Monday, January 29, 2018

How smelly is your rubbish?

According to some estimates, every year, over 8 billion tonnes of urban waste are generated worldwide, and there is every reason to believe that this figure will increase in coming years due to population growth. Compositing, by which organic waste is converted into fertiliser, is a process that provides a use for part of this huge amount of waste. Despite its many environmental advantages, including the recovery and recycling of resources, the composting process generates volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which omit a range of offensive smells. Different types of waste generate different smells or combinations of smells; composted raw materials can now be classified by their odorous impact, with a view to minimising emissions.

 Scientists at the University of C√≥rdoba's Department of Inorganic Chemistry and Chemical Engineering have devised a new system for analysing the smell generated during composting using a combination of two techniques: NIR spectroscopy and chemometrics, a discipline which applies mathematical and statistical methods to chemical data. Lead researcher Manuel Toledo says, "As far as we know, these two methods have never been used together to evaluate odorous impact." NIR technology uses radiation in the near-infrared range to reveal the chemical composition of organic waste during composting; the advantage is that this method is non-invasive, i.e. it does not alter the elements being analysed. The information revealed by NIR spectroscopy is used to create predictive models enabling smell to be estimated without the need for sampling. The researchers evaluated the composting process using a device known as a respirometer, which measures oxygen consumption by the microorganisms involved in degrading organic matter, and analysed some of the variables affecting the whole process: temperature, odour concentration, rate of odour emission into the atmosphere and air flow through the material. The new method, which over the coming months will be tested at industrial scale, provides a fast and economical means of evaluating odour emission rates, and could help to mitigate the odorous impact of composting, a process today regarded as crucial in finding a new use for the millions of tons of organic matter we generate every day. 

Explore further: Emissions of volatile organic compounds higher than previously assumed More information: Chemometric analysis and NIR spectroscopy to evaluate odorous impact during the composting of different raw materials. Toledo, M; Gutierrez, MC; Siles, JA; Garcia-Olmo, J; Martin, MA. Journal of Cleaner Production Volume 167, 20 November 2017, Pages 154-16 

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Monday, October 30, 2017

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

GUEST BLOG: Advocating chemical engineering to the next generation – Madeleine Jones

