Environmental Liability Directive 2004

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The Environmental Liability Directive 2004/35/EC is an EU law Directive on enforcement of claims to improve the environment.


The Directive came into force across Europe during 2009 and in the UK it became law on 1 March 2009 converting the various national Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPGs) such as the UK PPG11, PPG18 and PPG21 into requirements where failure to comply can result in fines and more significantly reformation / reinstatement costs which can run into many millions of Euro.

Unlike the 96/82/EC so-called Seveso II Directive which applies to large high risk businesses the Environmental Liability Directive applies to all businesses large and small alike. Simply there is no excuse and owners/Directors who ignore the Directive and cause a major incident can end up in jail.

Two of the most important considerations within the Directive are the containment of spills and firewater. Spills could be anything from milk through, cooking oil through to oils from your parking lot's oil interceptor or a bio-hazard.

Firewater is the runoff when you have a fire, this is a cocktail of water, foam and whatever you were storing. It can be deadly and have a major impact to the environment should it escape from your site. Hence, key in the Directive is an Environmental Management System [EMS] that to contain spills and firewater on their site for safe disposal later. Trawl the internet and you will find some good examples of automatic spill and firewater containment systems that use the drains on the site a high capacity storage vessels. These systems tend to use inflatable pneumatic bladders, lockable flap valves or motorised penstock valves to seal the site. Sandbags and spill kits can also be used but these are really only suitable for low volume spills and certainly are dangerous to deploy when hazardous substances or fires are involved.


The ELD has been amended three times through Directive 2006/21/EC on the management of waste from extractive industries, through Directive 2009/31/EC on the geological storage of carbon dioxide, and through the Offshore Safety Directive 2013/30/EU, on safety of offshore oil and gas operations. The amendments broadened the scope of strict liability by adding the "management of extractive waste" and the "operation of storage sites pursuant to Directive 2009/31/EC" to the list of dangerous occupational activities in Annex III of the ELD.

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