Helping the Environment Agency and HSE avert disaster

Leon Kirk - Mark Tankard / SPECIAL WASTE PROJECTS

When a 17,000 square foot chemical waste warehouse caught fire, a mix of more than 500 tonnes of toxic and hazardous chemicals presented a substantial risk to the surrounding environment. By the time Acumen Waste Services were called out some materials had already escaped, contaminating the adjacent water courses.

Under Leon’s direction the Acumen team responded quickly. They contained the spillage using Acumen’s fleet of vacuum tankers and its highly skilled personnel. Leon and the team led the project through its initial emergency phase, dealing with regulators and business stakeholders, until the emergency situation was contained.

Following the initial emergency, the Acumen team cleared up all the remaining wastes and fire damaged infrastructure. This was followed by a full environmental clean of the site on behalf of the insurers. The site was then signed off and returned swiftly to the site owners with a clean bill of health...

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Safely decontaminating a pharmaceutical research lab


Without Leon’s help a blue-chip pharmaceutical company could have had a significant environmental problem on its hands when it decommissioned a major research laboratory.

The industry produces many toxic and harmful by-products and when such facilities are decommissioned the legacy waste materials need very careful consideration and handling so they don’t affect the environment. In this case specialists from Acumen’s Industrial Site Services Division, under Leon’s guidance, designed and executed a decontamination process for the laboratory.

The site had been operating since the 1980s and a wide range of hazardous waste substances had accumulated in its fume and vapour extraction systems.

Without cleaning, demolishing the site could have thrown these dangerous wastes into the atmosphere. This was avoided thanks to Acumen’s innovative solution, which remotely cleaned and decontaminated the entire vapour and fume system – leaving the client and the regulators in no doubt that the risk of contamination spread had been eradicated.

Acumen’s cleaning system uses a development of the rotational high pressure washing devices, coupled to the fume extraction ducting at various intervals to completely scour the internal surfaces...

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Sustainable solutions for the chemical industry


Recent changes to the UK’s Duty of Care regulations means that waste producers must now confirm that they have considered every available disposal option. This means that sending waste to landfill not only means meeting the cost of an ever-increasing levy, but also a major non-compliance risk.

When a large chemical production facility in the North West faced this problem, Tony proposed a solution that included diverting much of their dry waste from landfill to a materials recycling facility. The waste producer can now boast vastly improved recycling statistics that are not only sustainable but more economical as well...

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Recycling toxic and harmful waste


Pharmaceutical companies produce many toxic and harmful by-products including a wide range of solvent based waste products. Recent waste management site mergers and takeovers have reduced each company’s options for choosing the best solution to manage the disposal of this waste

Tony helped a large North East-based pharmaceutical company develop its options for recycling much of its solvent-based wastes, and Acumen now collects 50 per cent of the company’s solvent-based waste for recycling...

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Increasing compliance in sub-contracted transport


Many of the UK’s disposal and recycling sites rely on sub-contracted transport, which can raise service, health and safety and compliance issues – often leading to loss of business and the possibility of penal fines.

Tony’s experience in this area helped one South England-based solvent recycler facing such issues. His proposals included a dedicated vehicle and driver for all transport requirements and keeping a stock of printed legislative paperwork on site instead of relying on drivers writing up the paperwork – which is monitored by the Environment Agency – by hand...

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Reducing the admin burden for a nationwide housing association


Vicki and her team are successfully delivering changed waste management practices for a multi-site nationwide housing association account. With waste expenditure exceeding £500,000 a year for services including skip hire, tipping facilities, hazardous wastes, recycling and the supply of management information, the team has both cut costs in important areas and reduced the client’s administrative burden.

In all three years of the contract so far Acumen’s Contract Waste Division has increased recycling figures and implemented cost saving solutions across the business. We have also developed a nationwide scrap metal recycling scheme that has recovered thousands of pounds per month of rebate for the client that was previously being lost...

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The Environment Agency


Vicki and her team manage the Environment Agency’s Midlands region depots, and are responsible for the collection and disposal of their hazardous wastes including river debris and fly-tipped materials.

Most of the Agency’s depots have adopted AcuBin, Acumen’s innovative, secure container collection service for contaminated protective equipment, absorbents, booms, rags and wipes.

Environmental compliance is, naturally, an essential consideration for the Environment Agency. Vicki and her team successfully completed a vigorous pre-contract acceptance programme that satisfied the Agency that Acumen were the right choice for their contract...

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The Domestic Oil Spill industry


Over the last eight years Vicki has led the development of Acumen’s bespoke domestic oil spill service to insurers and consultants.

Most domestic spill response companies choose Acumen to transport and dispose of contaminated soil impacted by a domestic kerosene spill.

We actively seek out alternatives to landfill for our customers, both to save money and reduce our reliance on landfill. We routinely dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous kerosene-contaminated soils across the whole of the UK, and have a nationwide network of compliant and fully audited disposal solutions for them...