By day, Chartered Chemical Engineer Madeleine Jones works as Deputy Operations Manager, Legacy Ponds & Silos at Sellafield, and is responsible for three nuclear facilities.
In her spare time, she is a passionate advocate of chemical engineering – promoting engineering to primary and secondary school children, and mentoring new engineering graduates at the nuclear reprocessing and decommissioning company, to inspire the next generation of chemical engineers.
She also actively volunteers for her professional engineering institution, IChemE, with roles including Student Representative on the Midlands Member Group Committee, and Webmaster for IChemE’s North West Member Group Committee.
For all of this – and more – she was recently awarded the Karen Burt Award, after being nominated by IChemE. The annual award is presented by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to a top Chartered Engineer or Chartered Physicist in memory of Dr Karen Burt.
Burt was a renowned physicist with a PhD in electron microscopy, who worked for British Aerospace Systems as a project engineer for scientific satellites. She produced some remarkable work in this field and many saw her as an inspiration for fighting to recover her speech and mobility after suffering a stroke.
In today’s blog, Madeleine explains her biggest career achievement so far, the importance of getting Chartered and why diversity in chemical engineering is key.
Name: Madeleine Jones
Current position: Deputy Operations Manager, Legacy Ponds & Silos, Sellafield
Studied: A Masters degree in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry at Aston University
Bio: As part of my degree I worked on an industrial placement at Sellafield. On completion, I was offered a graduate position and have been progressing my career in various roles at the company since.
Why did you decide to become a chemical engineer and what interested you the most?
At school I always preferred the sciences. By the time I got to choose my A-Levels I knew I’d do best in Chemistry and Maths because they were the subjects I enjoyed most. I considered careers in chemistry, but they all seemed to be either lab-based bench chemistry or research (which I do not have the patience for!). I happened to meet a Chemical Engineer on a school trip and she explained what she did. I did a bit of investigation and it seemed to be the perfect combination of the sciences for me!
Tell me a bit about your career so far?
I studied for a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry at Aston University and decided to do an Industrial Placement as part of this. I gained a placement at Sellafield Ltd working on the site effluent and waste strategy, and at the end of the year was offered a graduate position.
After graduating I moved to Manchester and started work in Sellafield’s design office in Warrington. As a Graduate Process Design Engineer, my day-to-day work was asset care and improvements for existing plants and design work for new facilities. There are more than 200 nuclear facilities at Sellafield so I took the opportunity to move around the business whilst I was on the graduate scheme.
After the graduate scheme, I wanted to be a bit closer to the action so began training as a System Engineer in Cumbria. My system was a chemical process system in the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant where nuclear fuel from around the world is recycled. I was responsible for the overall reliability and availability of the system and making sure the maintenance was fit for purpose. The facility was nearing the end of its life and getting the right balance between continuous production and preventative maintenance was always a challenge.
I also volunteered for the company’s Emergency Response Team, which is called out in the event of a major incident at Sellafield. My responsibility was the information flow between the affected facilities and the main site emergency control centre. I also became part of the Crisis Management Support Team providing support to the Executive Team and business leaders.
After two years in Systems Engineering, I realised I particularly enjoyed was the fast-paced day-to-day problem solving and the excitement of responding to emergent issues, so I moved into my current role as Deputy Operations Manager in one of the legacy nuclear fuel storage facilities.
Can you explain what you do in your role at Sellafield?
Construction was started on the first nuclear facility at Sellafield in the 1940s and quite a few of the early buildings are still standing today. The First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) was built in the 1950s to store spent nuclear fuel under water before reprocessing. Over the following decades the pond has fallen into a state of disrepair and some of the cladding on the fuel has disintegrated and formed a radioactive sludge in the bottom of the pond. Work over the last 10 years has focussed on retrieving the fuel and sludge from the pond so we can decommission it.
I am Deputy Operations Manager for the Sludge Packaging Plant, which receives the sludge removed from the pond, and the Effluent Distribution Tanks, which receives and processes radioactive pond water from FGMSP and effluents from other legacy facilities.
Photo courtesy of AvaxHome
What’s your biggest career achievement to date?
My career so far has been so varied that it’s difficult to pin-point one specific thing. One of the things I’m proudest of is convincing the producer of a BBC documentary to film me talking about my role on site. He ended up using the clip in the programme and it was viewed by over a million people worldwide – what better way is there to publicise the profession and normalise women in engineering?
Why do you think it’s important that women should be involved in chemical engineering?
In any situation, in work and out, it is important to have a diverse range of personalities, skills, knowledge and backgrounds. If a profession or employer does not consider this, they cannot possibly operate to the best of their ability. For me, it’s not a question that we should still be answering, its common sense.
Why did you choose to get Chartered and what does being Chartered mean to you?
Being a Chartered engineer is an internationally recognised standard and demonstrates my competency. Throughout my career I’ve had people who have said I don’t do enough ‘traditional’ engineering (sizing pumps and using Computer Aided Design) and spend too much time getting involved in other stuff – whether that be university engagement or TV cameos! Achieving Chartered status shows that I’ve demonstrated my competence as an engineer whilst doing all those other things.
Why is it important to for chemical engineers to get Chartered?
Getting your degree (or any other qualification) is just the first step. Chartership demonstrates that you are a competent engineer in the real world and can apply all the stuff you learnt at university to deliver solutions to actual problems.
Is there anything you would recommend to someone considering a career in chemical, bio-chemical or process engineering?
The profession offers such a wide range of different career paths that it’s almost impossible not to find something you’d enjoy! When I look at my university cohort, five years since we graduated, we’re spread across the world all with different types of jobs – everything from insurance to oil rigs!

For more information about getting chartered visit the IChemE website.

Friday, October 20, 2017

NJDEP Revises Soil Remediation Standards Applicable to Historic Fill and Other Common Contaminants

On September 18th, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) revised its soil remediation standards for eighteen contaminants in response to new toxicology studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The revised standards became effective immediately; however, completed or nearly completed cleanups may be exempt from complying with certain of the new, more stringent standards in particular situations. Numeric standards for eleven constituents have increased and now are more lenient, and the standard for one constituent, thallium, was deleted entirely. Conversely, six other constituents now have more stringent standards. Parties responsible for ongoing cleanups should consider whether these new standards change the scope of their investigation or remediation. Parties responsible for completed cleanups also should consider whether a more stringent standard requires further action or whether a more lenient standard permits early termination of ongoing obligations associated with their cleanup. Properties containing historic fill material or that have been the site of operations utilizing solvents, such as dry cleaners, metal manufacturers and parts degreasers, are among the most likely to be affected by the new standards.

