a fine of over $31,000, along with ongoing daily fines of more than $12,000 until you resume compliance. The NSW Environment Protection Authority can hand out fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. There are also strict punishments for breaching regulations in Queensland, and elsewhere across the country.

When oil enters the water system it can cause significant environmental damage. Both plant and animal life can be devastated by oil contamination in stormwater.

Why oil water separators are important

common oil water separator problems and their solutions oil water separator components3

One of the primary pieces of equipment for removing oil from trade waste is the oil water separator. Smaller businesses like carwashes and workshops that generate less than 5,000 litres per hour of trade waste can use coalescing plate technology. Larger commercial operations like mines may need a hydrocyclone oil water separator, which can process up to 50,000 litres of trade waste per hour.

Coalescing plate oil water separators use media packs made of oleophilic material. Here's how they work:

  1. Oil droplets attach to the plates and then grow in size as more and more oil accumulates.
  2. Large droplets rise slowly to the surface, where a skimmer removes them from the water surface.
  3. Clean water leaving the oil water separator can then be discharged into the wastewater system.

Hydrocyclone oil water separators use centrifugal force to separate oil and water. Heavier water molecules gather on the circumference of the cyclone, while lighter oil molecules accumulate in the centre.

To help your business remain compliant with local environmental regulations, oil water separators from Cleanawater can remove oil from water down to 5 parts per million.

Talk to Cleanawater for expert advice about guidelines and regulations for oil and water

Contact Cleanawater for specialist advice about trade waste regulations for your area. We can help you navigate the trade waste permit process and with the implementation of any pretreatment requirements.

Find out more about our oil water separators for trade waste applications.