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

biodiversity.

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.

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