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Stephen Smyth to speak at event in Mallusk Business Park

Join Stephen Smyth for Business Networking at Mallusk Enterprise Park.

Tuesday 15th May 2018
9.30am to 11am.
Reception Building, Mallusk Enterprise Park, BT36 4GN.
Cost: FREE

“For the past 70 years, scientists and physiologists have been studying what motivates employees to perform exceptionally in the workplace.

The findings of these studies are robust and consistent yet there is a mismatch between what science knows and how employees are usually managed in the workplace.

Stephen Smyth will explain how some of the seminal ideas and principles on motivation in the workplace have been employed in local, national and international organisations with remarkable results.”

Mandhy Senewiratne

Microplastics found in more than 90% of bottled water, study says

Photograph: Abigail Barrows

Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water

A new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands says more than 90% contain tiny pieces of plastic.

Analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

Concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces for every litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had “found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water” compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.

According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene – the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.

Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water – the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.

The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was “satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab”.

The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US.It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestlé, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.

“Plastic microfibers are easily airborne. Clearly that’s occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn,” she said.

Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic “because people are paying a premium for these products”.

Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: “We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, it’s a triple whammy.”

Nestlé criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could “generate false positives”.

Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres “may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products”.

A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.

Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was “unclear”. The American Beverage Association said it “stood by the safety” of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.

The Guardian contacted Nestlé and Boxed Water for comment on the Story of Stuff study, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

This story is from the Guardian website.


Cartwheels in tight places

Sean Hogan, ex Chairman of NI Water, reflects on the governance, financing and political challenges still facing Northern Ireland’s water and wastewater service provider

We could probably all agree that there aren’t many organisations in Northern Ireland that couldn’t, with some thought, be more productive, more efficient, more effectively governed, and as such, deliver a better outcome for the consumer – and the public purse collectively.

Northern Ireland Water Ltd is a Government Owned Company (Go-Co), set up in April 2007 to provide the water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland, and according to their website, they deliver clean, safe drinking water to approximately 840,000 households and businesses and supply customers with approximately 560 million litres of good quality drinking water every day. They also collect approximately 330 million litres of wastewater per day from around 669,000 households and organisations connected to the sewerage system and transfer it to a works where it is treated and disposed of safely.

In order to deliver this service they manage a complex system of pipes, pumping stations, water and wastewater treatment works and reservoirs. Currently there are 26,700 kilometres of water-mains and 15,600 kilometres of sewers in Northern Ireland. Though most of the time this system works well, it is acknowledged that considerable investment, circa £3 billion will be required between now and 2020 to reduce leakage, lower the threat of flooding and improve water and waste water services generally.

No mean task you may say, and you may ask, where will this money come from?

Investment needed

As a company they have a chequered history. In late December 2010, Northern Ireland Water blamed historic underinvestment and a rapid thaw, after a period of snow and record low temperatures, for causing an unprecedented number of burst pipes in the system, which left around 56,000 households in around 80 towns and villages without water — some for up to 12 days. It later transpired that over 80% of the water loss was due to leakage on the consumer network and not the NI Water network as was previously thought.

The situation received significant attention in the UK press, and the Northern Ireland Assembly had to seek assistance from the Scottish Government to provide around 160,000 litres of bottled water over the New Year period. During the shortage, Northern Ireland Water pumped an additional 250 million litres of water per day into the system, most of which was lost through leaks. This was an increase of 40%, bringing the total daily output to 850 million litres of water per day.

When Northern Ireland Water was set up in 2007, it was envisaged by the UK Government, that it would operate in a similar fashion to other UK water utility companies and all consumers, both domestic and non domestic would be charged for that service. This model would have allowed for a significant revenue stream into the company and as such it could borrow for capital investment and not rely on taxation for that funding.

Currently, as a consequence of domestic water charging not being available to the company, it relies on the bulk of its funding coming from the Northern Ireland Executive, and as such has to compete with the health service, education, roads and agriculture in an environment of finite and diminishing resources.

The consumer pays anyway

It’s not as though we the consumers have “escaped” paying for domestic water supplies since the Treasury have deducted from the Northern Ireland block grant, an amount equivalent to what would have been collected had the charges been introduced.

Effectively we are paying for the charge in the block grant, but the company doesn’t have the benefit of receiving the money directly. Hence the conundrum.

So what’s the answer?

How do we ensure that Northern Ireland Water has the resources to maintain and develop a modern 21st Century water and waste water service, without having to compete with hospitals and schools for that funding? The solution surely can’t be beyond our collective intelligence.

Well, we could look at the Scottish model and adapt it to our own circumstances. Scottish Water receives its funding through the council tax for which a proportion is assigned as a water charge. This is collected by the council and goes directly to the company as revenue. Non domestic users receive a bill, just like here.

Most people in Northern Ireland argue that we are already paying for water in our domestic rates bill. Is it possible that a line on that bill could separate the element that is attributable to water and have it paid directly to the company as revenue as opposed to going into the central coffers only to emerge later as a subsidy? This could surely be done without increasing the overall amount of the rates bill.

The consequence of this would be significant as it would allow Northern Ireland Water Ltd to be re-designated as a Company as opposed to an NDPB (Non Departmental Public Body) since the bulk of its funding would come from revenue as opposed to subsidy or subvention.

This would mean that the Company could borrow money, like any other commercial company, for the capital infrastructure it requires to ensure the continuance of safe drinking water and effective and efficient sewerage services – and not take valuable resources away from Health, Education and other essential services.

