Cleaning up 05 February 2019

Leaks and uncontrolled releases of diesel can have major impacts on nature and the environment if they aren’t dealt with properly. Luckily there are different measures, products and services available for operators and businesses in dealing with such problems

Knocking a drink over in the pub or restaurant can be an absolute nightmare – where are the paper towels and mop? On an industrial scale, the same can be said for oil and diesel spillages – escaped liquid that needs to be cleaned up before it affects the surrounding environment.

Diesel is such a commonly-used liquid in industry and can be found on most sites: forklift trucks and backup generators being just some of the many applications that require it. Unfortunately, leaks and releases do happen, meaning that diesel, which is poisonous and a threat to plant and animal species, can make it into the environment. Poor weather and a lack of preperation can increase the likelihood that a spill will result in contamination.

The regulatory penalty can be expensive. Carlsberg Supply Company UK is just one company that has experienced such a problem in recent years. It was announced in November 2018 ( that the firm had paid £120,000 to environmental charities as part of an enforcement undertaking (EU). The EU was offered to the Environment Agency after the company admitted causing two similar diesel pollution incidents in the River Nene, East of England, in 2017.

In July 2017, around 230 litres of diesel escaped into the River Nene following a diesel spill the previous week that ran into the site’s surface water drain. Heavy rain in the days leading up to pollution incident is believed to have washed the diesel out of the drain and into the river. Then, in October 2017, an estimated 200 litres of diesel escaped into the same river following similar circumstances. The diesel took the same path as the previous incident and – due to a faulty valve – flowed straight into the river.

In response to both incidents, Carlsberg introduced site-based improvements, including incident training and exercises, installed preventative measures into the drains system and revised processes and procedures to reduce the likelihood of this happening again.

Fortunately for other operators facing these kinds of environmental risks, there are a variety of measures, products and services available to deal with spillages before they reach the environment.

It may seem obvious, but the best way of dealing with a spill is to avoid having one, according to Niall Robinson, product and procurement manager at Arco, and Mark Neale, UK sales director at Ecospill. Following correct practices and procedures for the safe and compliant storage and handling of liquids is key.

They explain that all site operatives should be trained to recognise the specific hazards of the materials they may encounter and understand the correct procedures associated with handling such materials. Operatives should also be familiar with emergency spill control plans, which should stress initial actions to take in the event of a spill, including the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment and the importance of safety.

Emergency spill response plans (ESRP) should be written in a way that reflects likely scenarios, rather than being ‘generic’ in nature. They should always be posted at all key liquid handling and storage locations and wherever spill response assets are located.

There is always potential for a spill to occur when liquids are handled or stored. The consequential impact of spillage on people, the environment and businesses can be significant. Arco’s Robinson and Ecospill’s Neale also recommend that a comprehensive spill risk assessment, carried out by a qualified person to determine the preparedness of a site in dealing with a spill. A typical survey by Arco and Ecospill would cover: identification of activities or processes that could or are giving rise to spillage; types and volumes of liquids and how and where they are stored; type, location and adequacy of spill assets; identification of consequential impact of any spillage; compliance issues and staff training; and scope and adequacy of spill planning measures.

Such a survey would then generate a written report and recommendations that can be used to address any shortcomings, identify key areas of risk, non-compliances with regulation and legislation and provide a foundation for improved contingency planning. Finally, they also give tips on dealing with a spillage:

● Appropriate spill kits should be available around site and at locations close to all liquid handling and storage activities. Choosing the correct type of absorbent is also important. “This would be determined by a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the type and nature of the liquid or liquids in question, potential volumes that could be spilt (always work on a worst-case scenario) and location (inside or outside, and type of surface),” they say.

● Ideally kits should be wheeled, so they can be quickly moved to the spill location, and held in weatherproof containers.

● Spill response assets should, when possible, be used proactively. For example, they should be brought to a state of readiness before any liquid handling activities. “Used in this manner would contribute positively towards reduced response times and help lessen consequential impacts,” the duo add.

● Kits should ideally contain socks and booms for containing the spread of spilt liquids, pillows and absorbent rolls or pads to help recover spilt liquid once the spill has been contained, drain covers to temporarily seal vulnerable drains, plugging putty to help seal damaged drums and containers, and waste bags to removed soiled material.

●If the spill enters a drain or escape from site via other potential routes, then the ESRP should provide guidance on what steps to take.

The scale of products available to industry in cleaning up diesel spillages is huge. At one end are response kits that contain different items of equipment, which have already been covered. Moving up the scale are specialised powders and treatments that aim to absorb liquids on the ground,

Harena from Oil Tank Supplies (OTS) Group is an oleophilic-coated powdered mineral that rapidly absorbs fuels and oils by bonding with the naturally occurring hydrocarbons, including synthetics, petrol, diesel and vapours. It can quickly be applied as a dry, free-flowing product and has non-leaching properties so, once fully bonded, Harena forms a dry, oil-free, non-flammable crumb that can be swept up and removed.

