UKWTA considers effects from boiler condensate

Sept. 28, 2007
The UKWTA (United Kingdom Water Treatment Association) has addressed the potential problem being caused by the huge quantity of condensate that is increasingly making its way into drains and into soak aways around the country following the Government's decision to require virtually all new boilers installed to be SEDBUK A rated boilers, following the changes to Part L of the Building Regulations. UKWTA Technical Director Tony Frost says there is no actual hard and fast information on which...

LONDON, Sept. 25, 2007 -- The UKWTA (United Kingdom Water Treatment Association) has addressed the potential problem being caused by the huge quantity of condensate that is increasingly making its way into drains and into soak aways around the country following the Government's decision to require virtually all new boilers installed to be SEDBUK A rated boilers, following the changes to Part L of the Building Regulations.

UKWTA Technical Director Tony Frost says there is no actual hard and fast information on which to base this concern, increasingly being raised by the more than 100 members of the Association, but the fact that several manufacturers have introduced condensate neutralizer products would suggest that the concern is wider spread than might initially be thought. "We know that the condensate generated by the growing numbers of condensing boilers installed across the UK is low level acidic discharge, but considering the age of much -- if not most -- of the drainage infrastructure and the huge quantity of condensate being discharged without treatment to the sewers, it seems a question we should ask and one we should consider having a viable response to, in case we discover that it is causing a problem," says Tony Frost. "Indeed a much smaller quantity -- but a significant amount still is discharged to 'soak aways' and if the quantity was high enough, it could have an impact on groundwater, which bearing in mind how much of our drinking water is still drawn from wells and aquifers, should be checked before it can cause problems to people's health and wellbeing."

There are an estimated 17 million gas boilers in the UK, with around 1.5 million new boilers installed each year. A condensing boiler from an average household will produce approximately 800 liters of acid per year at pH4.

This is not a problem for an odd house or two but the amount of acid condensate put down the drain is thought to be growing at a rate in excess of half a million liters per week as more and more condensing boilers are installed. It's conservatively thought that in two years time, we could be adding in the region of 50 million liters of acid at pH4 to our drains each week. The environmental consequences are potentially huge and, until now, little interest has been shown in addressing the potential problem. Even at a relatively low level of acidity, common sense suggests this must be having an effect on the infrastructure or water treatment process at some level.

"At the UKWTA we feel that some research should be being undertaken, probably by the Government -- possibly DEFRA or through the Environment Agency -- to investigate the effects if there are any of this new aspect of the energy efficiency and emission reduction program," says Tony Frost. "It may be that there is no threat, but it would be ironic -- and potentially very expensive -- if it transpired the huge quantities of condensate pouring into the drains, to the sewage treatment works and beyond was having a detrimental effect on the structure of the system, components in the water treatment plant or beyond the systems -- in the rivers and estuaries around the country. And if where mains drainage is not available, this is making its way to groundwater through soak aways, the impact could of course be extremely serious. We believe it needs to be considered very carefully -- and now, before it becomes a potentially very damaging problem."

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