ESG - now SOCOTEC - has worked in close collaboration with FCC Environment (FCC), one of the UK's leading waste and resource management companies, for over four years. ESG provides a range of environmental chemistry services for all of FCC's landfill sites.

By collaborating with ESG’s Energy & Waste Services division, FCC has been able to make significant operational cost savings and increase efficiency by employing more effective waste testing methodologies.

Protecting The Environment

According to 2015 Government figures, the UK produces around 220 million tonnes of controlled waste every year, of which around 30 per cent will be sent to landfill. The waste management sector faces increasing pressure to address many of the issues associated with landfill, including the potential impact of toxins, greenhouse gases and leachate on the environment.

FCC operates more than 120 landfill sites across the UK and is committed to reducing any risk that these sites may pose to the environment. The operation of each of these sites is regulated by environmental permits granted by the Environment Agency (EA).

Managing Landfill Leachate

Landfill leachate is potentially hazardous and if not properly contained it may present a risk to the surrounding environment including groundwater and surface waters. Complex modelling and risk assessment is used to mitigate any such risks and, in order to comply with these risk assessments, required under the Environmental Permitting Regulations, FCC continually monitors leachate quality, as well as the ground and surface water quality surrounding all of its sites.

However, monitoring and assessing water quality data poses a number of challenges for FCC, including the fast notification of elevated readings, the possibility of false positives, and getting quick access to analytical data. To add further difficulty to the monitoring process, each of FCC’s landfill sites is subject to individual parameter limits in relation to each specific environmental permit.

To continually assess any risk to groundwater contamination, FCC requires access to accurate data to ensure it can take appropriate action. It is obligated to report results which are above these limits to the EA and as the process is both time consuming and costly. ESG has implemented robust systems to ensure the correct reporting of data. This is essential due to the significant amount of matrix interference which can be present in groundwater, surface water and leachate.

Expert Guidance And Support

In 2011, ESG was chosen to provide FCC with laboratory testing services and support it with the challenges posed by the Environmental Permitting Regulations. At the commencement of the project, ESG’s Energy & Waste Services division implemented new testing methodologies to improve FCC’s waste testing processes.

To improve the efficiency of investigating elevated results, working with FCC, ESG implemented automated limit reporting for each of FCC’s landfill sites. The new method of reporting ensures that if a result is above a predefined limit on any site, ESG’s project management team will be immediately notified via an automated email. They can then quickly examine the issue, schedule repeat analysis, and accurately track results.

ESG’s database encompasses historic data trends for FCC’s analytical results for each site. This enables the project management team to interrogate a site’s history of readings against a current incident, as well as trend data. This allows FCC to track hazard levels on their sites over time and take steps to reduce the environmental risk from its landfills. This also overcomes the reporting of false positives, allowing FCC to have more confidence that it is reporting valid issues.

To ensure compliance with groundwater regulations, ESG participates in discussions with the Joint Agencies Groundwater Directive Advisory Group (JAGDAG).

Further efficiencies driven by ESG included consolidating FCC’s testing suites and reducing sample volume requirements. This process followed the template of ESG’s Smart Testing approach, designed to help FCC save time and money.

To deal with the issue of chemical interference on test results, ESG put in place a rigorous testing methodology alongside optimising instrument selectivity, resulting in an increased confidence in the validity of any elevated results which are reported. One specific methodology developed as a solution to this issue, for the determination of acid herbicides in water, gained ISO 17025 accreditation.

By working closely with FCC, ESG’s environmental chemistry laboratories have successfully met the complex landfill testing requirements, for a large number of distributed locations, each of which has its own specific requirements.

A Collaborative Approach

As well as providing testing services, ESG proactively keeps FCC’s team up-to-date on relevant legislation and new testing techniques, ensuring environmental compliance across all sites under the differing regulatory authorities. This collaborative approach to working has also resulted in ESG and FCC jointly presenting research at industry events.

Reducing Turnaround Times

For potentially hazardous wastes, such as incinerator bottom ash (IBA), speedy transfer and treatment is a key priority to lessen the cost of material storage. The appropriate disposal of potentially hazardous waste is dependent on laboratory results, and any delay in turnaround time directly affects the bottom line.

By working with ESG, FCC saw a significant reduction in turnaround times for the analysis of IBA.

Declan Burns, managing director, Energy & Waste Services, ESG, commented: “By honing existing methodologies and developing innovative new processes, we have been able to improve efficiency and assist FCC in maintaining compliance across all of their UK landfill sites. FCC Environment has embraced ESG’s collaborative approach and both companies work together to find solutions to common problems.”

Chris Ellis, operations director, FCC Environment, said: “ESG’s expertise and technical guidance has proved invaluable over the last four years and our partnership has gone from strength-to-strength.

“ESG’s guidance has allowed the company to work with more environmentally friendly and cost effective sampling methods. The company has been an active partner, working with us on-site to come up with innovative solutions that help us minimise our environmental impact.”

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