NJDEP established more lenient standards for seven different polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (“PAHs”), which are common contaminants and often are found in contaminated historic fill material throughout the state. The strict soil remediation standards for PAHs triggered significant remediation obligations at many of these historic fill sites, even though those sites themselves had not been subject to intensive industrial use. The typical remediation approach is placing a cap of clean soil, asphalt, or some other barrier on top of the historic fill and recording a deed notice notifying potential buyers that the site is contaminated. Notably, a party responsible for maintaining a historic fill cap that is no longer necessary under the new standards can obtain relief from the long-term remedial action permit compliance obligations and associated costs, including the requirement to post financial assurance, pay annual fees, conduct biennial certifications and monitor and maintain the cap itself. Similarly, owners of property with a deed notice for historic fill can remove the deed notice, after obtaining NJDEP’s permission, if their property complies with the new, more lenient standards for PAHs.

The soil remediation standards for tetrachloroethene (“PCE”), historically used by dry cleaners, metal manufacturers, and parts degreasers, increased substantially. However, in practice, this change may have a less significant impact on responsible parties’ remediation costs than the change in the PAH standards, as the extent of remediation of PCE-contaminated soil often is driven by the impact to groundwater standard developed for each particular site, which can be stricter than both the old and new soil remediation standards for PCE. Nevertheless, the new standard for PCE will reduce the burden of soil remediation in situations where the impact to groundwater standard does not apply or where site-specific factors cause the impact to groundwater standard to exceed the new PCE soil remediation standard.

Parties responsible for property impacted by the six constituents subject to more stringent soil remediation standards have the less enviable task of determining the increased cost of these new obligations. The six constituents with more stringent standards are 1,1’-biphenyl; cyanide; hexachloroethane; nitrobenzene; pentachlorophenol; and trichloroethene (“TCE”). TCE, formerly a commonly used solvent, is the most prevalent of these constituents. As with PCE, however, the extent of remediation of TCE often depends on the still unchanged and generally more stringent impact to groundwater standard, so the practical impact of the more restrictive soil remediation standards for TCE may not be significant.

For sites undergoing investigation or remediation where one of these six constituents is present, the scope of the investigation or remediation may expand. However, sites where hexachloroethane, nitrobenzene (residential sites only), pentachlorophenol, and TCE are present may take advantage of a “phase-in period” which excuses the responsible party from the new, stricter requirements. Where the remediation standard decreased by less than an order of magnitude, i.e., a factor of ten, which is the case for the contaminants listed above, the party responsible can avail itself of the old, more lenient remediation standard if it submits its remedial action report or remedial action workplan to NJDEP before March 18, 2018.

Remediated sites that are subject to either a no further action letter (“NFA”) from NJDEP or a response action outcome (“RAO”) from a Licensed Site Remediation Professional can be reopened and subject to further clean up, but only where the new remediation standard differs from the previous standard by more than an order of magnitude. The soil remediation standards for 1,1’-biphenyl, cyanide, and nitrobenzene (non-residential sites only) decreased by more than an order of magnitude. Property owners or parties otherwise responsible for sites with an NFA or RAO for these constituents should seek advice regarding the need for further remediation, as the failure to do so could lead to penalties from NJDEP or difficult questions from prospective purchasers performing due diligence if the property is offered for sale.

Whether an environmental investigation recently has begun or a remediation has been completed for many years, parties responsible for property with historic fill or property impacted by the other constituents mentioned in this article should consider the impact of the new soil remediation standards on their obligations under New Jersey law.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How perfumes and inferior masking agents messes with your hormones

Although many of us love our signature scent, it likely contains chemicals that may wreck havoc on our hormone function. I'm not suggesting we ditch fragrances, but it’s important to know what we are putting on our bodies and to be smart consumers.

Here’s what every woman needs to know about perfume, its impact on hormones, and how to find safer scents:

1. Phthalates are hiding in synthetic perfumes.

Phthalates are associated with serious health issues, but you won’t find them listed on the labels. Ingredients in perfumes are considered a trade secret, so manufacturers can hide hundreds of chemicals under the term “fragrance.” The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found phthalates in 70% of the perfumes they tested, but they weren't listed on any of the labels.

2. Phthalates are known hormone disruptors.

We’ve heard that hormone disruptors are bad, but what exactly do they do?

