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Environmental oil spill protection for major dam upgrade

An infrastructure project in the ACT is one of the first in Australia to adopt a unique safety and protection product that’s designed to clean up localised oil spillages as well as provide an early warning system. Supplied by Blackwoods Canberra, the Imbiber Bead system from Enware SafeEquip has been purchased by the Bulk Water Alliance for spill protection on dam and pumping projects, including the Cotter Dam upgrade.

The Imbiber Bead system is intended for broad application throughout industries including automotive, building, construction, electrical, engineering, food and beverage, farming, government utility, hospitals, infrastructure, manufacturing, metal processing, materials handling, military, mining and petroleum, process engineering, primary product processing, water and waste water and safety media.

“The Imbiber absorbent polymer soaks up any hydrocarbons and also provides a colour indicator of the presence of these substances, turning pink/red when it comes in to contact with fuel and related chemicals,” said Matthew Shanley, Key Account Manager for Blackwoods.

“In a typical application, Imbiber pads can be placed on booms that are used for protection against potential hydrocarbon spills on rivers or lakes during engineering projects.” The portable Imbiber pads have been added to their spill kit by the Bulk Water Alliance, to ensure good environmental management on a major dam development project being delivered by the Alliance for ACTEW Corporation, as part of a suite of water security projects for the ACT region.

Steve Lawler, Senior Environmental Officer for the Bulk Water Alliance, said the Imbiber pads were certainly an impressive product. “We’ve purchased them to help us cope with the possibility of both smaller and larger spills.”

Bulk Water Alliance is delivering in excess of $300 million worth of capital works for the ACTEW Corporation, due to be finished in 2011. The work includes an enlargement of the Cotter Dam, transferring water from the Murrumbidgee River to the Googong Reservoir and upgrading the Googong Dam spillway.

The Alliance, through Blackwoods Canberra, has also purchased Enware SpillPal spill containment units. These are easily set up bunding units that are ideal for tasks such as portable pumping and the casual refueling of trucks and tankers. Enware’s Imbiber Bead super absorbent polymer system – which will absorb a spill without leaching – is ideal for use in waterways as a protective barrier to prevent leakage from land into water or from water onto land.

The system, which is effective on hydrocarbons and a wide range of organic chemicals, incorporates a colour indicator that facilitates easy 24/7 monitoring when it is used as a protection shield in waterways and other areas. The colour indicator means users can easily monitor and inspect the Imbiber products in situ in potentially hazardous areas, says Enware SafeEquip Product Manager Mark West. Two Imbiber Beads standard packs (18cm x 18cm) have been shown in tests to fully absorb a litre of diesel fuel in water over 15 minutes.

“Imbiber Beads not only capture and contain leaks but equally importantly can drastically reduce explosive vapours,” he said. “They are the only absorbent product able to capture spills and not release waste, immobilising the liquid once it is absorbed,” he said.

Visual indicators within the beads change colour from white to pink to red as hydrocarbons and organic chemicals are absorbed and the beads become fully saturated. Once an organic liquid has been absorbed the beads swell, with packs growing to four or five times the original thickness. Imbiber Beads are available in different packs, pillows or powder blends to suit varying applications and can also be incorporated into the new trolley-mounted Enware SafeEquip Safety Stations.

Key features of the product include:
* Super adsorbent polymer formulation that is radically different from traditional sorbents. Imbiber Beads are true absorbents that are designed to take hydrocarbons and organic liquids into their structure and immobilize them. A saturated Imbiber Bead pillow can be squeezed and no organic liquid will drip out. Because liquids are fully immobilised, vapor emissions and the associated health risks of explosion and fire are dramatically reduced.
* Unrivalled performance in water. An Imbiber bead blanket floating on a tank or pond will remove an oil or solvent layer and will not leach or wash out when the blanket is removed. When squeezed, only water will come out. The colour indicator also helps identify to the user when it is time to replace the bead blanket due to the red colour change. Traditional polypropylene pads and booms quickly become saturated with water. Absorbed oil could be squeezed or washed out when the pads are moved or water flows through. Their limited capacity also creates large volumes of solid waste, greatly increasing cleanup costs.
* Less waste is produced for cleanup because Imbiber Beads are selective, unaffected by water and retain spilled hydrocarbons so effectively. Reduced waste lessens both labor and disposal costs. Imbiber beads mixed with a sand blend – makes them highly effective for containing and absorbing spills on the ground. The immobilized spillage can simply be swept up.

Imbiber Beads are part of SafeEquip’s comprehensive range of safety products, including spill containment and dispensing solutions, environmental and worker protection products, bunding and racking systems, multiple drum spill pallets and workstations, bulk container systems, portable spill containment berms, salvage drums and emergency response equipment including customized spill kits, Zeomed spill management systems and shower, eyewash and decontamination solutions.

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