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Knowledge Bank

Everything you need to know about the latest regulations and tech in Water Pollution prevention in twenty eight minutes. If you prefer to read the transcript is below.

Tools for Effective Water Pollution Prevention Webinar

Knowledge Bank

Everything you need to know about the latest regulations and tech in Water Pollution prevention in twenty eight minutes. If you prefer to read the transcript is below.

Tools for Effective Water Pollution Prevention Webinar

Speaker: Good afternoon, everybody. And thanks for signing up to our Tools for Effective Water Pollution webinar. I hope it’s an interesting topic that we’re delivering today; I am intending to tie into some of the things that we’ve done in the past and some of the problems that we have overcome for our customers. 

We’ve got a good attendance, 30 different companies, and we have actually a global audience, which is really, really, really good for us because we’re passing on something that we’ve learned in the UK. So, let’s get started with our Tools for Effective Water Pollution Prevention. At the end of the talk, I’ve got a survey that I’d really liked you to fill in because your feedback is really important so we can improve this in the future. So, I’m looking forward to hear some good or bad feedback. 

So, today, what we’re going to look at and give you an insight into: Why is Water Pollution Prevention necessary? What is Water Pollution Prevention? And why should you be concerned about Water Pollution Prevention? And what can be achieved through Water Pollution Prevention?

I’m sure you know these subjects, I’ve shown some of you before, because I know some of the people that are attending and listening in know quite a lot about this. We we’ll give you some new information and hopefully it’s something that you can use within your career paths. 

Introducing Water Pollution Prevention Expert – David Cole

So, a little bit of an introduction to me, because I think it’s important to actually understand why I think I know so much about water pollution and why I’m so keen on it, and why I’m interested to share. So, I’ll give a little bit of a history. So, my background actually is as a maintenance craftsman for Ford Motor Company. I actually worked there for 24 years, I was involved in all sorts of maintenance, and reacting to spills was one of the various areas that I got involved with. This is a key area for me because of what I actually built with that project and products. What used to happen at Ford? What happens at hundreds of sites when a significant incident takes place. We’re talking now not just a spillage, we are talking a major spillage, a tanker spillage, a hose spillage, hydraulic loss, or a fire. Everybody goes into a panic mode, tries to block drains, tries to clear it up and what I noticed was a massive amount of waste. 

So, back in the early 90’s, I invented a product, which was Envirovalve, which is bladder system used to block drains. Significantly, what I was looking for was something actually, instantly where I wanted it to allow me to collect the spill materials. What I had seen is lots and lots of people still using Penstock Valves. They still use them today, and they leak, and I couldn’t quite work out why we have systems to react to spills that don’t actually control it. So, I invented a product; at that time I got a lot of rejection to my ideas, but now they are much more commonly accepted.

Envirovalve was my product in 1998. I invented it and that’s what has taken me on a little bit of a journey, where I realised that was a huge opportunity to actually put effective pollution containment systems in place. There is no reason why anything that leaks on a site, whether it be firewater, whether it be a spillage, before it gets into the water supply, you can control it. So, that was the start of the original product I made. 

I also developed a system around the Envirovalve which was an inflatable bladder which is still used today. I think the Environment Agency still buy that product and they supply the fire and rescue service to the fire brigade throughout the UK where we use  a bag on a stick. It’s a portable device exercise, there’s no confined bench or space entry, just simply block a drain with this portable device. And it’s still quite popular today. We probably sell probably 10 to 12 of them a year and install them into sites, but they’re very low key, low tech piece of equipment.

I’ve won awards. So the Fuel Association Award was for my ToggleBlok system, in 2010; it was  a change from using stopper systems, bladders, lets say, to using Toggleblok valves, 2007 was their first introduction.

And then came CIRIA 736, which I was appointed to support, the EA actually asked me to get involved; I think mainly because of my background of inventing valves that stop pollution. And that was me in 2012, I was invited to sit on that panel to cover the writing of CIRIA 736 and act as one of the launch speakers. 

