Stem the tide

08 October 2018

Risk is an inherent part of business operations ​for sites that store and transport hazardous substances. To prevent the worst from happening, disaster prevention plans are key, as well as clean-up steps that focus on safety and damage limitation should a spill be unavoidable. With flooding a growing concern across the UK, for many, ‘risk’ has been exacerbated. Alan Scrafton, from spill and flood responder Adler & Allan, discusses

For sites that store hazardous substances, from chemicals to fuel (since 2010, oil has been classified as a hazardous waste), safety and environmental protection should be at the forefront of business owners’ minds. On a small scale, spills can happen on a daily basis – during delivery, transfer of substances from one location to another, or, in the case of forecourts, when a vehicle is being filled up. As a first step, someone should be responsible for reacting in the event of a spill, so the correct procedure is followed – key to preventing harm, pollution and minimising downtime.

Small-scale spills

For small-scale spills, sites should hold dedicated spill kits and where oil run-off is likely, have the correct separators fitted, an essential tool in removing oil waste from water. If your site does have separators, they must be checked annually for blockages, as well as cleaned and serviced with associated alarms checked. For added safety, we have developed the Ethanol Coalescing filter for petrol forecourts, which removes over 95% of potentially cancerous BTEX compounds.

Natural disasters

Unfortunately, for many businesses in the UK, the day to day risks have been exacerbated by flooding, an increasing problem that affects more of us on an annual basis. Over the last few years we’ve had extreme rain, extreme snow and extreme heat; the former two weather events leading to rising waters, downtime and increased pollution risk. At the moment, around 260,000 to 500,000 commercial properties are located in flood affected areas. While flooding itself can’t necessarily be stopped, how we prevent it and deal with it can have a big impact on its effects. 

Plan for tomorrow

If you haven’t been flooded yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. Rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions mean that flood risk is a far reaching issue. A Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) will provide information on your chance of flooding now and in the future, including the levels that water is likely to rise. 

In the short term, you can sign up to the Environment Agency’s flood alert service in order to be notified of impending adverse weather conditions. We have developed a Flood Risk Management Platform which draws on live and historic data to provide an accurate, immediate view on probability of flooding.

Defend and protect

Once you understand the risk your business is facing the right steps can be taken to defend against flooding. When it comes to hazardous substances, this means making sure spill kits are on site. In the early stages of a flood quick thinking and knowing exactly what the best course of action is will have a significant difference to long term disruption. 

Where flooding can’t be stopped, a quick and appropriate clean-up plan can make all the difference when it comes preventing environmental damage and returning to operations quickly. If an FRA reveals your site has a significant flood risk, enlisting the support of your local flood responder should form part of any flood mitigation plans. They will have the expertise and equipment to stop flood waters, while providing clean-up and pollution prevention services, in order to get back to operations as quickly as possible, while avoiding environmental fines.  

Waste disposal

If hazardous waste is created, due to flooding or as a general by-product of your businesses operations, you must classify the waste your business produces: 

  • before it is collected, disposed of or recovered 
  • to identify the controls that apply to the movement of the waste 
  • to complete waste documents and records 
  • to identify suitably authorised waste management options 
  • to prevent harm to people and the environment.

Under the hazardous waste regulations, a distinction is made between hydrocarbon-based oils and other oils – cooking oils and also pure bio-diesel, which is essentially plant based. Different types of oil have different hazardous properties – these must be identified and included on the label classification. A reputable waste disposal provider will be able to help you with the classification requirements.

To reduce the cost of disposal of some liquid wastes, removing water can dramatically cut the size and weight of the waste, making it far easier to deal with, as well as reducing its carbon footprint. This can be achieved using a centrifuge, which separates harmless water from the hazardous solid. The solid can then undergo bio-remediation treatment at a significantly reduced cost – up to 50% less than if the centrifuge hadn’t been used. A centrifuge can be used for a range of substances, including fatty and biofuel wastes, oil and food. 

Preparation is key

By their very nature, hazards are dangerous. The best defence against any risk is preparation – from likely issues that might befall any business, to more extreme scenarios such as flooding, the right reaction can make a huge difference.