How Safe is Safe?

Well, in our case the answer is very safe indeed. We’ve just completed our annual HSE audit, carried out by an independent auditor on our clients’ behalf, and scored a record 93%.

The auditors praised PrismERP, the IT system we have developed over the last decade for both managing HSE and integrating it into every aspect of our operations. With further upgrades to PrismERP planned for the coming year, we are determined to get an even higher score next time round.

PrismERP is commercially available. If you’d like to know more about how it might help your organisation please contact Duncan Eastland.

Continual Improvement

At the heart of every quality or safety system (e.g. ISO 9001) is a commitment to continual improvement and, to be perfectly honest, we have always thought this is a bit of a nonsense. Putting aside any argument over ‘perfect’ being the enemy of ‘good enough’, any commitment to continual improvement implies that the service we offer today is deficient in some way and requires rectification. We think it would be far better to base a quality system on  a commitment to periodic, critical review with improvement only when there is definite, tangible benefit. And it was the result of just such a review that prompted us to make an important ‘behind the scenes’ change in our laboratory.

Our laboratory instruments require a pure hydrogen supply in order to detect contaminants in concentrations as low as parts per billion. For the last 15 years, we have used hydrogen supplied in pressurised cylinders. But the cylinders represent a very significant risk in the event of a fire. In fact our local fire bridgade consider the risk of the cylinders exploding to be so high that, in the event of a fire, they would refuse to do anything other than evacuate the area and wait for the fire to run its course.

Our review highlighted this as the single, biggest risk facing our comapny. So, after researching alternative options, we have now switched our laboratory to using hydrogen which we generate on demand. This means we no longer store any hydrogen in bottles, making us all feel a lot safer. We think this is how quality or safety systems should work.

Are Subadra as Cool as CSI?

The Subadra Team?
The Subadra Team?

Ok, that claim may be stretching things a little, but our forensic analysis team have recently notched up a few notable successes. We were awarded a contract to treat petrol and diesel contamination in the soil and groundwater under a filling station. The site had a history of leaks, the most recent of which was six years ago. Since then one of our competitors had been trying (and failing) to clean the site up.

We were brought in to deal with the contamination once and for all. The first thing we did was to carry out some forensic analysis of the contamination using proprietary methods we have developed over the last 20 years. Our analysis indicated that there was an ongoing leak at the site, and was even able to pinpoint where on the site it was likely to be.

Our client commissioned precision tank and line testing which confirmed a slow leak under pump island 7 – just where we had predicted. The rate of leak – 0.29litres/hour – was actually below the precision testing threshold, meaning that the fuel lines passed the test and were certified as ‘not leaking’. However, this rate of leak would result in around 2,500litres of fuel entering the ground under the site each year – more than enough to cause serious contamination.

So the lessons learnt? Firstly, tank and line testing is very far from foolproof and fails to identify leaks that can cause serious environmental issues. Secondly, the timely use of forensic analysis can prevent significant time and money being wasted on ineffective remediation work.

For further information on our forensic analysis capabilities please contact Duncan Eastland or Kate Clark.

New ICP Goes Online

New ICP
New ICP

Friday 12th June was a red letter day here at Subadra. For a little while now we’ve had a mysterious large box sat in a room on its own in our laboratory. As the weeks have passed, we’ve seen cables, pipes and tubes connected, forced ventilation and cooling added and finally an argon supply plumbed in. Then finally all was revealed as our new ICP was commissioned.

For those not familiar with laboratory acronyms, ICP stands for Inductively Coupled Plasma Instrument. We’ll be using this to analyse soil and water samples for metals. In addition it will be playing a key part in ensuring we continue to offer the fastest waste classification service (or WAC as its known) in the UK.

Greek Myth?

Comacchio Drill Rig
Comacchio Drill Rig

Actually, there is nothing mythical about Subadra being commissioned to install shallow monitoring wells at the Daedalus Airfield Development! We constructed several shallow wells over the course of two days using our Hollow Stem Auger drilling system.

