CQA International Ltd (Containment Quality Associates) is an environmental engineering consultancy specialising in containment engineering worldwide for over 25 years. Our experienced engineers have designed and supervised the construction of containment systems in the UK and overseas for a range of purposes, including waste management, mining, oil & gas, industrial applications, agriculture, water supply and anaerobic digestion amongst others.

Why are containment systems important?

As the owner or operator of a site where potentially polluting substances are used or stored, you are required to identify the hazards, assess the risks and mitigate potential impacts. Containment systems are the most common form of mitigation, including Primary (tanks and lagoons), Secondary (bunded areas) and Tertiary (remote storage).

An ineffective containment system can cause direct impacts from leaks and spills. Environmental harm and breaches of licence can have major financial and reputational consequences which are recorded against the company. A recognised fault can be equally problematical, even without a spill. Could your business function if operations have to be suspended because the authorities find deficiencies in the containment system? A correctly designed and installed containment system will help you to avoid such problems.

Installing a containment system

The cost of installing a containment system will depend on the complexity of the site and when the system is installed. Retrofitting an old plant is likely to be more expensive. Modern facilities are required to include containment systems and will be included in the overall budget. Some facility designers may not be experts in containment systems and you could consider a specialist designer for this item. This often produces benefits in cost and performance.

CQA is involved with projects at all stages: from concept, where a preliminary design has been produced for pricing; through to construction management, quality assurance and complete design build packages. We have seen many examples of poorly designed containment systems that have delayed start-up and resulted in substantial remedial costs, even before income is generated. CQA could make a big difference in avoiding such issues at the concept stage. The correct procedures and reporting of quality assurance is increasingly important for obtaining operational licences.

There have been many high-profile incidents over the years where containment systems have failed. Most designs that CQA has reviewed either fall short of being fit for purpose or are unnecessarily expensive. Expensive, over-engineered systems do not necessarily provide additional protection if the designer is not familiar with containment systems.

The cost of failure

For example, we have seen operators spending more than 10% of the total CAPEX on concrete secondary containment. An adequate system could have been constructed for a fraction of the cost using natural clay.

We have also seen failures of digestate storage lagoon as a direct result of poor design. Reconstruction costs were several times the original budget. These plants also required expensive temporary digestate control measures to avoid shut-down.

Proper supervision and quality assurance can identify and solve problems which would otherwise be apparent only after a failure. Rectifying a competed system can be much more expensive, especially if it has failed.

CQA’s experience includes conceptual design, cost estimation, planning and detailed design, to ensure that the containment system is fit for purpose. Our input into site selection and integration with the facility can enhance efficiency. The selection of suitable materials and accurate construction specifications optimise construction cost and ensure that operational risks are minimised.

The importance of Construction Quality Assurance

Construction quality assurance is important in manufacturing and construction. Containment systems are no different, whether they are primary, such as landfills, lagoons or mining infrastructure, or secondary, such as spill prevention systems.

When CQA designs a containment system, a Construction Quality Assurance Plan is produced which provides clear and precise specifications for materials and methodologies for the installation works. The installation is then supervised, inspected and tested against the quality plan. Finally, a comprehensive CQA Validation Report presents the results to prove that these benchmarks have been achieved.

This approach is widely accepted as proof the containment system complies with regulations and has been properly constructed. This can speed up permitting. It also provides you with the confidence that you have a robust and reliable installation.

CQA International Ltd would be pleased to provide complimentary advice on how you can optimise your containment system requirements.

Please contact our director, Darren Bland at darren.bland@cqainternational.co.uk, or visit www.cqainternational.co.uk