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The term “special category” applies to trade effluent which contains one or more prescribed substances at a concentration greater than the background level, which results from a prescribed process, or which contains concentrations of asbestos or chloroform greater than the background level.
The responsibility for determining whether a substance is above background levels lies with the Environment Agency (EA), acting for the Secretary of State for the Environment
Section 120 of the Water Industry Act 1991 states that where a notice to discharge trade effluent is served on the sewerage undertaker by a trader with regard to any Special Category effluent, it shall be the duty of the sewerage undertaker to refer the notice to the EA for determination. Discharge without consent is therefore illegal.
The Water Industry Act 1991 contains the principal legislation relating to the discharge of trade effluent to the public sewer.