According to OTS, Harena is non-flammable, safe to handle and non-toxic, with an indefinite shelf life. All fuels and oils become non-flammable when fully bonded, facilitating the complete removal of the split material from site, whilst also minimising the risk of secondary accidents.

“Harena is environmentally-friendly and can be used in all weather conditions, because it remains fully hydrophobic after use,” explains Steve Gain, managing director of OTS Group. “It has been waste acceptance criteria tested (WAC) in the UK to be classified as non-reactive hazardous waste in non-hazardous BS EN 12457. This classification may reduce the cost of disposal compared with traditional absorbents. Its non-leaching properties means used Harena can be safely composted in an isolated environment. Used Harena can also be incinerated and act as an energy source, or potentially incorporated into the production of asphalt. OTS Group is also testing Harena’s suitability for recycling as a construction aggregate.”

At the very end of the product and equipment scale are bigger pieces of machinery that can even separate oil and water. If leaked oil has reached an enclosed body of water, an oil/water seperator will be needed to remove the oil contamination.

For example, Siltbuster offers three oil water separators, which fall into two categories – coalescing media and lamella plate. Rich Matthews, general manager of Siltbuster Process Solutions, explains more. “These separators can be used on any site or project where there is a need for the removal of oil and hydrocarbons,” he says. “That being said, we see the majority of our purchases or rentals being used for environmental remediation and industrial contingency planning. We also have a big uptake from construction and industrial sites, storm water runoff and when responding to emergencies.”

Typical applications for the Siltbuster CM400 Oil/Water Separator include treating water in contaminated tanks, temporarily replacing another oil/water separator or when a project only requires the separation of oil from water. It utilises an oleophilic, coalescing media technology to remove free-phase hydrocarbons at high flow rates. It has been designed to minimise the risk of clogging, thereby reducing the cleaning and maintenance requirements, whilst typically achieving 99.9% removal of oil droplets larger than 20 microns in diameter.

When treating highly-silt laden waters, the CM400 may be operated in conjunction with a Siltbuster Settlement Unit, providing a means of treating sediment-laden oily water at large flow rates.

The Lamella Plate (inclined plate) separators, meanwhile, simultaneously separate light non-aqueous phase liquids (LNAPLs) of 60 microns and larger by flotation, and remove settleable solids and dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs), which sink, by collecting them in the base before being drawn off.

The first of these is the flat-bottomed FB50-OWS, which typically performs on-site recovery and is utilised when there is a need for intermittent pumping. It consists of a combined oil/water separator and settlement unit, which recovers free-phase hydrocarbons and suspended particulates from wastewater in a single integrated unit. Free phase hydrocarbons rise to the surface of the unit, where they are collected by an adjustable weir skimmer. The storage tank provides a secure means of temporary storage for recovered hydrocarbons; an external tank can also be connected.

The final separator is the HB50-OWS, which has the same attributes as the FB50-OWS, but has a greater sludge storage volume, and the option for continuous on-line removal of solids. It is typically employed for the remediation of gas and oil works, and when there is a need for continuous pumping.

These are just some examples of measures, products and services that can be carried out and used by operatives and businesses in dealing with diesel and oil spills. Every industrial operation has a duty to ensure it does not pose a risk to nature and the environment, but accidents happen, and sites need to be on the ball when they do.

BOX OUT: Failure to report diesel spill lands American company with fine
The Massachusetts, USA Department of Environmental Protection has penalised Land Air Express of New England $21,000 (£16,300) for its failure to properly report, within two hours, a diesel spill of greater than 10 gallons at its Easton facility.

The spill occurred due to an over-fill during fuelling activities that involved one of the company’s trucks on 19 February 2018, which was not reported. MassDEP received a complaint about the spill two days later, which was investigated by the Easton Fire Department, which found conclusive evidence of a recent spill greater than 10 gallons (37.9l).

Millie Garcia-Serrano, director of MassDEP’s South-eastern Regional Office in Lakeville, says: “Immediate response actions were initiated by the company, but unilateral actions without proper prior notification can result in a violation that MassDEP takes seriously.” MassDEP also inspected the site following the complaint and confirmed that the spill impacted 450 ft2, and stained a concrete pad and containment channel in the pad, as well as an adjacent asphalt pavement area. A barrel and drum were also found with oil-soaked absorbents and debris.

Land Air Express subsequently has retained the services of an environmental company and licensed site professional to oversee clean-up and closing out of response actions, which were completed by 27 April 2018. The company will pay a $10,000 penalty, and $11,000 will be suspended provided the company has no further violations over the next year.

In the UK, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency make it clear that pollution incidents and spillages should be reported as soon as possible, according to information website Croner-i. The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2015 make it a statutory duty to notify the regulator when there is either an imminent threat of environmental damage or reasonable grounds to believe there actually is environmental manage. More at

Adam Offord

Related Companies
Arco Ltd
Oil Tank Supplies Ltd
Siltbuster Ltd

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