Customers that we have supported with Water Pollution Prevention

So, these are some companies that you’ll have all heard of. These are some of the customers that we have worked with who are very proactive businesses in water pollution prevention. We’ve worked on all sorts of projects where we’ve actually helped them from designing brand new factories, to cutting down and changing the drainage design using the tools that I’m going to talk about in a minute,  this allows them to actually have an understanding of what risks they’ve run, where the pollution risk is, and how to stop it and control it, so, we eliminate water pollution. 

Some of the ones here like Kellogg’s, we’ve recently worked on a project with to reduce the costs of a bunding design by implementing a tertiary containment design. In Marks and Spencers, you’d be surprised at just a storage depot but The Environment Agency insisted that they monitored their discharges, and we actually put in a containment systems, Toggleblok containment valves with monitoring equipment to control the surface water runoff. 

Chronology of Water Pollution Prevention

So, a chronology of really of where we are today with water pollution, and what the key drivers are, for all of us, any of us designing sites and any of us operating sites. So, originally, we had a guidance system, which was really focused really on the COMAH sites. But this was mainly about bunding and the physical containment of spills. 


Buncefield, 2005. This is the big game changer. This is where an incident happened that was significant enough to make the regulator, The Environment Agency, suddenly stand up and think we’ve got something wrong here. Businesses aren’t in control of what might happen in the event of a disaster, or quite large spills. The guidance of CIRIA 736, it started. We’ve started writing it says a big gap between 2005 and the Buncefield disaster before 2012, which is when we sat as the committee, and then 2014 in the June-July, which when we launched it at the Barbican Centre to actually get this guidance out there and another, driver sentencing guidelines 2014. This changed, significantly changed how businesses were treated when there’s a pollution incident. Previous to that, let’s face it, for a thousand pounds, you can pay it with a credit card, It had to change because there was no driver to make companies actually think, we need to clean up our act. And the fire prevention plans 2016, which is sort of the last one, bearing in mind the Environment Agency stopped issuing guidance notes, the PPGs have been retracted. This was because businesses were having fires, there wasn’t any control of. We’re getting pollution, disaster from fires, and nobody seems to be following any sort of effective water pollution prevention plan. The beauty of this guidance is it tells the reader, this is the guidance for regulated sites and waste sites to read CIRIA 736. I think one of the key points I’m going to talk about today is I don’t think people have been reading the guidance correctly or understood what it actually means obviously, because I sat on the panel, I was there at the start, hopefully so I can put across some sort of energy to it, and why we actually wrote the guidance the way we did.


So, let’s just go back, backtrack a little bit to the CIRIA 164. What you’ve got here is primarily for the COMAH industry. So, it’s for people building COMAH sites. So, it’s looking at those secondary bunds, the primary bunds, and looking how you control those and how thie built. So, it’s focusing on bunds, it’s not really focusing on much else. Certain words, well, that guidance is to instal Penstock Valves for the drainage system, that’s how you isolate your drains. I’m working on a project this week, where the consultant is referring to Penstock Valves for the drainage system. We know they leak. They are no longer in the guidance anymore. The word isn’t there but still that term has stuck, and people are actually putting them in designs incorrectly. It’s not helping; it’s actually impacting things quite negatively. Because people are still referring to a guidance that was superseded in 2012 by CIRIA 736, and as I say, it’s mainly for the construction industry, so it wasn’t really being read by customers, or looked at by the people actually building the sites. 

And I’ve just shown you here as an image, come across here. This is showing a Penstock Valve. This is a recent job that we worked on. This is very similar, nice little actuator penstock/sluice gate valve. This valve here actually is in good condition. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s losing 2,500 litres an hour. Obviously, the green is the dye that we’re doing a test with. But that actually is of no point whatsoever, it doesn’t stop a pollution incident, there’s no way to make it seal. This is why we’re losing pollutant materials. So, this is significant because of a lot of sites that have used CIRIA 164, they’ve followed the old guidance, and they’ve got equipment that isn’t fit for purpose and probably never was.


Buncefield, this is your driver. So, Buncefield happens as a significant event. It’s the biggest explosion since World War II in Europe, so that’s pretty scary stuff. 