Just a thought!

Sean Hagan

Sean is a member of the IoD Business Environment Committee.

Bob Windmill Appointed Academic Director

The Board of the BWEC is pleased to announce that Bob Windmill will be taking up the position of Academic Director of the college  from 1st March 2018

Bob Windmill has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to the water industry. With experience in technical and senior management roles at various water companies, he understands the challenging environment in which all water industry professionals operate.

He has achieved two masters degrees from Canfield University, been involved in qualification development through EU Skills and invited to lecture around the world.

The team here at BWEC are looking forward to seeing where his vision takes the college over the next three years.

Significant Skill Gaps Emerging in UK and Middle-Eastern Water Sectors

Miriam Balaban is presented with a Lifetime Achievement award on behalf of the China Desalination Association (CDA) after 50 years dedicated service to the water industry.

Overview of the Skills and Recruitment Challenges and Opportunities Facing the UK Water Industry

“There is a shortage at every level. I think it’s the biggest risk to delivery of new infrastructure. The skills shortage is across the board but it depends on the technologies. There is an ageing professional workforce and we need to increase the number of young people coming into the industry.”

David Rooke, Executive Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management

Significant Developments and the UK Water Industry

There has been growing concern regarding skills shortages and demographic challenges in the UK water industry for over 10 years due to the aging workforce and reduction in recruitment driven by efficiency savings required from the regulator (Energy & Utility Skills Sector Skills Agreement: The Water Industry 2006). The issue was brought into sharp focus in 2017 due to the Apprenticeship Levy, compelling employers with a payroll of over £2M to contribute 0.5% of their payroll costs to the Levy. With approximately 140,000 employed in medium to large water focused business and an estimated staff cost of £3.5 billion, the total invested in training has risen from under £10M to around £17.5 million almost overnight. According to the 2015 ‘Skills Deficit’ Report by Atkins the government and industry will need to invest £2.5 billion in training and development to provide enough skills to meet the country’s infrastructure requirements over the next decade.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) recently published a report, which revealed that over a third of vacancies in water and related industries are now due to skills shortages. The report goes on to show that skills shortage vacancies now make up nearly a quarter of all job openings, from 91,000 in 2011 to 209,000 in 2015. Significantly, the number of positions left vacant because water industry employers cannot find people with the skills or knowledge to fill them has risen by 130% since 2011.

Significant Developments and the Middle Eastern Water Industry

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) faces several water management challenges, namely: scarcity of groundwater reserves, the high cost of producing drinking water, and limited collection and treatment of wastewater. With the U.A.E.’s water demand growing annually, the country’s water infrastructure is under significant pressure. There is an increasing need to invest in new infrastructure to meet current demand and to avoid a future shortfall. Training and development of staff will naturally increase as skills need to develop with the massive investment in infrastructure.

The government owned Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) would be a key strategic customer for 2000 Weeks.

Saudi Arabia is beginning the privatisation of state assets on a scale that will dwarf even that of Russia following the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990’s. This includes their water and wastewater industry. As a country, Saudi Arabia is the 3rd largest consumer of water in the world however, the sector’s infrastructure is outdated and, in some areas, deteriorating. An increase in training and development spend should come with investment and development of infrastructure.

Cape Town water crisis: Residents urged to turn off toilet taps

From next month residents in Cape Town will be limited to 50 litres of water per day

Residents in the South African city of Cape Town have been warned to "save water as if your life depends on it" to avoid the supply being shut off.

A severe drought has forced the city’s municipality to limit consumption to 50 litres (11 gallons) per person per day.

Officials are urging people to switch off their toilet cisterns and limit flushing to conserve water.

The head of the provincial government said if the taps ran dry it would be “the disaster above all disasters”.

Helen Zille said it was still possible to avoid what has become known as Day Zero, when the water supply will be shut off.

She said a full crisis could still be averted if everyone used 50 litres or fewer a day. “That is not difficult if we all put our minds to it in our homes and in our workplaces,” she said.

Ms Zille then offered some suggestions on how to save water.

“Turn off the tap of your toilet cistern and use all of the grey water in your house from washing, save it, and put it into your toilet cistern”, she said.

“No-one should be showering more than twice a week at this stage. You need to save water as if your life depends on it because it does.”

Last year, Ms Zille revealed that she was showering once every three days. “I regard oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car,” she wrote in a column.

Cape Town, a popular tourist destination, has been hit by its worst drought in a century.

Much of southern Africa has been recovering from a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, following heavy summer rains.

However, Cape Town is still gripped by a drought and has had very low rainfall for the past three years.

Change of habits

Mohammed Allie, BBC News, Cape Town

My wife does not use the shower any more. Instead, she boils about 1.5 litres of water and mixes it with about a litre of tap water to have her daily wash while the rest of us catch the slow running water in a bucket for re-use in the toilet cistern.

Like most residents of Cape Town, my household of four has had to change our habits to conserve water.

A bucket and jug have now become essential tools for me and my children when taking a quick two-minute shower.

Read more from Mohammed here

Last week, Mayor Patricia de Lille warned the city had reached a “point of no return”.

“We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them,” she said at a press conference.

“Despite our urging for months, 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres per day,” she added, referring to the current daily limit.

A person uses about 15 litres per minute for a typical shower and the same amount when flushing a standard toilet, according to WaterWise, a South African water usage awareness campaign.

Water Hygiene Certificate

SHEA Health and Safety for the Utility Sector

Managing Health and Safety in the Workplace (ILM Unit)