Tom Petzing

We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Environmental Remediation Manager, Tom Petzing. Tom has been at REDS Group for just over 2 years and has fast become a valuable member of the Environmental Consultancy team. In our conversation, Tom sheds light on his passion for remediation, addresses the pressing issue of PFAS, and offers valuable advice for companies seeking to enhance their sustainability efforts.

Could you share a bit about your background and experience in environmental remediation? What led you to this field?

I have always had an interest in the environment from an early age and love being outside.  My degree is in Environmental Science and Marine Biology which has led me nicely into the Environmental Consultancy sector.

I started in the environmental industry 20 years ago as a driller and then moved over to the remediation side of things a few years later.

I started at REDS nearly two years ago and have loved every minute of it.  With REDS covering multiple aspects of the fuel infrastructure industry, I have been to some really interesting and complex sites.  Almost every site I am involved with requires some form of problem-solving which I enjoy.

 

Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you as REDS Remediation Manager?

Whilst I do get involved with tendering and have input in the scoping of remediation strategies with the Environmental Consultancy team, my role is mainly site-based. I look after the day-to-day running of a remediation site, delivering the remedial strategy we have designed.  This includes building and maintaining various bits of remediation equipment, ensuring that all H&S requirements are met, and client liaison.

Many of our remediation sites require targeted excavation of existing below-ground infrastructure, so managing plant operatives, waste removal, and aggregate deliveries is also key to my role.

You developed your own in-situ mixing system. Can you tell us a little bit about this system and how it helps your remediation efforts?

In-situ remediation is something that I’ve specialised in over the last ten years. Historically, remediation of contaminated land would probably involve wholescale excavation, with contaminated soil being sent to landfill. Obviously, this process has a huge carbon footprint and is totally unsustainable.  There are now various options for in-situ treatment, with a range of reagents that allow us to treat the contaminated ground without the need to excavate and send soil to landfill.

The remedial reagents we use come in various forms (powder/liquid/gum) which need to be mixed together in specific ratios, so over the years I have developed a mixing system that can prepare batches of reagent for remedial projects. The system can then be directly attached to a drill rig to allow controlled injection into the ground.  The mixing equipment is fully mobile and needs no mains power connections.

The key to successful in-situ remediation treatment is understanding how to get the reagents to the contaminant. The Environmental team at REDS have > 20 years of site investigation experience and we’ve got a fantastic track record at using in-situ remediation techniques successfully.

 

Tom's in-situ mixing system.

In-situ mixing system being used on-site.

Are there any emerging environmental issues that you believe will significantly impact the field of remediation in the coming years?

I think the remediation industry is going to be increasingly challenged to demonstrate the methods used are sustainable and offer sufficient cost benefit. We design our remediation strategies following the principles set out by SuRF-UK (the United Kingdom’s Sustainable Remediation Forum) which promotes sustainable techniques and technologies to ensure the remediation completed has real benefits.

PFAS contamination has been a significant issue in recent years. Can you explain what PFAS is and why it’s a concern for environmental remediation efforts?

PFAS are a large group of synthetic chemicals that have been widely used since the 1940s. PFAS can resist chemical attack and withstand high temperatures and are sometimes referred to as ‘forever chemicals’.  PFAS have oil and water-repellent properties, having been developed for use as surfactants and stain repellents. They have a very wide range of consumer and industrial applications. Their stability and resistance to degradation results in almost indefinite environmental contamination, leading to long-term continuous exposure of people and wildlife.

There is worldwide concern about the adverse impact arising from PFAS use on human health and the environment. At the moment the environmental industry is working to understand the risks these compounds may pose and decide on suitable remedial criteria that are suitable and proportionate.

PFAS is a considerable concern as there is no proven method of remediating it from soil or groundwater.  One method of dealing with soil and groundwater contaminated with PFAS is to lock it in place.  We have done this successfully in the past by injecting colloidal liquid activated carbon which absorbs the contamination and stops it from migrating off site.

What are some of the common sources of PFAS contamination, and how do you prioritise addressing them?

The main area where we see PFAS contamination in our industry is from the use of firefighting foams, although PFAS compounds can be found almost everywhere.  REDS have completed a few tank cleaning projects from firefighting foam systems with good results using specific cleaning agents.

The Environmental team also conducts PFAS sampling, mainly focusing on fire training facilities.  At a recent fire training site where we conducted PFAS sampling, identified detectable levels of PFAS contamination in the soil, groundwater, and drainage systems. The trouble we have is that there are no usable criteria for us to compare these data against!

The main concern for any site with PFAS contamination is to stop it migrating off site and our in-situ injection systems can be used to install effective migration barriers in the form of colloidal liquid activated carbon to lock in the PFAS.

What advice would you offer to companies striving to maximize their sustainability practices and minimize environmental impact?

I would urge companies to look at new technologies instead of sticking with old outdated methods.  There are many technologies now that can help companies minimize waste, conserve resources, and reduce emissions.  In our sector, a great example of this is treatment of contaminated land using in-situ remediation techniques.

Date Posted: 12/04/2024

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REDS Group Team