Why Should I Consider Fire Water Run-Off?

Despite the best preventative measures, the risks of emergencies are present for all businesses and procedures should be in place to manage the impacts of an emergency.  One possible emergency is a fire and a big environmental issue associated with fire is the water run-off from tackling it.  This blog will explain why you should consider fire water run-off when preparing and planning for emergency response.

What is fire water run-off?

Water is the most widely used medium when fighting fires as it is cheap, usually plentiful and easily accessible and very effective at fighting fire.  Although some of the water will evaporate in the heat of the fire, most of it will fall to the ground and drain away.  Typically, this water is non-hazardous and does not pose a threat to the environment.  However, it can easily become contaminated with the materials you store on site, combustion by-products or firefighting foam.  These contaminants can cause significant environmental damage and must be managed.

What are the risks of fire water run-off?

Run-off can enter the environment through a variety of pathways, including surface water drains, foul drainage systems, run-off directly into water bodies or absorption by the ground, leading to groundwater.  Depending upon the contaminants, the resulting pollution can cause significant environmental harm and threaten local water supplies and public health.  The resulting environmental damage could be long term, particularly if groundwater is contaminated and rivers and other water bodies can carry the contaminants far away from your site, expanding the impacted area.

Why does fire water run-off need to be managed?

Having the necessary controls, policies and procedures in place can help to reduce the potential impact of any unplanned events that occur, including fire.  All businesses should have robust emergency plans, including a (PIRP) Pollution Incident Response Plan (for more information, read here).  More high-risk sites, like COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) sites are legally required to have more comprehensive and detailed plans.  Regardless of business size and activity, you should have robust, reviewed and tested procedures in place and they should consider fire water management.  If you do not manage fire water run-off, you could face prosecution, the costs of environmental clean-up and/ or be liable for the costs of clean-up by the Environment Agency.  Under normal insurance policies, these costs are not covered so the impact of fire water run-off could end up being very expensive.

You should have policies and procedures in place to prevent emergencies and to manage the impacts if they should happen.  One of the impacts that you should consider is fire water run-off management, which has the potential to cause significant environmental damage and could lead to prosecutions and fines.  Having a clear plan to manage fire water run-off and including the strategy in your emergency procedures could help you to reduce the risks to the environment and public health.  Our next blog will discuss the options you can consider for fire water management.