Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

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Is your vehicle recycling site ready for floods?

Is your vehicle recycling site prepared for floods? Simon Walker, Founder and Director of SJW Enviro Consulting Ltd, discusses the necessities of adapting to flood events caused by climate change.


Is your vehicle recycling site ready for floods? f
Simon Walker

In May 2019, the UK Parliament passed a non-binding motion declaring a climate emergency in the UK. This was an acknowledgement that a situation exists in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change, and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.

An increase in heavy precipitation causing flooding has the potential to affect all of us. This is one of the predicted effects of the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns that is climate change.

Several indicators in the latest UK State of the Climate report show that the UK’s climate is becoming wetter. For example, the highest rainfall totals over a five-day period are 4% higher during the most recent decade compared to 1961-1990.
Furthermore, the amount of rain from extremely wet days has increased by 17% when comparing the same time periods. In addition, there is a slight increase in the longest sequence of consecutive wet days for the UK.

One study found that climate change has increased the risk of floods in England and Wales, such as those in Autumn 2000 (the wettest Autumn on record), by at least 20% and perhaps as high as 90%.

The Environment Agency (EA) has recognised the effect of climate change on permitted sites and many new applications now require a climate change risk assessment to be submitted.

The consequence of flooding at authorised treatment facilities (ATFs) can be significant. Drains, pits and interceptors can become overwhelmed with water backing up and potentially carrying pollutants, especially in the form of fuels and oils, off-site or onto areas of unpaved surfaces within the site. Not only does this cause immediate problems as permit conditions are breached, and there is potentially expensive groundwater contamination. It also means that permits are harder to surrender in the long term, as the operators have to prove that the site no longer poses an environmental risk. Significant remediation costs may be incurred to meet the EA’s requirements.

Even without a significant flood event, an interceptor needs to be regularly checked to ensure that there is not a significant build-up of oil, which will eventually wash out if left to build up. So, to mitigate against the escape of contaminants, especially from pits and interceptor tanks, some ATF operators have installed belt oil skimmers to remove hydrocarbons from water.

Belt oil skimmers work because of the difference in specific gravity between oil and water. As water has the higher specific gravity, oil floats to the top of the water where it can be removed. A belt oil skimmer uses material, usually made of stainless steel or plastic, in the form of a belt to break the surface tension of the water to attract and collect the floating oil. The belt then passes through a set of wiper blades where the oil is wiped off and is collected in a proper disposal container.

The belt oil skimmer also acts as an effective remediation tool if groundwater becomes contaminated with oil. One such piece of equipment is Abanaki’s PetroXtractor oil skimmer which can reduce oil or fuel contamination in groundwater to within government standards using existing recovery or monitoring wells up to 30 metres deep without using pumps.

Oil skimmers are easy to run and have relatively low maintenance costs, and they also require very little operating space. More details on the working of oil skimmers can be found at

While oil skimmers will not prevent flooding, they can go a significant way to stopping oil from leaving the permitted area or contaminating unsurfaced areas of the site.

To find out more, contact Simon on 07471 910102 or email him at

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