So, we’ve got ash cloud that’s forming, you can see the image. This has meant that Cobra’s had to sit. The interesting thing with this design is that if there’s a fire, it would be a controlled burn. So, they weren’t really going to chuck lots of stuff on it and allow a controlled burn. Because Cobra had to sit, because of the ash cloud moving over to France and causing quite a significant impact, it was decided to tackle the fire. And the significant part of this is it’s not the stock that really caused the pollution, it’s actually the firefighting materials that’s caused the water pollution.

Everybody knows about Buncefield, they know about the ash cloud, and that’s the bit that gave the issue traction. But the legacy of Buncefield was the damage to the water supply, drinking water supplies, and also it raised the bar to say, hang on, guys, if we’ve got a COMAH site top tier here that doesn’t actually know what a disaster looks like, how do we expect any other business to actually have a plan?


So, CIRIA 736 comes in, I’ve been brought into because of my background. It’s got to be what came out of the initial meetings, a document’s that universally applicable to every site, not COMAH sites, every business, even a one man band owning a garage. We’re saying that they should understand, what happens in my garage if I have a fire and I’ve got a load of barrels of oil, cutting oil, what’s the impact I could have on the environment? So, they can actually pick up a guidance, because this guidance is free, you can download it free. So, there’s no reason why you can’t have it. Previous CIRIA guides are sort of 300 to 500 pounds are quite expensive guides. This will not expire, supported by the environment agency, people like myself gave time free of charge. So, hopefully you get a good guidance that gives you a good bit of knowledge.

So, it’s to educate customers really rather than just people who are building sites. What I want is a customer to ask me the question. I need to fit a containment system to my site, I need to fit a containment valve, I don’t see the word Penstock anywhere in the guidance. It says pollution containment device. Can you then guide me to a pollution containment device? That’s a significant change.

Understanding the risk, what are the risks? The guidance covers all the factors that we’re going to talk to you about in a minute, and updated technology. We took out the words Penstock Valves, we’ve taken out references to very specific items, so that people can actually move their designs. The design has to do one thing, don’t pollute.

The trouble with Penstock Valves

Penstock valves are a bit of a bugbear for me because these are what people have install and keep installing. They’re not really fit for purpose. They were never designed for spill containment, they were designed for flow control and some isolation. You’ve got to have the right product; you’ve got to think that when you have a fire, could there be a power cut? So, these devices must work when there is no power, so they need to be off grid. You can’t have them connected into the main compressor line and running off an airline, or running off mains power. It’s the first thing that you’ve lost, is power, and you can’t control the valves. They are normally out in the middle of nowhere as well at the end of sites, so it’s very important that there’s some sort of off grid controls to them. They’ve got to remain operable, so they’ve got to link, you need unique systems that are designed specifically for that 

Maintenance Issues. 

As you can see why this valve here is quite an easy one because its outside but these things are quite heavy. We quite often go to service, showing you the original picture, quite big valves down manholes that they put a biscuit on top. They are non-serviceable because you can’t get them out. Very little thought is put into what the actual valve was installed to do, it just goes up it just goes down. Nobody bothers to actually check that it seals the flow, which is absolutely essential. 

There is no automation because to connect them up, they’re quite slow to monitor, they don’t react very quickly. They’re not really the right product, they never were the right product. They are flow control devices with fantastic uses in the water industry where you have considerable flows. What we have to look at here is when you look at pollution containment, there is no pressure. The flow is just a nice gentle trickle, potentially, from the site just running constantly into the drains. 

So, you can see some of these pictures now. I’ll just put in here. These are typical examples of what we see at sites that have fitted Penstock systems. No thought, these valves have gone in,  great idea but no ability to actually get in there to maintain them. This one is actually a good one because this has to do with a site that I dealt with, which is actually one of the case studies into CIRIA guidance, on page 162 if you want to read it. This is where a Penstock Valve was closed as part of tertiary system and it leaked cyanide into the river and caused a major fish kill. I think it was 33,000 fish in total, a significant impact on the business and solely because they installed the wrong product. 

