Plant & Works Engineering
Pollution risks increase due to Arctic conditions
Published:  10 March, 2010

Pollution risks increase due to Arctic conditions

As the recent Climate-change summit in Copenhagen proved, there is still widespread debate about who or what is responsible for climate change, and in what measures can and should be taken to combat its effect. However, what is virtually universally accepted is that climate change itself is a fact of the future. That factor must therefore be taken into account when companies are implementing or updating their emergency containment procedures to comply with new European Directives.

The recent spate of Arctic conditions which swept across most of the UK and Northern Europe, brought with it a series of major difficulties for companies attempting to deploy conventional spill and pollution control apparatus such as drain mats and plugs. Even the most diligently prepared emergency teams struggled to locate drains under inches of snow. However, locating the drain is only the first of many problems, some dangerous rather than just time consuming.  Attempting to chip away ice from a frozen manhole cover with a shovel or blowtorch is obviously not a good idea on a site with stored Petrochemicals or above a sewer with potentially explosive gases. Extreme weather or a major accident will quickly turn theory to practice and expose flaws in a site's emergency equipment and health and safety procedures. As anyone who has had a recent ISO14001 annual audit will attest to, complacency isn"t an option.

The risk of equipment failure is greatly increased with extreme weather conditions, and with frozen pipes and inaccessible drains the control of spills became a huge new challenge for many businesses. Farmers who are by nature, a hardy bunch who pride themselves on working in all weathers faced extra challenges due to the severity of the recent freeze. With deliveries and collections disrupted, many found themselves having to dispose of unwanted milk, a costly and potentially environmentally damaging exercise.

A comprehensive search of the Internet surprisingly unearths virtually nothing on spill containment in extreme weather conditions. Either it’s an area which hasn't really been given the attention it deserves or there is a perception that effective containment simply isn't possible in icy conditions.

Thankfully trying to find a spill or firewater containment system which works in all weather conditions is no longer a problem. Environmental Innovations Limited, a UK based designer, manufacturer and installer, provide semi or permanent 'Drainstopper’ systems housed below ground within the drain itself. Thereby converting the drainage system into a large capacity containment vessel for the spill. Buying invaluable time to organise the safe extraction of the spill from the drain, without the need for staff to put themselves at risk by entering potentially slippery areas to try and mop up the potentially hazardous spill. Once installed, this embedded technology with it's auto-safety maintenance checking facility and auto deployment capabilities is untroubled by extreme weather conditions as everything is controlled from above ground. Apart from initial installation and periodic routine maintenance there is no need to access the drain.  David Cole, EIL's Managing Director said: "We are proud that our regular courtesy calls to our clients, have recently resulted in the same response we get all year, the system is working. Many haven't even considered the difficulties they would be facing if they still had standard spill equipment.” The very nature of a spill  is that itʼs not possible for it to happen at a convenient time, so planning is everything.

The system is designed for repeated use, unlike standard spill kits, which require careful and specialist disposal of the contaminated mats and the additional cost of replacement after use.

Apart from the basic moral responsibility to protect the environment that any decent business has, the new legal requirements have empowered the authorities to forensically trace pollution back to it's source. The new stringent Polluter Pays Principle at the heart of the new European Directive (ELD 2004/35/EC) makes no allowance for ignorance or extreme weather when it comes to instigating fines or allocating potentially massive remuneration costs. So it's vital that when choosing a pre-emptive emergency containment system, companies ensure that it will work in all circumstances and in all weather conditions. Pollution Risks Increase Due to Arctic Conditions.

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