Effluents resulting from non-domestic activities (trade effluents) may be discharged to the sewerage system or in some circumstances directly to inland freshwaters, coastal waters or territorial waters. In Scotland, water bodies subject to regulation are described as the water environment. Planned discharges are regulated using authorisations (eg environmental permits or discharge consents) issued by the environmental regulators or water companies. The authorisations will contain conditions, eg maximum concentrations of polluting substances. Standalone discharges to water and discharges to sewer are covered by different legislative regimes, however where a discharge to sewer forms part of a wider operation, this activity may be covered by the relevant authorisation.

Accidental discharges to the aquatic environment can take place in a number of ways. Examples include:

  • isolated pollution incidents, such as accidental spillages

  • diffuse pollution, such as contaminated run-off from agricultural land

  • point source discharges, such as those from a fixed discharge pipe.

Such polluting incidents are likely to result in criminal prosecution or the imposition of civil sanctions.

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