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What is a Water Safety Plan?

Author: Oisin Egan – Coftec Engineer

Water is an essential resource for many industries and a vital component in many processes. A Water Safety Plan is an important tool for managing and protecting the water supply used in industrial processes. This plan can help prevent contamination or other threats to the water supply, ensuring that it remains safe for use. It can also help companies respond to potential threats and manage any issues that may arise. Industries that rely on large quantities of water include breweries and beverage companies, dairy producers, textile manufacturers, pulp and paper mills, oil and gas companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers, among others. Water is used for a wide range of purposes in these industries, including fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, and transporting products. Ensuring a safe and reliable water supply is crucial for the success of these industries and the products they produce.

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 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. By taking a proactive approach to water safety, industrial facilities can reduce the likelihood of water-related incidents and ensure the quality and safety of their water supply.

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

A water safety plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the measures a company or organization takes to ensure the safety of its water supply. This can include measures to prevent contamination, as well as strategies for responding to water-related emergencies. Some of the benefits of having a water safety plan in place for industrial water include:

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

•    Increased efficiency and cost-savings via 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

           •   Demonstration of commitment to responsible water management & compliance.

Overall, a water safety plan can help industrial water users ensure that they are in compliance with relevant regulations and standards, which can help avoid penalties and other consequences of non-compliance. Additionally, a water safety plan can help industrial water users identify and manage potential risks associated with the use of water in their operations, which can help prevent accidents and other incidents that could harm people or damage the environment.

Coftec adopts the methodologies outlined in both the WHO and EPA guidance documents and applies them to industrial applications. This is important because a reliable water supply is essential for the smooth operation of many industries, including pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, and medical technology. By implementing a Water Safety Plan, Coftec helps its clients mitigate the risks associated with water treatment and ensure the continuity of their operations.

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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