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What is a Water Safety Plan?

Author: Oisin Egan – Student Engineer

Water is an essential basis in many industrial processes and a Water Safety Plan can prevent and manage threats to the water supply for those processes from the catchment to the process itself.  Industries that use large quantities of water include brewery and carbonated beverage water; dairy industries; textile manufacturing; pulp and paper mills; oil and gas; the pharmaceutical industry and many others. The uses of water may include fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting the product produced by the process in question. Without water, many companies, and the products they produce would not exist in our world today.

The World Health Organisation published the ‘Water Safety Plan Manual: Stop-by-step risk management for drinking water supplies’ in 2009 which recommended that water suppliers develop and implement a “Water Safety Plan” (WSP) to systematically assess and manage risks in relation to drinking water. The document stated that “The most effective means of consistently ensuring the safety of a drinking-water supply is a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach that encompasses all steps in water supply from catchment to consumer”. Similarly, wastewater discharged to receiving sewer networks or water bodies must comply with legislative limits outlined in Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) Licences. Regarding overall water infrastructure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adopted the approach of the WHO. It states, “A supply is deemed ‘safe’ if it meets the relevant standards and if a management system is in place that identifies all potential risks and solutions are in place to manage these risks”.

The Water Safety Plan approach also has utility within the industrial sector. For instance, manufacturing and other industries use water during the production process for either creating their products or cooling equipment used in production process. Raw water entering an industrial process often needs treatment to might tight quality specifications. The raw water quality requirements will vary considerably depending on the application, region, and local regulations. In addition, effluent streams from industrial facilities must have appropriate management plans in place A properly developed Water Safety Plan will ensure the safety of the both the water entering and leaving the facility through a risk assessment and management process that considers all points in the water supply through to the final process. It is a means to prevent and manage threats to the water supply, before anything goes wrong, considering all stages of supply process from the catchment to the process itself.

What Does a Water Safety Plan Include ?

A Water Safety Plan has 3 main components:

• Assessment of the water infrastructure from source to end-point

• Effective Control Monitoring

• Development and deployment of technical solutions

Schematic of Coftec Water Safety Plan

Steps in Developing a Water Safety Plan

(i) Assessment of the Water Infrastructure

The initial steps of putting a Water Safety Plan in place involves assembling a team of experts involved in each stage of the water supply and treatment process. This team is required to document and capture all identifiable risks to the water supply and each element of the treatment system. This is done through on-site assessments and evaluation of available data. All elements of the water network must be analysed to ensure overall safety and to mitigate identifiable risks.

(ii) Effective Control Monitoring for Water Safety Plan

Control measure must be implemented to reduce the risks that were outlined in the previous stage. This involves using treatment processes, monitors, alarms, employee training etc., in the event that flooding occurs or if there is damage to the treatment plant or distribution network. There should also be a plan in place for emergency drinking-water to be supplied if an extreme event occurs.

The next stage is to validate the control measures in place. Validation is ensuring that the performance of the control is successful. It shows that the treatment process can operate as required. For many controls, validation involves imitating a hazard, followed by concentrated monitoring to test the control measure in place to prevent that hazard.

(iii) Documentation & Deployment of Technical Solutions for Water Safety Plan

Once the initial assessment of the water system is complete an improvement/action plan should be created. These plans illustrate the current performance of the treatment system and outline how they can be improved in the future.

Another action is operational monitoring, and this must be constantly carried out while the site is running to ensure that all parameters and critical limits are complying with standards.  It may be measurable monitoring like recording turbidity, chlorine, pH and BOD (Biochemical oxygen demand) levels or observable monitoring like fixing pipe leakages or site fencing.

There should be a regular review of hazards, risks and controls of the water systems. The WSP should be clearly documented and readily available for review by the client or local authorities.

What are the Benefits of a Water Safety Plan

•    Water infrastructure is clean, safe and complies with local and European Standards

•    Identification of relevant hazardous conditions

•    Efficient control of hazards in water treatment systems

•    Utilises a risk management improvement plan

•    Maintains compliance with current internal and local legislation

•    Staff are trained for monitoring, preventative maintenance and hygiene

•    Action plan means system is prepared for any future or irregular occurrence

Coftec adopts the methodologies outlined in both the WHO and EPA guidance documents and applies them to industrial applications. An effective and efficiently operating water infrastructure is essential for continuity of production in industry whether it be in Pharmaceuticals, Food and Beverage, Medical Technology or any other sector, a Water Safety Plan can mitigate risk to your business.

Contact us if you would like more information on our water safety plan service or to discuss how this tool can help your business.

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