Fire Water Runoff

Engaging a flood risk and environmental consultant can help you to meet the required regulations and avoid potential enforcement action.

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We are highly experienced and can create a Fire Water Management Plan that works for your site.

At FPS Environmental, our team of consultants and engineers conduct fire water risk assessments and modelling for a wide range of commercial and industrial sites across the U.K, ensuring compliance with Environmental Permit obligations.

Many industries store and use substances which are potentially polluting and in the case of a fire, could rapidly enter the nearest water course where they may cause a serious pollution problem. Sites which are subject to the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) regulations are required by law to have plans in place to control water used to fight fires on their sites.

Engaging a flood risk and environmental consultant can help you to meet the required regulations and avoid potential enforcement action. We highly experienced in this field and can create a Fire Water Management Plan that works for your site.


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What is Fire Water Runoff?

The greatest environmental damage caused by fire is often created by the water used to fight it rather than the actual fire itself.

Water is the most widely used substance for extinguishing fires, as it is usually readily available. Whilst the water alone is non-hazardous and does not pose an environmental threat, it can become contaminated with the materials and chemicals stored on site, firefighting foam, or combustion by-products.

Whilst some water will undoubtedly evaporate, excess water will often be released into the ground, or local drainage networks – including watercourses.

Many commercial and industrial sites store potentially hazardous chemicals or materials, which would be highly polluting should they enter a watercourse with fire water. The subsequent runoff can lead to a Major Accident to the Environment.

Why Should I Consider Fire Water Runoff?

Whilst robust planning and precautions can reduce risks, they do not remove risk.

The resulting pollution from fire water can cause significant long term environmental harm, particularly if groundwater becomes contaminated. Fire water can carry contaminants a long distance, expanding the impacted area.

The ‘Polluter Pays’ Principle

Notwithstanding a company’s regulatory obligations and noting that in the vast majority of instances the ‘polluter pays’, the expectations of Corporate Social Responsibility alone make it good practice to demonstrate exemplary environmental compliance.

The ‘polluter pays’ principle underpins most of the regulation of pollution affecting land, water and air.

If you do not manage fire water run-off, you could be prosecuted and be liable for the environmental clean-up costs.

Managing Fire Water

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. High-risk sites, such as COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) sites are legally required to have comprehensive and detailed plans.

Businesses must have a standalone Fire Prevention Plan which contain procedures for controlling fire water runoff in accordance with CIRIA (736) Containment systems for the prevention of pollution.

Risk Assessment

The first stage should include a detailed site assessment and analysis to determine any missing site information. This can include investigating the volume of water that might be used to tackle a fire, the substances on site, site drainage connectivity and topography.

Risk Management

Containment is the preferred method to prevent pollution escaping. Fire water containment may include secondary or tertiary measures. The management approach must be in accordance with CIRIA736 to form a condition of an Environment Agency Environmental Permit.

Containment may include aspects such as, banks, bunds, tanks and drainage containment valves.

Is your site right?

Site Drainage

  • Do you know where your drains go?
    • Only clean water, such as roof drainage, to surface water drains
    • All contaminated water, such as sewage and trade effluent, to foul drains
  • Do you have an up to date drainage plan?

Storing Oils, Chemicals and Other Polluting Materials?

  • Are storage containers fit for purpose, regularly inspected and maintained?
  • Are storage areas and containers sited away from watercourses, surface water drains and unsurfaced areas?
  • Do storage containers have secondary containment, such as a bund to contain any leaks or spills?
  • Do you have procedures for safe delivery and handling of material?

Waste Management

  • Is your storage and handling of waste safe and does it comply with the law?
  • Do you know where your waste goes? Can you prove it is disposed of correctly?
  • Are you reducing and recycling your waste?

Emergency Response

  • Do you have a plan, equipment and training to deal with pollution and fire water runoff which is tested regularly?

If you answer no, or can’t answer any of these questions, you should seek advice from our team of experts.

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