And these are typical where you’ve got manually operated valves. In the event of a fire, can you actually operate a manually operated valve when you just evacuated on your site, have you got the right people there? And do you know it will actually work? Another typical example where somebody has put in Penstock Valve, and then decided to concrete around it, so it’s now a non serviceable item. This is a significant change within the guidance where we’re asking people to service these systems and document their servicing and be able to show that they’re working.

Water Pollution Prevention Sentencing Guidelines

So, another big driver then to the technology, which I’m going to come on to next, is the sentencing guidelines, hugely important if you haven’t really understood this part of it. But we’ve created a punishment, a deterrent, and the removal of any financial gain. So, if your business is running a risk and think water pollution it is insignificant, and you don’t worry about that. There are a lot that do that, and there are a lot that don’t. The fines are now based on your total group turnover. So, you might be a small part of a large company, the fine will be based on your total group turnover, not profit, turnover. So, if you’re owned by a big international investment company, or Thames Water, your fine is related to your total group turnover, not profit, turnover. That’s the step change into a lot of businesses suddenly realising that the management of water  pollution and what happens when a disaster takes place needs to have some significant investment. It needs good drainage design, it needs good containment design.

Thames Water, obviously you see there, have that twenty million pound fine. Tesco were fined eight million pounds in 2017, I believe that was for quite a minor oil spill really. But again, it’s showing the significance, that if you’re a company of that size, you shouldn’t be having these pollution incidents, you should be employing the best technology, and the best systems to prevent water pollution from happening. 

Spill Mapping

So, now I’ll come on to our products, and one of the products that I think is most significant now. We call it Spill Mapping, and this is actually in the guidance, if you read the CIRIA 736 guide you’ll see it’s a case study on page 103. And this actually is a replica of that, site to create a much simpler image which I’m going to show you. What we found with Buncefield, whilst I was on the committee was Buncefield had no evidence or idea what a pollution incident would actually look like. Now, why this is really important is because what had been happening was people were placing containment valves, building tertiary containment that they thought would be effective off of drawings, so there’s some effort going into it. However, if you’re the owner of a site, you probably do not have the skills to understand that drawing. So, what I could see was that sites were installing and investing in water pollution prevention equipment with no evidence that what they were investing in actually worked.

So, where you go now into the CIRIA 736 Guide, its about understanding the risk. You’ll see there’s a section 433. Now, this is about looking at how rainwater impacts a pollution event. So, as I’m doing the guidance, we’re looking at this because there is no benchmark, and we realised that the guidance is allowing us to use systems so we can actually empower decision makers by using whats set out in the guidance to animate a one in ten year rainstorm event, loss of whatever stock we’re considering we’re going to lose, and whatever your firefighting response is going to be, that gives you a volume. You can run that volume through your flood modelling software, with data that the Environment Agency helped develop, to give you an animation of what might actually happen in the event of a spill event. This is so significant in the design of new builds, blocking the drain, and to assuming that somebody has selected the right valve and not a valve that leaks, it’s really important to select the correct valves. Once you’ve done that, you’re creating a model and you can see the ground, and above ground flow paths, you can actually then see whether the system you’ve got works, and you can see what you need to design.

This reduces costs significantly, in a major way, and we’ve done sites where originally they  going to build bunds around facilities actually by doing it in the tertiary you’re able to control it even more effectively. If you present this to The Environment Agency, which we have done with several companies, I can’t mention the names, with evidence to the agent from the Environment Agency to show them what were going to design and this helps deliver your permits, it helps deliver your scheme because the Environment Agency, if they can see what you’ve actually designed  works, it makes things a lot easier. And it actually reduces costs and permit application times considerably, most significantly, it satisfying the authorities. 

So, what I’ve got here is, this is an image that I’m going to run now. This is an incorrectly designed system. So, let’s just watch it run. What you’ve got is where my arrow is, that’s where the valve is placed. That’s where the contractor actually fitted the valve at this site. As you can see, it’s filling this area here. This is the staff car park valve, coming out of here and flowing into the river. This is the river below and we’re actually having a pollution event. 

