Device puts the plug on pollution

Hundreds of pollution incidents that contaminate British rivers each year could be stopped at the source with a cutting edge device that instantaneously plugs the pipe in question.

The simple principle of the “envirovalve” is an inflatable bag placed inside the pipe and pumped up in the event of a pollution incident, plugging the pipe before the contaminants can reach it and blocking their path into the wider environment.

Over the last year since the appliance was commercialised the company has installed around 120 units around the UK, and is now looking to expand its British operations further and enter the Irish market.

When installed at food, pharmaceutical, milk, chemical or oil processing plants, the valve can be used to stop a range of pollutants from getting into the environment. “The food industry in particular has been very quick on the uptake,” said Richard Proctor, managing director of Darcy products, the Kent-based company behind envirovalve.

“There are around 1200 spills each year from industrial facilities in the UK,” Richard said – each releasing harmful pollutants such as caustic and treatment chemicals, milk, raw sewage or effluent into the environment.

“The way that the operators of facilities deal with spills right now is basically by reporting them to the Environment Agency and paying the fine,” he said. “These fines can go up to £20,000 or up to a two-year jail sentence. And the pollution ends up in the local river and kills all the fish.”

The cost of a spill does not end at the fine – pollution clean-up, remediation and re-stocking fish are all expensive, even before counting the bad publicity for the company publicly associated with a pollution incident.

While the first model of the device was triggered manually, the new generation envirovalve – on the market since last year – has evolved into a series of flexible options.

The device can be triggered manually, by phone, or even automatically using sensors designed to detect pollution emergencies by measuring PH, chemical oxygen demand (COD) or turbidity. A fully autonomous envirovalve is now also available, powering the pump used to blow up the “plug” with solar panels.

Envirovalve was exhibiting at the Irish Waste Water and Environment show in Dublin this week.

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Goska Romanowicz

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