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Reducing costs in the aerospace industry


Despite operating to stringent production quality systems, a successful aerospace component manufacturer recently realised they needed to improve their waste management regime. They engaged Acumen to study their processes across their two manufacturing sites and to implement changes that would reduce their costs and deliver absolute compliance.

After analysing site materials data and observing all production stages of production, Graham re-visited their existing waste characterisations, adjusting their classification where possible. He also segregated the business’s on-site waste more extensively than before, which optimise the company’s limited waste storage facilities and helped ensure environmental compliance.

He also introduced mobile compaction as the new prime collection technique, significantly reducing costs and number of waste vehicle movements each day, and implemented alternative liquid waste collection techniques.

Graham also produced monthly reports on waste volumes and expenditure for each of the company’s internal businesses, took part in regular development meetings, and briefed shop-floor staff to maximise their engagement in the programme...

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Total waste management for an infrastructure services contractor


Acumen took over a large infrastructure services contractor’s total waste management services with two key objectives: environmental compliance and overall cost reduction. The contactor operated from 25 fixed locations and, representing a greater challenge, an average of 30 transient locations at any one time.

As Acumen’s Key Account Manager for the client, Graham quickly assimilated with all functions within the business, including procurement, HS&E management and contract managers, before evaluating its existing service portfolios for each site and recommending alternatives.

New service provisions were rolled out on an agreed programme with buy-in from all those affected, including the novation of existing supplier contracts. Graham helped ensure service continuity through a system of advanced notification of the closure and opening of transient sites.

During the roll-out programme, significant changes in waste legislation were being implemented. Graham advised on practical compliance measures that could be taken and presented the new legislation to their senior management teams through a series of guidance notes, and at internal roadshows...

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Reducing risk exposure in the fine chemical sector


Acumen have successfully provided a Total Waste Management service to a leading company in the fine chemical sector for many years. When Graham assumed waste management responsibility at the company’s South Wales facility, he reviewed all current waste production and the solutions in place, in line with Acumen’s ethos of continuous improvement.

The site has always produced relatively large volumes of variable effluents and, given limited on-site storage, on-demand collections are crucial to production and so tanker availability has always been prioritised.

Through Graham’s knowledge of chemical treatment techniques, upcoming changes in waste acceptance criteria and potential volume limitations for individual facilities, he recognised that more alternative disposal options were needed for all major waste streams to ensure business continuity and began an audit programme of potential alternatives. Now fully approved, these alternatives form part of an expanded portfolio of treatment solutions for each waste stream, reducing the production unit’s exposure to the risk of the failure of any single disposal facility...

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Large-scale phosphoric acid recovery


Ian and Acumen’s Special Projects team recovered around 2,000 tonnes of high-value, product grade phosphoric acid for a chemical company while extracting sludge from a set of storage tanks.

Under Ian’s direction the team designed and executed an 18 month programme to extract the sludge from a large number of acidic sludge storage tanks and recover the valuable chemical.

The project included developing a remote re-suspension process for the settled sludge, followed by the extraction of around 6,000 tonnes of this difficult and hazardous waste material.

Following the extraction, an Acumen mobile waste treatment plant completed an in-situ processing operation that included Mobile Filter Press de-watering to recover the product-grade acid for resale by the customer.

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Essential asbestos removal services delivered on time without halting work


Working for the UK’s leading asbestos abatement contractor is a challenging business. After proving that we can rise to that challenge, Acumen were awarded a term contract to supply waste management services to their group of companies.

Asbestos removal is a complicated and labour intensive process and generates a very hazardous waste material that must be removed from sites in specialist sealed containers.

Nicky's team proved to the client that Acumen could provide the container service on time, time after time, and that their high-cost labour force would not need to stop work to wait for the waste to be removed – which had been their experience before contracting with Acumen.

The agreement between the organisation and Acumen is now in its third successful year and the strong partnership looks set to continue...

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De-contamination of a white phosphorous munitions and nitro toluene filling process plant at a former Royal Ordnance Facility.


Ordnance legacy comes in many different guises and creates high hazard situations that can only be handled by experts.

White phosphorous is a spontaneously combustible substance when exposed to the air and is usually kept under water or in inert conditions. When the need arose to decommission a white phosphorous process plant, the design and execution of the works required careful planning and consideration. Acumen were the chosen decontamination specialist and removed several tonnes of hazardous material under difficult conditions.

Adding further value, Simon identified a re-processor in Europe who could handle the material safely and return it to the chemical supply chain, rather than incinerate it in small batches - an expensive and difficult treatment process...

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Design of bespoke decontamination protocol for removing residual mustard gas from a World War II war gas manufacturing facility.


While planning to develop a former munitions facility the site’s new owners realised they had a potential problem.