This is the attenuation design, it’s actually the loading bay. Now, what’s happened is and it’s quite a sort of simple image, but what we’ve got here is system that was designed, put into place, but somebody made an error of placing the valve in the wrong place. It looked OK and it’s quite common, we go to loads of sites where the valves have been bought and installed, nobody knows whether they actually work. Nobody’s ever had a significant event where they’ve had to shut the valve. They’re just assuming they work. You can quite quickly see, that some of the sites we work with simply don’t. 

Obviously the animation wasn’t done, somebody’s put the valves in, decided that’s where it’s going to go. Assumed that the valve seals, I have my doubts about this one personally. What you end up with is a water pollution prevention systems that doesn’t work.

So, when we move on to this one here, I haven’t changed anything. We haven’t changed any of the volumes of water, the volumes of the containment, nothing’s been changed at all. All we are doing here really is using the design that existed already, this is a roadway, this is the loading bays where the spill is now dropping down to. These are the natural areas we want to flood and push the pollution materials into. This is how it’s been designed, and we’ve moved the valve back, we’ve moved the valve, it’s another manhole that had to be created. So, this is why it was originally wrong. 

But now as we run the model it’s the same event, it’s the same volumes of water, it’s the same thing that’s happening, but now we’ve got control of it. This is the significance of being able to see what the design is and key people involved in a project can actually see that what you’re going to build first. What I’ve personally see is lots of sites, EA might walk on the site and say, “You need a containment valve” and the response is “right that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put a containment valve in.” No thought into actually will that containment valve do what I expect it to do, and this is referring back to CIRIA 736, using the guidance, using section 433 which gives you the volume of rain water, which is your worst case scenario, looking at what your materials are, looking where you’re storing materials, you can model the volume, once you’ve modelled the volume, you can design your water pollution containment system to actually work, so things like Buncefield wouldn’t have happened. If they had modelled Buncefield you would have seen the errors, you would have seen the faults. Only one thing that they needed to do was, they needed to understand with Penstock Valve’s they have got a leak rate and it’s not the right product. Valves that contain drainage need to be drop sealed design.

Pollution Containment Devices

What I’ve got here now, is I’m going to do a little bit about, I’ll talk about the ToggleBlok products. So, I’ve moved products long from DrainBlok, all sorts of products I’ve made over the years and the Envirovalve. This is what we’re at, where we’re at now. So, it’s purposely designed for pollution containment, it’s not designed for flow control. It’s designed for one thing. It’s designed, if you have an incident, I want to close a drain instantly. I want to close it off quickly. I want to close it in about five seconds. What we have here is a valve that’s simple. It’s got its own  power supply, so it’s running off a battery, it’s got, its automatic. It’s operable, so you can connect it to your fire alarms, anything you want to connect in. Low M2M control, so you’ve got control of that. Self-contained, so you’re not putting in mains power to this, you’re not pulling any air supplies or anything off site. This is totally one piece of kit that takes care of itself, and it’s adaptable. 

So, this picture you see here and I’m going to run it hopefully as a video in a second. This is fitted into an existing manhole we’ve done the bench work. It’s very similar if you’re fitting a Hydrobrake. You create the flat face and the valve just bolts on to it. Ideally, you’d have a catch pit so you have a bit of a drop, but we quite often have to create it. The significant difference if you notice from the drawing, this is a small piece of kit, it’s all modular, so it’s very light. So, it’s plates, and its guards all bolt on and off. If this was a Penstock Valve, we would be putting it in with a crane. This is no more than about 40 kilograms; it’s the heaviest part. And what you’re looking at there is a 500 mm valve, so it’s quite a significantly big valve doing exactly what it needs to do, but it can be put in quite easily. You haven’t got the safety issues that you normally have with a big Penstock Valve where you need to bash the biscuit off.

