Marek Bidwell (IEMA North Regional Chair) recently hosted a well attended IEMA seminar at Ramside Hall, Durham on the topic of Pollution Prevention and Response.  Opening the event, Marek spoke about the positive strides that have been made in recent years on pollution prevention and reduction, but stressed that business need to “always be vigilant” continuing:

“You might have an award winning Corporate Responsibility strategy in your business and be doing excellent work but a single pollution incident can undo years of progress.”

Delegates then broke into groups to complete an interesting exercise assessing the main pollution risks, key prevention and response measures that affect their organisation.  Sharing the findings, one delegate underlined the opening comments explaining that a diesel oil spillage had resulted in a £32K clean-up cost for their business.

Getting Your Site Right

The first speaker was Paul Fairburn of the Environment Agency (North East) who expressed pleasure at the opportunity to speak with a large group of people and get the EA pollution prevention message across.  Paul opened with an insight into a typical day for an EA officer, stressing a key message that the EA “want to prevent pollution.  We don’t want to take enforcement, and want to stop it before it happens” encouraging delegates to report any incidents that may occur.  Paul then explained that

“simple pollution prevention measures can make a big difference to the impact of an incident”

Pointing delegates to two Best Practice documents provided by the EA:

Paul then gave delegates an overview of a range of good practice stressing that good management

“comes down to good planning and training on a regular basis.  This is much better than just reacting when an incident occurs”.

Before closing by referring to the range of Pollution Prevention Guidance Notes provided by the Environment Agency which cover a wide range of business operations, and are available at:

The second speaker, Hugh Neatherway of Cleaning Services Group Ltd continued the examination of dealing with pollution from the perspective of what to do when an incident occurs.  CSG are a commercial pollution clean-up company with over 77 years experience in dealing with pollution incidents.  Hugh entertained delegates with a story of a spillage of blue powder paint his company attended, which left the CSG operative on site looking like Smurfs!

Spillage of Blue Powder paint

Hugh supported Paul’s comments about good planning, by explaining that first response is vital as it is “a lot easier to clean up spills which have been contained”.  He then went onto explain the key steps that a clean-up job will go through:  Identify the pollution, Contain, Locate Source, Remediate, Remove, Dispose, Reinstate and Report.  Hugh explained that EA figures show that an oil spill on average will cost an organisation £30K to remediate, echoing the example discussed during the earlier group session.  Hugh closed by stressing the need to have a coherent pollution prevention and response plan in place:

“If you get preparedness right, the need for a subcontractor to clean-up will diminish”

The final speaker of the day was Gareth Leonard of Regenisis, a company who provide in-situ remediation for spillage incidents.  Gareth’s talk was an interesting and detailed exploration of the range of interventions possible to assist with on-site remediation.  In particular, Gareth demonstrated the differences in remediation rates arising from chemical, and biological oxidation, and how both form part of a staged remediation plan.  He explained that during the chemical oxidation phase, rebound means that repeated treatment is necessary, but that eventually a threshold reduction is reached.  At this point, biological tools can be used to continue the remediation process, assisting natural attenuation and leading to good levels of pollution reduction.

IEMA Chair, Marek Bidwell closed by thanking all three speakers for their contributions, stating that the talks had “illuminated delegates on what the possibilities are, and what can be done if an organisation has pollution problems” as well as echoing the need for businesses to have good plans in place, which are well trained and tested to ensure that response is as good as possible should an incident occur.