Lee-on-Solent is known for its sand and a dense gravels which are more or less guaranteed to make drilling difficult. So to avoid this we used our powerful Comacchio drilling rig which ensure we reached the target depth at all the drilling locations with minimal disruption to the site. We then installed 50mm diameter wells to allow future groundwater sampling. All our materials were sourced locally to enable us to take the minimum of equipment and vehicles thus reducing our carbon footprint for the works.

We even had time to the collect soil samples for the Principal Contractor and get them
analysed for WAC by our in house lab facility. As a result of our prompt and efficient service the client retained us to carry out a more detailed geotechnical investigation at the site. No myth there then!

Better than Burgundy?

SnailsOne of the things we like about our business is the sheer variety of enquiries that we receive. We’ve been to some fairly strange places and asked to do some fairly odd things, but when we were asked to carry out soil testing at a snail farm it was a first for us.

Unknown to us Aylesbury Escargots, the UK’s largest producer of Helix Aspersa/Gros Gris – otherwise known as edible snails – , is located just down the road from our offices. They have pioneered a ‘farm-to-fork’ approach to snail farming and now produce over 5 tonnes per year. We reckon their snails are more than a match for anything produced in the traditional French centre of escargot farming in Burgundy.

Now, if only we could make better wine than Burgundy as well…..

Faster WAC Analysis

Soil Tumbler

We’ve recently upgraded our laboratory’s facilities for waste classification (WAC) analysis. We already offer the fastest turnaround analysis in the UK, but we can now analyse a greater number of samples after installing our new soil tumbler. Designed and fabricated in-house, this allows us to simultaneously complete the leachate stage of the analysis on an additional 12 samples per day. These can either be samples supplied by our clients or samples taken by our technicians at clients’ sites.

If you’d like to know more about our WAC analysis or if you are a laboratory and would like to purchase a similar soil tumbler, then please contact Duncan Eastland – 01296 739431.

When Wetstock Monitoring Doesn’t Work

It has become increasingly common in recent years for filling station operators to rely on remote wetstock monitoring to detect possible leaks in their system. Tank and pump gauges are monitored remotely with sophisticated trend analysis used to detect abnormal behaviour. These systems can be very good, but they aren’t infallible.

Last year Subadra were retained to clean up contamination resulting from a leak at a filling station. Our treatment was completed successfully over the winter months and by mid-summer we had started post-remedial monitoring, with groundwater samples taken at monthly intervals from monitoring wells we had installed at the site.

Our consultants noticed some anomalous results appearing and, in best CSI fashion, our laboratory carried out a programme of forensic analysis. This was able to determine the ‘age’ of the contamination we were finding, telling us how long the leaked fuel had been in the ground. This confirmed that the wells were being contaminated from a new source.

The site’s real-time remote wetstock monitoring was checked but didn’t show a leak at the site. However, on our advice, the site operator had the tanks and lines pressure tested and this identified a steady slow leak from one of the pumps. Repairs were carried out limiting the volume of fuel lost into the ground.

The moral of the tale? Well, remote wetstiock monitoring is very good and we would certainly recommend it. But it’s not infallible. In those cases, forensic analysis can help identify leaks that wetstock monitoing misses.

If you’d like to know more about our forensic analysis service or any of the other services offered by our UKAS/MCerts accredited laboratory please contact Kate Clark.

UKAS Accreditation Extended

We have recently received confirmation from UKAS that our accreditation has been extended to include analysis for MTBE (an additive in unleaded petrol), COD (a measure of gross contamination in water) and Ammonia. For more information, to obtain a quote or to submit samples for analysis please contact Kate Clark on 01296 739423.

Subadra Awarded Multi-Site Portfolio

We have been awarded the contract to carry out pre-redevelopment site investigations at a portfolio of approximately 30 filling stations across the UK for a major fuel retailer. The contract requires both environmental and geotechnical assessment of each site. Key to our successful bid was the fact that we will be carrying out all the work using our own drilling rigs and our own UKAS/MCerts laboratory, allowing us to be confident of meeting the very demanding project deadlines. This contract confirms our position as the UK’s #1 environmental consultancy in the retail fuel sector.