Shanks seeks to raise profile in soil pre-treatment market

Shanks has revealed that it is negotiating a long-term partnership with hazardous waste landfill operator Impetus which would involve the establishment of large-scale pre-treatment services at Impetus' Teesport landfill. Uncertainty remains over whether such services should be included under a landfill's pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit.

The requirement since 16 July 2004 to pre-treat hazardous waste such as contaminated soil before it is sent to landfill is leading to new alliances between remediation businesses and landfill operators.

Biffa received planning permission in December to treat hydrocarbon-contaminated soils at its Risley landfill near Warrington using technology supplied by Biogenie Site Remediation (ENDS Report 355, pp 13-15 ).

However, Biffa's remediation manager, John Conway, was unable to say whether the process will be authorised under a waste management licence or a PPC permit. The company has applied for a PPC permit for a separate landfill cell at Risley for "stable, non-reactive" hazardous waste.

In December, meanwhile, a cooperation agreement was finalised which will lead to remediation firm Churngold establishing soil treatment centres at Cory's Dudley and St Helens landfills.

Churngold will use bioremediation and stabilisation processes to pre-treat soils, and will rely on mobile plant licences it already holds for remediation processes (ENDS Report 357, p 17 ). According to managing director Craig Sillars soil washing also has potential, but thermal desorption looks unattractive due to the difficulties in treating soils contaminated with coal tar down to acceptable limits while, at £200-300 per tonne, it would also be very expensive.

The latest partnership involves landfill operator Impetus which started to accept hazardous waste at its Teesport landfill in February.

Teesport's permit allows the current phase to receive up to 500,000 tonnes of hazardous waste per year, and it has 3.5 million tonnes total capacity. Currently, the only waste it is taking is contaminated soil delivered by Shanks from the former Phurnacite smokeless fuel plant in south Wales (see pp 7-8 ).

Nigel Flintoft, director of Impetus Remediation, said he hopes demand for hazardous landfill will be boosted by the run-up to the end of the financial year, and then again by the July 2005 deadline for implementation of the full "waste acceptance criteria" for hazardous landfills.

Current prices, he said, range from £40 to £100 per tonne, according to the volume of material and the degree of contamination.

With negotiations ongoing, few details of the Shanks-Impetus agreement are available. Roland Williams, Shanks' director of contaminated land services, said the two companies are working towards a long-term partnership based on exclusivity.

"We see Teesport as a very important and strategic long-term site with the potential to process many hundreds or thousands of tonnes of soil per annum," he said.

Shanks is also hoping to establish around five urban rail-linked sites to receive soils and transport them on, and hopes to have two in operation "in the next few months".

Mr Williams said the market has been quiet since late autumn. "We've been involved in a lot of non-hazardous waste, like every one else, but we've been moving very small quantities of hazardous material - about 1,000 tonnes per week compared to 30,000-40,000 tonnes a year ago. However, everyone is predicting this boom - developers could face very high price increases."

As well as bioremediation, which Shanks has offered as a service for ten years, the company is hoping to buy a thermal desorption unit this year. But Mr Williams said he "was not convinced that soil washing is the appropriate technology for the UK" because it costs twice as much as bioremediation to treat soil contaminated with hydrocarbons.

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