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Plug-in environmental protection better than cure: new regulations

Supplier: Air Springs Supply
10 January, 2013

Recent amendments to environmental protection regulations highlight the pollution incident response management plans now required of industry, including pre-emptive actions to be taken to minimise or prevent any risk of harm to human health or the environment.

The changes - including specific detailing of safety equipment to contain or control a pollution incident - are particularly relevant to organisations using trucks, trains, conveyors and loading facilities near sensitive waterways and coastal areas. "While the regulations are helpfully designed to assist industry to properly plan environmental protection,  industry is also very clearly aware of the increasing cost of spills (and even the possibility of being shut down altogether) where they are shown to have failed in their duty of care," says pneumatic isolation, actuation and safety product specialist James Maslin.

"Anywhere trucks, transport and materials handling facilities are operating over large areas of concrete or drains near water can be a toxic spillage risk that must be safeguarded against," says Mr Agar, who is National Sales and Marketing Manager of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, exclusive national  distributor of the global Pronal range of rapidly inflated pipe stoppers and emergency response equipment.

Mr Maslin says emergency pipe stopping technology is increasing relevant to a huge diversity of industries - including industrial, defence, ports and infrastructure facilities - which have found themselves overtaken either by metropolitan urban sprawl or by public concerns about environmental issues in remote locations involved in resource development.  "Often these previously secluded plants are now operating cheek by jowl with surrounding residential development and heritage or sensitive waterways used by many people and as the resources boom continues, we also find environmental pressure on remote waterways and coastal area where huge expansion in production are creating massive expansions in processing, trucking, loading and ports facilities.

"All these trends bring commensurate increases in environmental risk that must be protected against under the recent Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Pollution incident Response Management Plans) Regulation 2012." One of Air Springs Supply's recent examples of a large industrial concern requiring waterways protection involved a national defence contracting organisation operating deep within a Sydney residential area and adjacent to a heritage waterway. 

The company's extensive facility had its own sub-surface issue with a storm drain extending through the plant an into surrounding bushland waterway leading to a major water way leading to Sydney Harbor, which the company, as a good corporate citizen, was committed to protecting. "They had to be able to provide immediate protection in the unlikely event of a spillage, because they had many vehicles moving through the plant and lots of drums of materials connected with manufacturing, including liquids, glues, urethanes and so on," said Mr. Maslin.

As a result of their investigations, the company become one of the latest industrial adopters in this country of a pipeline stopper from the internationally proven Pronal range of large-diameter pipe stoppers designed for rapid inflation to prevent accidental pollution of waterways. Similar stoppers have also been adopted by Visy Beverage at Smithfield in Sydney, which has installed a Pronal OFR anti-pollution stopper as a precaution against industrial waste seeping into a stormwater drain passing through its production site.

"The defence contractor approached us for an easily actuated large-diameter stopper to be permanently located in their main storm water drain so that, in the event of a chemical pollution spill, the stopper could be quickly and remotely inflated to prevent any pollutants flowing out directly into the neighbouring heritage stream before flowing out into the harbour tributary. "The storm water pipe inside diameter is 900mm and the stopper is permanently fixed to a central steel axis pole with three supporting feet per end, which bolt to the inside wall of the pipe.

"Supplied with the stopper was a surface-mounted complete control box with valving and control equipment. An air or nitrogen cylinder is installed inside the box for remote inflation when activated by pressing a large red easily visible and easily accessible button," said Mr Maslin. The rugged OFR series plug was custom-fabricated to the customer's requirements by elastomer specialist Pronal, which is the company that made the deep sea flotation tanks used to raise wreckage from the ocean liner Titanic 4000 metres beneath the North Atlantic.

Applications of the technology extend from building and construction projects (including engineering, electrical and energy utility tasks) to emergency services, food and beverage production, government, materials handling, manufacturing, mining and onshore and offshore resources development, mineral processing, primary product processing, petroleum, quarrying, transport workshop and water and waste water developments.

Pronal's anti-pollution plugs are permanently fitted in water and sewerage lines ready for rapid inflation by remote triggering to quickly stop the pipeline as soon as an emergency arises in industrial, civil and municipal applications.
Mr Maslin says actuation of the plug is virtually instantaneous - "After the defence contractor installation by local plumbing contractors, we tested it and it was very, very quick. It took only a second or two to provide protection. Then we put it back and reset it - it is simplicity itself. "As an environmental and OHS solution, it's ideal. It's simple to use in an emergency.

The company has a number of nominated key holders who can move quickly to the control box - and hammers adjacent to it also, so anyone can break the glass and actuate it if they have to. "These are a very rugged multi-use technology designed to withstand extended life in a drain and to function effectively every time the customer tests or if they have to use them for a spill." James Maslin says quickest inflation is provided by the gas cylinder method or alternatively by connection to pneumatic systems adapted to provide the low maximum inflation pressures in the pipe, which range from .2-.5 bar, depending on the pipe diameter. Once inflated, the plugs will act as a barrier to toxic fluid spill or spreading of firefighting water into different pipelines, he said.

Protected by a polyethylene cover to counteract effluents aggression, the extensive range of OFR stoppers is available in standard cylindrical lengths of 950-2200mm - with ovoid, elliptical and other shapes on request. Pronal's OFR stoppers complement Air Springs Supply's broader range of Pronal pipe stoppers. For smaller diameter pipes, down to 150mm, Pronal have developed a complementary product called Pollu-Plug, which in its uninflated state is permanently mounted flat and conforming to the arc of the top half of a pipe. Once triggered by remote line, it will expand to fill the entire diameter of the pipe.

"Major industries in Australia and overseas have employed Pronal plugs in pipelines leading to creeks and ponds that could be devastated by spills of chemicals and waste. Once inflated, the stopper will prevent any toxic fluid spill or spreading of firefighting water into the pipeline," said Mr Maslin. "A cost-efficient and easily engineered risk management measure such as the Pronal Plug fits ideally into this philosophy and into the needs of a wide range of Australian industry and government groups affected by the 2012 Amendment under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997."

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.