Spill Containment and Control

Expert advice on pollution prevention and spill containment and control.

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Spill Containment and Control

Pollution can happen accidentally or deliberately and occurs when substances released to water, land or air have a harmful effect on the environment. Pollutants can put human health at risk and often affect drinking water supplies, business activities, wildlife habitats, and people's enjoyment and use of the environment.

You need to understand your premises and how your activities could affect the environment and cause pollution; you should regularly review the pollution linkages you have.

Figure 1: Example of a pollution linkage using source-pathway-receptor model, Pollution Prevention Guidelines PPG1* Source: GOV.UK

Useful information

Environment Agency 10 Point Checklist

Understand your environmental requirements

View the checklist

Environment incident hotline (24 hours, 7 days a week)

If you have a spill or any pollution incident you must report it immediately 0800 80 70 60 (Ireland 1 890 33 55 99)

Your site and activities will only cause harm to the environment or people if all of the above are present. You should look at ways to break the links or weaken them. By doing this, you can identify how to prevent or reduce the likelihood of pollution and reduce the impact of any problem which may occur.

Almost all premises produce dirty water which could cause pollution if it enters rivers, streams, ditches or groundwater. Many sites also store, handle and use a wide range of other liquid materials which can spill, leak or release their contents if there is a fire or flood. Some of these materials may not seem harmful but can be very damaging to the environment.

Common examples of substances that cause environmental harm include fuels and oils, chemicals, sewage, farm manure and slurry however other materials such as food and drink products and detergents can also cause significant pollution. By considering the hazards associated with the materials you have, where you store and how you handle them you can reduce the likelihood of pollution happening.

This type of review a long with the Environmental Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Northern Ireland Environment Agency's 10 point checklist are the first steps towards developing an environmental management system (EMS), which will allow you to demonstrate a commitment to managing and minimising your immediate and long-term environmental impacts.

Spill Control

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A spill can be defined as the uncontrolled release of a substance sufficient in size and nature to present a threat to the environment and/or people.

Accidental spills of hazardous liquids, oil, fuel and chemicals can cause serious health and safety and environmental problems and current legislation is in place to protect people and the environment. If spillages are not controlled and damaging consequences occur then severe penalties can be issued to businesses. Having the correct products and procedures in readiness will reduce the negative impact that a spill would cause, not only to people and the environment but also on your business. At Arco we offer a comprehensive range of spill control products which will enable you to be prepared for any accidental spillage.

If primary and secondary containment fail then dependent on the size and type of spill, the two main methods of dealing with spills are: absorbents which are designed to contain and recover a spillage or loose absorbents such as clay granules and speciality powders which tend to be used for smaller spills


Absorbents are one of the most effective ways of cleaning up spills, having the correct type of absorbents will allow you to manage any potential spillages that may occur. Choose the most appropriate combination for your site needs, alternatively choose a spill control kit and have a quantity of each on site.

We supply absorbents and spill kits which can be used for three specific groups of liquids, they are colour coded for easy identification:

Maintenance: designed for non aggressive oil & water based fluids. Maintenance absorbents are hydrophilic and grey in colour.

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Oil: designed for oils, these absorbents are hydrophobic, and so repel water and absorb oil. Suitable for use in areas where an oil spill is considered a high risk, oil absorbents are white in colour.

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Chemical: designed to absorb aggressive chemical spills, these absorbents are yellow in colour. Always ensure the correct PPE and clothing is worn when dealing with chemical spills and that correct disposal of absorbents is undertaken once used.

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Dispensing Stations

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Absorbents should be stored in an area which is both highly visible and convenient so they can be quickly and easily accessed in the event of a spill.

Dispensing stations can be used to store a combination of absorbents including pads, rolls or socks. Keeping absorbents readily available means that they are on hand for use in an emergency and they can also be used on a day to day basis for small spills.

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Always ensure that the contents of the unit are topped up as and when any absorbents have been used. Should you have a requirement for several spill dispensing stations around your site; Arco can offer management and restocking of units.

To discuss your requirements, contact your local Sales Office

Filtration Systems

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Filtration systems are a simple and economic way of dealing with contaminated water. They remove hydrocarbons and sediment to almost non-detectable levels helping you to comply with the Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guidelines PPG6, which require that the majority of suspended solids (gravel, sand, and silt) must be removed from site water before it is discharged into a drain, sewer or watercourse.

Filtration systems can be used in a wide range of dewatering applications without slowing up the pumping process and can negate the need for costly third party settlement tanks or vacuum lorries.

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Bioremediation involves the use of microorganisms to remove oil stains. Arco can offer a wide range of solutions to help remove oil stains. Solutions are available for both solid and porous surfaces and stains can be removed effectively from concrete, block paving, tarmac or brick bund walls. Bioremediation involves using enzymes that are activated by the introduction of water. Once activated they feed on any oil present, converting it into carbon dioxide and dirty water.

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Drum Storage and Containment

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Oil Storage Regulations

Primary containment will ordinarily prevent spills from happening.

All hazardous liquids should be stored in containers which are fit for purpose, correctly labelled and then regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that they are not corroded or leaking.

As a further precaution we would recommend secondary spill containment with containers being stored on spill pallets or trays which would contain any small leaks.

All containers should be stored in areas which are sited away from water courses, drains and unmade surfaces.

It is essential that pollutants are not allowed to enter water courses such as brooks, streams, rivers and lakes, nor should they be allowed to leach through the ground layer and enter the water table. Spills should not be allowed to spread into the local environment particularly conservation areas and populated districts.

Any operations involving containers of hazardous liquids, such as unloading or decanting must not take place over an open drain. We would recommend that procedures are put in place for the safe delivery and handling of all liquid materials and that training on these procedures is provided.

Oil storage regulations are now a legal requirement in both England and Scotland. In Ireland and Wales companies need to be aware of their duty of care in terms of pollution and the environment. If you are unsure and need help and support with these issues contact your nearest Arco branch.

If you are located in England the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 will apply. In Scotland you will be covered by the Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations 2006. The appropriate legislation for Northern Ireland is the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (Northern Ireland) Regulations SR2010/412. Wales is not covered by these regulations but there may be other legislation which applies in this area.

These regulations apply to any industrial, commercial or institutional site storing 200 litres or more of oil or fuel above ground in one or more containers. In England the regulations only apply to outdoor storage, although the recommended 'Pollution Prevention Guidelines' from the environment agency would apply to indoor storage. In Scotland the regulations apply to both outdoor and indoor storage.

The Oil Storage Regulations are designed to prevent oil spills. In the event of a spill accident you may be prosecuted and fined if oil from your site enters the ground or watercourses. You may also have to pay substantial clean-up costs.

All containers storing oil or fuel, whether a drum, an IBC (Intermediate Bulk Containers) or a tank must be sufficiently bunded within themselves or stood on a spill pallet or drip tray that provides sufficient containment. The bund must have sufficient capacity to:

  • Contain 110% of the contents of the largest container;
  • Or 25% of the total capacity stored, whichever is greater.

In the case of single drums, a drip tray with a capacity of 25% of the contents is normally acceptable, apart from drums sited in high-risk areas.

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