Weird Science

April 25th, 2018

Did you know Cumbria Waste Group has its own in-house chemists who perform their own brand of weird science?

When you think of chemists, the image you conjure up will no doubt be of people in white lab suits using Bunsen burners and carrying test tubes.

Being a chemist in the waste industry is slightly different, but there’s definitely still a science to it.

Two members of our in-house team are Pam Woodhouse and Ian Chapman.

Pam is our Technical Compliance Manager. Her main role is overseeing our environmental compliance, ensuring we are meeting the requirements of our environmental permits.

Based at Hespin, Pam and her team of four monitor our two active landfill sites, at Hespin and Flusco, as well as our two closed sites at Distington and South Walney. They also look after the leachate treatment plants at Hespin and Flusco.

Pam explains: “We are there to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is happening within the landfills themselves and in the surrounding environment, so we continuously monitor groundwater,, surface water and gas levels.

“We also oversee the work of our contractors who extract the landfill gas to make renewable energy.

“We have never been prosecuted by the Environment Agency who come down strongly on those operators who do, so we perform an important role.”

Pam has worked for CWG for close to 21 years and has an HNC in Chemistry.

She adds: “We’re not traditional chemists but you definitely need some scientific background in this job.”

Ian is our Technical Team Manager based, largely at Distington.

He jokes that they are referred to as ‘Bucket Chemists’ because rather than looking at materials on test tubes, they are working with chemicals on a much larger scale, with wastes being received in containers such as drums, IBCs and tankers.

Ian oversees the hazardous waste that comes into Distington. With a degree in biological science, he says his first job was very analytical and lab-based, but since joining CWG 19 year ago, his role is very different.

He says: “We generally get small amounts of hazardous waste, such as acids and flammable solvents, coming into Distington, so these are generally added to large 200-litre drums as it then makes them easier to handle and more profitable to dispose of.

“We have to test everything that comes in to ensure it is as listed because it would be dangerous to mix certain materials. The samples are taken to our lab and only then do we allow the material to be added to the drums.”

Ian and his team also handle the materials, such as garden chemical, paints and solvents, that are brought to the household waste recycling centres we manage. And he is also oversees our liquid waste treatment plans.

Ian adds: “It’s a very varied job and no two days are the same. We might not be wearing white coats and carrying Bunsen burners, but there’s still definitely a science to what we do.”

One area where our chemists excel is in testing contaminants from brownfield or industrial sites.  Cumbria Waste Group has decades of experience in the effective management and remediation of contaminated sites, so if you need help complying with national regulations regarding these sites, please get in touch for a free, no-obligation quote.