Many geotechnical engineers morphed into environmental engineers during the last decade. As new markets emerged geotechnical engineers had the appropriate skills to meet the demands of geoenvironmental work such as land remediation and landfill engineering.
This change is also mirrored by a number of industry suppliers. In the early 1990s Leamington Spa based Geotechnical Instruments had a relatively low profile in this area. True, it was a big name in gas analysers, but its groundwater division was in the business of supplying consumable items such as water bailers and sample pumps. By three years ago turnover of this division was snowballing and - now operating as a new Geotechnical Instruments subsidiary Geo Remediation - was expanding rapidly.
The biggest change, however, was in what the company was selling. Instead of the two hundred pound bailer, the company had started offering containerised bespoke remediation solutions, costing anywhere up to £100,000.
The service was unavailable elsewhere from a UK supplier and matched by only a few on mainland Europe and in the US.
As Geo Remediation manager Tim Schofield explains: 'We realised when we turned up to install pumps there was a lot of extra kit above surface.' The company also saw that consultants often had difficulty sourcing and assembling the components on site. Although relatively simple on paper, making a remediation scheme work in practice was a much bigger challenge than most envisaged.
Geo Remediation's answer was to make available factory assembled containerised or skid mounted remediation systems.
These are put together, tested, delivered to site and commissioned as part of the package.
'People aren't just buying a container full of equipment, but an overall service, ' explains Schofield. He sees the company as being 'consultants in our equipment', but adds: 'We are very careful not to step over the line.'
Key to the whole operation is a European manufacturing and marketing agreement with US based environmental specialist QED, together with a handful of alliances with other (mostly) US remediation equipment manufacturers. 'We saw what was available in the US and realised we could be at the forefront in bringing this technology to the UK, ' says Schofield.
Manufacturing in the UK, rather than importing from the US, also has significant advantages because Geo Remediationassembled units have couplings and power electrical ratings appropriate for the UK and Europe. It also means the people who assembled the equipment could commission and service on site - a big help in making the whole process work. A further advantage, says Schofield, is it allows the client to monitor the manufacturing process directly.
Procurement is achieved by a consultant approaching Geo Remediation to outline ground conditions, contaminants and concentrations already identified at a site. Geo Remediation will then identify suitable remediation technology and put together a system designed to reduce the contamination to a level determined by the consultant. To achieve this it has at its disposal the wide variety of processes (see table) available through its many manufacturing and distribution agreements.
This approach has been particularly successful for hydrocarbon clean-ups at petrol station forecourts, where discrete and unobtrusive containers can be left on site for many months quietly getting on with the task. Geo Remediation's other two big markets are landfill - reflecting the recent shift in emphasis from landfill gas to leachate control, and treatment of industrial effluents.