Rapid sampling to support local communities in a time of great need
5 Jul 2021
When disaster strikes, even a team of environmental chemists simply doing what they do best but doing it well, can be real heros. Technical analytics services come into their own when floods knock out a sewage system in Port Talbot. The safety and security of residents' homes were quickly tested and assured in only two days!
In January 2021, 80 residents were evacuated from their homes in the village of Skewen, situated in Port Talbot, South Wales, due to flooding from a mine blow-out. A blockage in a main water shaft led to the water (which runs off extensive ancient mine workings on the hills above) to break out and flood homes in the surrounding area.
With no definitive timeline for residents to return, as well as the fact that the disaster had struck in the midst of the third national COVID-19 lockdown, it was imperative that the aftermath of the flood was dealt with as efficiently as possible, while also ensuring that the safety of residents and the workforce was not compromised.
Rapid response times
Given their established reputation as a leading provider of technical analysis services, SOCOTEC worked alongside one of its key clients to determine the extent of any potential contamination to resident’s homes. An emergency meeting was arranged to establish how the involved parties could work together to provide sampling and analysis at a rapid pace.
The Environmental Chemistry team arranged for the immediate shipment of the bottles required for sampling to the site, with six water samples initially taken. Adjustments were also made to the company's production system to ensure that the samples and report results were processed within a 48-hour turnaround, as opposed to the seven days that is usually required.
With customer focus at its very core, the team responded with efficiency and care. Their ability to turn the sampling results around so rapidly is testament to recent investments within the company's Environmental Science division, with developments to the organisation’s state-of-the art LIMS system allowing for better control of production levels within the business.
Having liaised with both the courier and their internal bottle dispatch team, the Environmental Chemistry team made the necessary adjustments to its turnaround times to ensure that the analysis could be conducted as quickly as possible. This was a particularly impressive feat, given that it usually requires 24 hours’ notice to dispatch sample dispatch and arrange couriers.
Laboratory managers, account managers and section leaders worked closely together to ensure rapid turnaround times for the client, making sure that all samples were booked in and processed quickly. A total of 140 samples have since been processed from the site, meeting the expectations of the customer and providing them with high quality data to monitor the extent of any contamination caused by this incident.
“Given the urgent nature of the incident, which had forced a considerable number of residents out of their homes in the midst of the global pandemic, we recognised that accurate, reliable and fast analysis was required to ensure that residents would be safe to return to their homes,” commented Jim MacFarlane, managing director, Environmental Science, SOCOTEC UK.
“Members of our Environmental Chemistry team worked closely with all involved parties to ensure that the analysis results were delivered without compromise and exactly as needed. The difficult situation faced by the residents of Skewen serves as yet another example of how our Environmental Science division can be both relied upon to find the right solution and trusted to deliver – valuable in those unexpected moments that can happen in life.”