Records revealed that during the Second World War part of the processing plant had been used for manufacturing mustard gas. An underground legacy of tanks, pipes and equipment remained in a large capped-off basement area that now looked like a harmless grassed area.

Just investigating the current situation was a hazardous process. The site’s owners chose Acumen’s specialists to design a safe way of evaluating the problem and delivering a complete remediation strategy.

Under Simon’s direction the Acumen team designed enclosed negative pressure systems, with ventilated gases being treated through an advanced scrubbing and cleaning process to prevent the escape of hazardous gases and vapour to the environment.

After these control measures were put in place, the team could deploy remote cleaning equipment to scrub the internal surfaces of all of the process tanks and basement area with a chemical neutralising agent.

Following this successful campaign with no emissions or incidents of any sort, the site was then handed back to the client for development...

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Soil Remediation

Leon Kirk - Andy Crossley / SOIL REMEDIATION

A sustainable alternative to landfill for disposal & treatment of contaminated soils arising from the remediation industry.

Acumen Waste Services Ltd provide remediation services for the clean up of contaminated land throughout the UK.

The Acumen Process Plant is a mobile soil treatment system and incorporates a unique range of solutions designed to remove contaminants from land impacted with a wide variety of materials including; poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, mineral oils, toxic metals, cyanides and all manner of inorganic and organic contaminants.

The plant remediates wastes from low to high-level contamination including Non-Hazardous, Hazardous and WAC failing materials far more cost effectively and sustainably than Landfill.

The process plant operates by grading particles based on their size and physical characteristics. Materials cleansing is achieved using proprietary additives in solution and materials being washed under a unique high pressure enclosed loop induction system.

We at Acumen pride ourselves on providing ethical and compliant solutions for contaminated soils, but inevitably there is still a heavy reliance on landfill. This provides a much more sustainable alternative by soil treatment, which cleans the majority of the soil components so they can be recycled. Recovered components can even be left on site if the site remediation plans incorporate this as a concept.

The process can also be tailored to suit unique problems such as asbestos, landfill recovery, liquid contaminants etc...

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Emergency Response and remediation of fire impacted chemical site


Duration: 18 months

Value: £750k part fixed price part measured contract.

Acumen responded to a catastrophic fire in North Yorkshire that destroyed a mixed chemical waste facility in August last year. The 17,000 square foot factory contained in excess of 500 tonnes of the mixed hazardous chemicals, in drums and mini tanks including; highly flammable substances, oxidising agents, category one carcinogens, mutanogenic substances, herbicides, pesticides, PCB’s and Benzene compounds.

We provided emergency clean up services involving the site itself, the surrounding ground which became contaminated, the drainage system and the local water course, which was a Beck servicing  the drainage system. The project obviously involved working closely with the Environment Agency and the HSE to minimise the initial environmental impact.

The second phase of the project involved securing the site, controlling and monitoring discharges from the site and this was eventually followed by the clearance of the site down to slab level. This involved the demolition of the remnants of the building and removal of the remaining infrastructure such as the concrete slab and associated foundations which were all identified as contaminated.

Final site impact surveys then took place to assess whether any further remedial works were required using a risk based assessment approach. This site was then confirmed to have been remediated to the satisfaction of the client and regulators...


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Toxic Storage Tank


When a long standing client of Acumen’s needed to empty and clean a very large diameter storage tank, the challenge was laid down to do so without any risk to anyone as the tank had several hundred tonnes of Crude Benzene residues which is a highly toxic, flammable and carcinogenic substance.

Simon designed a system whereby the contents, which had settled to form a compacted layer, could be re-suspended and partially dissolved for pumping and transfer for offsite disposal by high temperature incineration. These works were to be undertaken using remotely operated machinery, so that no personnel had to work in confined spaces or in close proximity of these extremely hazardous substances. As part of the design of the works, the vessel was filled with an inert gas to mitigate any risk associated with the flammability of the material.

The final cleansing of the tank required ultra high pressure water jetting of the internal surfaces to remove all of the chemical deposits, before the tank was handed back to client for statutory safety and integrity inspections...

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Specialist Asbestos Removal


Controlling the collection and movement of hazardous waste under ordinary circumstances provides a fairly substantial challenge, but when Acumen were asked to remove significant quantities of asbestos from a series of sensitive military establishments, Alexa had to design and implement a compliant solution for not only the waste transaction itself, but to meet rigid security clearance requirements as well.

All Acumen staff had to undergo a security vetting process and waste collections undertaken by trained personnel, who had also been approved for entry into sensitive areas of the site. This meant that often dedicated personnel and vehicles had to be deployed, otherwise Acumen would not have been able to complete the service at the time it was required.

All of this attention to detail and preparation by Alexa, meant the chain of contractors involved in the projects, were never delayed and were delighted with Acumen’s service...

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