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Defra is currently consulting on potential amendments to the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) 2016 for groundwater activities (GWA). 

A summary of the proposed EPR amendments for GWA are:

  • To provide an improved hierarchy of regulatory controls for groundwater activities 
  •  To provide controls to prevent groundwater pollution from uncontrolled ‘pollutants’
  •  To improve existing control measures for protecting groundwater from site-based activities

Further information is available here. The consultation will close 22 December 2021.

Background to the EPR and the proposed changes

The EPR require operators of “regulated facilities” to obtain a permit or to register some activities, which would otherwise require permits, as “exempt facilities”. EPR therefore provides for ongoing supervision and controls by regulators of activities which could harm the environment or human health.

The EPR brings facilities together under a single, streamlined environmental permitting and compliance framework. It provides for a hierarchy of regulatory control which is proportionate to the risk that an activity represents to the environment. The lowest risk activities require minimal regulatory control via the use of exemptions and sets of General Binding Rules; medium risk activities can be controlled via Standard Rule permits following a “national once” generic risk assessment approach; the highest risk activities are subject to site specific risk assessments with ‘bespoke’ permitting controls applied. The regulatory effort and costs to both the EA and businesses increase proportionately with the risk that an activity represents to the environment also increases.

 For GWA some aspects of this hierarchy of regulatory control are currently not available under EPR, and for some materials that can cause pollution to groundwater these cannot be currently controlled.