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The Environment Agency’s journey with MonitorPro
The Environment Agency (EA) is a non-departmental public body, established in 1996 and sponsored by the United Kingdom government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with responsibilities relating to the protection and enhancement of the environment in England (and until 2013 also Wales).
In The Beginning
The Environment Agency (EA) is the main environmental compliance regulator for England and Wales. This case study discusses their use of MonitorPro - Desktop internally and trials that took place on handling Public Register data for emissions monitoring.
The EA regulates permitted installations of various different types. These include landfill sites, incinerators, mines, industrial sites, power stations and many others. As a part of its role it receives large volumes of environmental and other monitoring as a condition of their permits. This data needs reviewing, and forms a part of the public register.
The Challenge for the regulator
Permitted sites report huge volumes of monitoring data. Validation and regulation can be a massive logistical challenge.
Thousands of Permitted Sites, Many Thousands of Sampling Locations
The EA regulates many hundreds of sites, containing many thousands of sampling points, all with differing permits. Permits cover the monitoring of many different media, including ground and surface water, gas, dust, noise odour and many other categories. Sampling locations range from boreholes to pumps and meters, gas wells, flares and stacks, discharge points, points, etc. This leads to many millions of readings being reported every year. Depending on the origin of readings, sampling locations, parameters and units of measurements have a myriad of inconsistent spellings. Consistency and validation of data a huge challenge.
Every sample point has various compliance levels set for the different parameters measured, which should be reported to the regulator if exceeded, often within 24 hours. These levels are, based on historical and base line assessments, national or international standards.
Different media require differing frequencies of monitoring, from annual comprehensive suites of laboratory tests for groundwater, to real time (continuous) stack emissions, and all frequencies in between. Frequencies are determined in permits, and the regulator must verify that the correct data is reported for the correct periods.
Multiple Formats and Layouts
Because there is currently no mandatory reporting format, reports have been sent to the EA in a multitude of formats, from spreadsheet files to printed and posted documents.
The Public Register
Monitoring data has been uploaded to the public register as discreet, separate files. This means that retrieval of information in response to requests can be time consuming, especially where long term datasets spanning multiple reporting periods are requested.
Prior to the implementation of the MonitorPro pilot the South East EA Region was the only one that had the majority of its data in a database centred system. This was in multiple databases self-built in Access, which lacked any higher functionality - and were effectively a data storage system. Other regions were primarily spreadsheet based.
The EA were looking for certain key features which would assist in data management:
- Automatic importing and validation
- Aliasing system aiding single, consistent 'master' variable list
- Email alerts on compliance breaches
- Scheduling of which operator should be sending what data, and when (and alerting if not sent)
- Web based browser access allowing users in various offices across the region to access data and information in a very easy and intuitive browser based interface
- Potential for a future EA specific interface based around the capabilities of both a web based browser and portal
- Simple ad-hoc and scheduled reporting
- User permissions, roles and audit trails
- MCERTS Certified
From mid-2012, a new single, central MonitorPro database was constructed, hosted on EHS Data’s servers, and the data migration began. To date (Q4 2013) the South East Region have been uploaded, and consist of:
- 350 sites
- 10,000 sample points
- 1,200 parameters measured
- 10,000 name aliases
- 1.1 million readings
The system is accessed by either a web portal called MonitorPro - Web, or for system administrators the installed client programme called MonitorPro - Desktop
Automatic data uploads
Data is emailed direct to the server and automatically imported and validated. Many of the operations reporting to the EA (and in particular the vast majority of UK waste companies) already use a MonitorPro - Enterprise System. This simplifies reporting further, because data file layouts now import without modification.
Compliance levels, as well as statistical warnings have been entered, which form a part of the comprehensive automatic validation process. Email alerts are sent where issues arise. League table and other reports can then be run quickly and simply.
It is expected that the new system will pay for itself in saved time within the first year following implementation. It will dramatically improve the capability of the EA to validate the compliance of the operators it regulates.
Next phases will involve the implementation of the monitoring schedule functions. The system will know which data is expected from which operators, when. If data is missing then alerts can be sent automatically. During 2014 the results of the pilot will be assessed. If successful, and if MonitorPro is chosen then all of England’s sites would be entered, numbering in the thousands.