Industrial Emissions Directive and the Water Industry

The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) is a significant piece of European Union legislation aimed at reducing pollution from industrial activities. Originally adopted in the UK Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010, it has been updated a number of times since in an attempt to keep up with new technologies, post-event learnings and environmental research.

It consolidates and strengthens various existing directives related to industrial emissions. The main objectives of the IED are to prevent pollution by promoting the use of “best available techniques” (BAT), and ensure a high level of environmental protection for air, land, and water.

The IED applies to a wide range of industrial activities, including energy production, steel mills, mineral extraction and processing, the water industry, waste management, and recycling.

It covers approximately 50,000 installations (Regulated Facilities) across the EU, and 14,000 in England alone.

The IED brings together and builds upon multiple individual legislative instruments that were formed over years, such as:

  • IPPC Directive (integrated pollution and prevention control Directive)
  • Mining Waste Directive
  • Pollution Prevention and Control
  • Waste Management Licensing
  • Etc

Having all these rolled together makes it easier for Government to update the list of ‘prescribed activities’, the legally binding targets, and operational standards, via the UK’s five-yearly Environmental Improvement Plan or ad-hoc updates to statutory guidance. 

Key Aspects of the Industrial Emissions Directive

Best Available Techniques (BAT):

Central to the IED is the requirement for operators to use all established BATs (best available techniques) to minimise emissions. BATs are techniques that are recognised as effective and advanced, taking into account the practical suitability of particular techniques for meeting emission limit values. The system is designed to uphold the highest standards across industry, whilst allowing for innovation and the development of better techniques to come.

Waste companies can apply to use less expensive techniques that offer the same level of environmental protection, or ones that practically increase protection.

BAT reference documents (BREFs) are developed to provide guidance and are regularly reviewed and updated to reflect new technological breakthroughs and research.

Appropriate Measures (AM)

BATS are used subject to Appropriate Measures, which usually include specific operational practices, technological requirements, and management procedures deemed necessary to achieve compliance and protect the environment. The concept of Appropriate Measures often replaces or enhances the idea of Best Available Techniques (BAT) in achieving regulatory compliance and high environmental protection goals.


Industrial installations covered by the IED must obtain an integrated permit from the relevant national authorities, such as DEFRA, the EA or SEPA. The EA is responsible for permit applications from A1 installations, with DEFRA taking care of all others.

This permit should include conditions based on BAT and ‘appropriate measures’, with specific emission limit values (ELVs) set for each pollutant.

Permits must be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect technological and regulatory changes.

In an effort to ease the burden of IED red tape, all EU countries are required to have an electronic permit system in place by 2035.

Emission Limit Values (ELVs):

The IED establishes ELVs for various pollutants, which are based on the performance of BAT. These include limits for pollutants like sulphur dioxide (SO₂), nitrogen oxides (NOx), dust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The emission limit for bacillus spores to wastewater or sewer is 300 cfu per litre,

Stricter ELVs can be imposed if necessary to achieve environmental quality standards.

Compliance and Monitoring:

Installations are required to regularly monitor emissions and report data to the authorities either annually or on-demand so that compliance with permit conditions can be scored.

Non-compliance can lead to large financial penalties and mandatory corrective actions.

Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) and the Regulator:

The EA, SEPA and DAERA run a system of environmental inspections to ensure that installations comply with the IED.

These inspections are risk-based, with higher-risk installations receiving more frequent inspections.

There are 3 main classes of Installation: A1, A2 and B. A1 is the most stringently regulated class, and such facilities must apply directly to the national authority for a bespoke Permit (Licence). A1 installations include the likes of:

  • Refineries
  • Factories emitting waste or emissions to air, land or water
  • Mineral processing industries
  • Landfill waste sites
  • Hazardous waste treatment plants
  • Waste incinerators
  • Anaerobic digestion plants
  • More recently, Wastewater and sewage plants using anaerobic digestion (AD)

A2 and B classified installations are granted a permit from their local authority (i.e. Local Council). However, they are still under the final authority of the national environmental protection body.

IED vs UWWTD (Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive)

With lawmakers failing over themselves to create evermore ‘instruments’, there have formed several overlaps and contradictions between a number of different EU Directives and resulting UK laws. This has led to confusion and uncertainty, a key example being that the EA decided years after the IED came into force, that sewage works regulated under the UWWTD should also be subjected to the IED permitting scheme. This has created a dual-permit scheme for those sites using AD treatments, which has added considerable cost to sewage operations.

Flexibility Mechanisms:

The IED includes flexibility mechanisms to address situations where the application of BAT may not be economically or technically viable. In such cases, derogations can be granted under strict conditions.

Furthermore, flexible permitting around BAT is encouraged in order to foster innovation and emerging technologies which either improve efficiency or environmental outcomes.

Public Participation and Transparency:

The directive emphasizes the importance of public access to information and participation in the decision-making process.

Relevant information about permits, emissions, and compliance status must be made available to the public.

When it comes to data transparency, England’s water companies are ahead of most other nations, according to Sky News. It has brought things such as the longstanding issue of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to the surface, with a need for the complete story to be told.

Understanding all the data will enable an evidenced based, balanced and fair approach - across industry, government and consumers - to tackling the issues of our day.

Senteos is a data capture software that makes record-keeping and reporting easier for site operators.

Impact of IED so far

The IED has significantly contributed to reducing industrial pollution across the EU, leading to cleaner water, air, and soil. It has also driven innovation and the adoption of cleaner technologies in the industrial sector.

Industrial releases of pollutants to water and economic activity in the EU-27 (source: European Environment Agency)


However, since the European Green Deal was signed, the Commission submitted a proposal to review the industrial emissions directive and increase its scope, effect, and enforcement.

Industry support is gearing up to meet these higher requirements. Water emissions monitoring and treatment equipment such as EnviroHub help construction sites, factories, energy producers, quarries and mines comply with the IED by preventing pollution and capturing wastewater management data cost effectively.

Recent Developments

The IED has been subject to ongoing revisions and updates to address emerging challenges and incorporate new scientific and technical knowledge. Recent efforts have focused on further tightening emission limits, improving monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and enhancing the overall effectiveness of the directive. The mining and mineral industries are expected to be brought more within the IED’s scope, as is large-scale battery manufacturing and intensive farming.

In April 2024, the EU ordered the establishment of an Industrial Emissions Portal (IEP), an upgrade to the upgrading the existing European pollutant release and transfer register (E-PRTR), and new rules allowing individuals to claim against infringers.

Future Directions

Looking forward, the UK and EU are continuing to refine and strengthen the IED as part of its broader environmental and climate policies, particularly through the Office for Environmental Protection and the European Green Deal. This involves further integration of circular economy principles, decarbonisation efforts, energy efficiency, and addressing ‘pollutants of emerging concern’.

Atlantic Pumps are directly working with companies worldwide to meet these new and emerging requirements for water pollution prevention more efficiently. As well as industrial water effluent control solutions, they also supply pumps for water-wash air pollution systems.