EMS in regeneration
The East Midlands Development Agency is tackling the environmental impacts associated with the regeneration of a former coking works via the application of an environmental management system (EMS) - The Avenue Project.
The industrial legacy associated with coal mining, and more recently with coal
carbonisation, has left its mark on The Avenue site in Wingerworth, near Chesterfield.
Until the early 1990s, the fully integrated coking plant was used to manufacture
a total of 18 million tonnes of Sunbright smokeless coal and to process the
associated carbonisation by-products. Many of the resultant wastes were disposed
of in a licensed waste tip and lagoons within the 240-acre site. Today the derelict
and dilapidated chemical plant is still very visible on the site along with
the waste tip and two waste lagoons.
Risks of remediation
These significant environmental impacts are being tackled under the management
of the current site owner, the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA). The
use of an environmental management system (EMS) specific to the regeneration
scheme was proposed by EMDA’s consultants, the Babtie Group. Babtie has been
engaged as the lead consultant in a consortium also comprising the Turner and
Townsend Group and TEP – The Environment Partnership. Over the next six years
EMDA is to manage the regeneration of the site to improve environmental performance
using best practice techniques in close liaison with the Environment Agency
such that the site can benefit the local community. The work is being carried
out largely from funding from the now Department of the Environment, Food and
Rural Arrairs (DEFRA).
EMDA recognises that, whilst the site is currently having a significant impact
on the environment, there are also numerous potential impacts associated with
the project when the contaminants present are disturbed and treated and with
the regeneration of the site. EMDA is committed to the implementation of an
EMS across the site in order to ensure that the liabilities left from previous
activities on site – as well as those associated with the project itself – are
controlled, monitored and reviewed effectively.
As Phil Reeve, EMDA’s project co-ordinator, stresses: “EMDA recognises
the challenge of delivering a remediation project of the Avenue’s size. The
EMS is seen as the best means of identifying, assessing, and managing the complex
interactions between activities. It will ensure delivery in accordance with
full legal compliance, assist in developing and demonstrating best practice
to our community partners, and address the stigma associated with the eventual
disposal of reclaimed brownfield land.”
Although the River Rother is of poor quality, wildlife has done well at the
site since it closed and the river corridor now provides an important corridor
for wildlife where species including grass snakes, great crested newts, water
voles, kingfishers and other nesting birds can be found. In the long run EMDA
hopes to encourage many other species to re-colonise the site once it is restored.
Before this can be achieved, the EMS is being employed as a tool to manage the
major engineering works to ensure that wildlife is fully protected at all times.
Work to date has focused primarily on preliminary assessments and an extensive
site investigation to determine the extent and nature of the contaminants present.
More recently, the process of draining down residues within the chemical plant
has started, and the structures are being demolished. With over 300 tanks, 200
sumps and thousands of pipe runs, this will continue well into 2002. Trials
are also underway to determine the most suitable remediation technologies for
each of the materials present on site; these will enable a full-scale remediation
programme to commence in 2002. Technologies currently under trial include soil
bioremediation, washing and enhanced thermal conduction, and may later be expanded
to include soil stabilisation. These technologies will help to deliver the objective
of minimising the off-site disposal of wastes. The site’s final masterplan is
yet to be finalised but it is likely to involve a variety of land-uses, including
recreational areas and an extension of the existing habitats on site to increase
The project’s lead consultants, Babtie Group, are providing both the engineering
solutions for the site and an EMS within which to deliver them. During the initial
development of the EMS, Babtie undertook a detailed review of the environmental
aspects of the project. Those that were found significant were ranked into six
priority bands based on their potential to cause environmental harm; aspects
with legal compliance issues were given the highest priority. This has allowed
a review of monitoring and prioritisation of the many investigations required,
ensuring that resources can be allocated to deal with the most significant issues
first and that monitoring is proportional to the actual or potential harm.
Rules of engagement
As many aspects relate to activities to be carried out by a variety of contractors,
it was necessary to produce Site Environmental Rules (SERs) that all parties
must adhere to. These cover:
- Good site practice and housekeeping;
- Water and wastewater management and disposal;
- Waste management and disposal;
- Storage, use and handling of hazardous substances;
- Emissions to air and statutory nuisance; and
- Conservation and ecology.
The SERs are included within all new tender documents along with a health,
safety and environmental questionnaire that forms the basis of the assessment
of environmental performance and management prior to appointment of contractors.
The SERs are developed further in task-specific method statements that are reviewed
for technical, health, safety and environmental considerations before work is
undertaken. Babtie’s site-based condition manager carries out weekly inspections
to ensure that the rules are implemented in practice. Issues identified are
discussed with the relevant parties and verbal agreements are made as to the
actions to be taken and their timescale. Whilst the majority of issues are resolved
in this way, the more significant issues and ongoing issues are dealt with using
health, safety and environmental concern forms. These forms are also available
to everybody on site such that any concerns can be raised as they are identified
throughout the project.
One of the key elements of the system is the provision of training for everybody
on site in the form of an induction that covers all the SERs and areas of note
on the site, for example the known locations of the water voles, great crested
newts and nesting birds. Contractors also provide more detailed toolbox talks
specific to each task and for activities such as refuelling and spill control.
Manage to measure
The effectiveness of the EMS is reviewed in monthly audits and through monthly
health, safety and environmental review meetings in which the site’s environmental
performance is discussed. These allow current issues to be raised with the site’s
management and allow some of the more difficult issues associated with the site,
such as the pollution of the Rother, to be discussed. The overall structure
of the EMS will be reviewed every six months during management reviews.
The EMS is still in its early days, but already the awareness of site staff
at all levels has been seen to increase.