A hormone disruptor is a synthetic chemical that when absorbed into the body acts like a hormone. Phthalates effect our hormones by either mimicking or blocking our bodies natural hormones, which leads to disruption of the body’s normal functions. Our bodies produce small amounts of hormones every day, so even slight variations in hormone levels can lead to problems like infertility, metabolic issues, breast cancer, birth defects, diabetes, obesity and more. A recent study from Brigham and Women's Hospital linked phthalates to an increased risk for preterm birth.

3. Wearing perfume effects the health of those around you

When we wear perfume we are increasing the levels of those around us in addition to our personal levels.

For the men in our life, increased phthalate levels have been linked to infertility and decreased sperm count.

For our children, phthalates have been linked to obesity, asthma, behavioral problems, genital changes in boys and early puberty in girls.

A big price to pay for smelling pretty?

4. Avoiding perfume is the most effective way to decrease phthalate exposure.

A recent study tested the urine of pregnant women and found women who used perfume had phthalate concentrations 167 percent higher than non-users.

5. There are natural alternatives (that you will love!).

Avoiding phthalate-loaded perfumes doesn’t mean we have to forgo beautiful scents. Natural perfumes made from essential oils and botanical ingredients are free of synthetic fragrances and other chemicals. Read the labels and look for brands that list natural oils, plants, or specifically state they don’t contain phthalates. Any time you see the ingredient “fragrance” listed on a label, assume phthalates are also present.

Are synthetic perfumes worth the risk? Getting the phthalates out of our bodies means a reduced risk of serious health issues. By choosing natural perfumes we can make a big difference in our exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals, and to those around us. Small changes in the products we use does make a difference.

Strong Masking fragrance , more complaints, landfill closed

Continuing problems at Esabli Landfill in Nari has had another set back as the Environmental Authority has canceled the license of the group involved in managing the site. Clamite Johannes ,  MD of Camak Group , said that after the weekly meeting with the Environmental Authority he was issued with a canceled license to operate writ.  "We believed we were doing the right thing"  he said.
This all happened as they started using a concentrated perfume on the site which was suppose to mask the odors, instead created more complaints.   

With increasing urbanisation putting additional pressure on landfill sites in urban areas, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has taken the first step towards documenting what it considers “undoubtedly the most complex” of all air pollution problems — odour. Urban landfill sites with biodegradable waste in sprawling cities are a major source of odour pollution.
“Our country is very big and there are no standards as yet on how to go about measuring odour, monitoring it or setting parameters for odour pollution,” a senior CPCB official told The Indian Express. Ambient standards are hard to come by, like for air or noise pollution, “the database is non-existent”, the official said.
In early September the CPCB released ‘Odour Monitoring and Management in Urban Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill Sites’, nine years after it first came up with guidelines calling for “accurate, precise and acceptable” measurement of odour, and a need to come up with a database of information to capture the magnitude of odour pollution.

The Centre’s Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, identified odour as a “public nuisance”. The CPCB official said the standards in place are all laid down by foreign countries. “These are not applicable to India since the characteristics of the garbage are very different here,” he said. “This is the first step to even understand how to go about measuring and understanding odour pollution.”
The 2017 guidelines use East Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill site as a “pilot study”, “which recognises the diverse climatic zones of our vast country, hence odour surveys at MSW landfill sites cannot be generalised but to be assessed on a case-to-case basis, taking into account the unique regional — temporal and spatial influences of each MSW landfill site,” the guidelines note.

They reiterate recommendations from the 2008 guidelines, calling for a green belt around landfill sites with selection of “appropriate plant species for vegetation cover” to assist in reducing odour pollution. They also suggest the need for installation of sensor-based continuous odour measurement systems that are currently in place for air, water and noise pollution.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App


GECA makes it easier to care about our planet and people

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The GECA ecolabel is fast becoming one of the most reliable sources for consumers looking to reduce their environmental impact. By using world-class standards, we’ve ensured you can rely on the quality and environmental performance of a product wherever you see the GECA ecolabel.

Every certified product, service and material is independently and rigorously tested

We also understand that you want to protect your family and those around you, which is why we address the impacts that products have on human health as well. We ensure that our certified products consider the effects of toxic chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or carcinogenic substances on human health.
We care about the conditions in which certified products are manufactured too, which is why GECA’s standards consider the social impacts of our certified products, including safer and more ethical working conditions.

We make it easier for consumers to make good choices

By educating consumers about their choices and raising awareness of brands that are actively looking after the environment, we’re working towards a greener future for everyone.
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