Future Proof Water Pollution Prevention

The valves are future proof; they’re shown in the guidance. If you read the CIRIA 736 guide, you’ll see on page 34, one of our valves actually bolted to a Penstock Valve which didn’t work, more reason why you have to specify the right valve. This is why we say it’s future proof. This animation now running, that’s how a valves works, this is the flow pushing against the flap, it’s what we call on seating, that flap has just dropped into the flow. We’ll open it now just to test. The water is pushing that flap shut, we have a little bore hole in the center of it. That will release any locked pressure to allow water flow through, what we’re not looking for is to suddenly release the whole flow. The significant part of this is we have got a system here that is designed for water pollution containment. So, when you operate the system you are informed, it communicates to you. This one now just reset, so it’s just resetting itself afterwards that’s its back, back in action ready to be used again. That is the difference between what’s already on the on the market, it’s got to be quick. Whatever you’re doing, it could be a spillage, so you want a valve that can be triggered in different ways. We work with a lot of sites that close the valves whilst they are in production, so they could be closed for a whole day. I think this is really bad practice because a drain needs to flow to clean itself. Closing it allows materials to build up to cause sediment and that causes it not to work. 

These valves have been designed, to link into your system, however it is, panic button or whatever you want to do and you literally are able to shut off the valve in five seconds. So, in the event of an incident, bang! The valve shuts. There’s no need to hold drainage, this is not how the  drainage design engineers designed it in the first place.

So, these next images. These are just some installations of where we’ve done typical sites. You can see here this is a chocolate factory. You can see the valve is only small. You see that little unit on the top there. That’s actually a remote button that we connect into a fire alarm so  there’s no cables. What that does is that connects into the fire as the fire alarm goes off, it connects it to an end to end a message based on the mobile phone and it communicates with the valves. You can cable in as well. If you really want, too, but really, we’re trying to make it so simple. This is basically a complete contained system; there’s no need to add anything. So the powers, you see battery off grid. You can put those into it, if you really want to.

Water Pollution Monitoring Devices

Now, recently this was on an airport where we’re monitoring pH. Significant that what they’re looking for from the pH levels, they want to hold their attenuation ponds when the pH levels are high, or low. Would it seem natural that if you’ve got a pH monitoring equipment, would you really want to connect it into a valve, so that valve can actually stop the flow instantly? And what we’ve done here is very simply, a PH system sits on the pond. It’s connected into our valve just next to it. When the pH goes off, it drops the valves which stop flow from the pond, it alerts staff by an end to end message, a network message because it’s connected to their network. It’s also linked into their control tower, so they can operate the valves from the control tower. But what it means is, is that instead of going we’ve got a monitoring issue or a discharge because consent issue, we’ve let it go for last two days. We have just spotted it. What this is doing is it’s connected to a dead stop. So, as soon as this goes into alarm, it’s activating your valve to give you a communication. I mean, alert. I don’t want to come and do something about it. It really stops this, alarm and somebody then has to respond to the alarm and do something about it. This is going alarm, stopped. Similar with an oil separator alarm you can see there. It’s very simple, oil in separator alarm, setting off the fuel station that triggers a high alarm, it just shuts discharge consent, stops the pipe straightaway dead, there’s nothing getting out of there. Then, the idea is its calling you into react. It’s quite common that we see sites that have got monitoring equipment and spent a huge amount of money on monitoring equipment, but don’t actually have the controls to actually do anything about it.

So, really, that’s it now. So, I’ve come to the end. I’ve got a good guide that you can download. Please do. I know that sometimes people like to send emails, so there’s my email. Please do give us a call or send me a private email. We have got a certain, it really is important because most of the technologies that I’ve developed is really from working with customers, working with engineers, drainage engineers – I’ve worked with the whole array, and looking at what is driving them, what they feel are problems they’ve got, because there are solutions, for us Water Pollution Prevention is quite simple. We’re bringing new products all the time. Plastics is a big, big issue at the moment and that certainly, we’ve got solutions for that now. And we’re working with different countries and companies around the world.

So, really, your feedback is really helpful. If you want to get involved and be asking us questions, and certainly I don’t mind being challenged on any of the products I’ve just talked about today in this Spill Mapping and how it works. But I look forward to hearing from anyone that’s been listening today and please pass on this talk, so we can perhaps, enlighten a few more people.

David Cole MSEE

David Cole MSEE

Technical Director

David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.

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