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Drains, Drums, Tanks & Bunds is a training video, produced to help reduce the risk of pollution from the storage and handling of materials that could cause contamination of land or watercourses.

 We made Drains, Drums Tanks & Bunds as a short no-nonsense training video in a documentary style but it could have been made as a farce of epic proportions. During the shooting of the programme we explored a world built on a comedy of errors.  Let’s take bunds for example. A bund is a containment, such as a wall that surrounds tanks or a storage area, which is designed to temporarily retain any leaks until repairs can be undertaken. It may be several feet high, or no more than a single brick. But it should be constructed to retain the whole of the drum or tank contents if there is a leak - with an additional allowance of at least ten-percent for any rainwater or fire fighting foam that could enter the bund. All taps, filling points and joints should also be within the bund.

It sounds so simple but very few, if any bunds, on any of the dozens of sites we visited during the making of the video, were entirely intact. Most of them fitted into one of two distinct comic classifications, which we dubbed the ‘siege bund’ and the ‘colander bund’.


This is a fortress like, four-walled bund, intended for drum storage, however little thought has been given to forklift access during design or construction. Nothing can get in or out of a siege bund. This kind of bund can be easily identified, as drums of material are usually stored against one of the walls on the outside of the bund.  Where the company employs a management team that emphasises creative thinking, the four-walled siege bund is overcome by turning it into a three-walled bund. Removing one of the walls entirely is an immediate improvement as it enables forklift access and removes the problem of having to pump out rainwater. Unfortunately, like many an old fortress the purpose of this kind of bund is long forgotten... until there is a leak. This is a result of Murphy’s third law which states: ‘If anything can’t go wrong on its own, someone will make it go wrong.’ combined with Gilb’s Law of Unreliability: ‘Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable’.


These are also known as ‘perforated’ bunds and they have been modified over the years by hole-fitting engineers. This rather shy body of professionals specialise in giant sieve manufacture and minimalist brick sculpture. Their objective is to remove as many bricks as possible while still leaving the bund standing. The holes are created to pass more holes through them in the form of pipes, which can carry any form of liquid or gas or sometimes nothing at all, for no apparent reason, except in an emergency. These holes become invisible to anyone working on site, even to hole engineers who are always willing to provide more.

Where hole engineers have been employed from the very beginning of the bund construction it will be fitted over another hole in the ground, usually a surface water drain to improve the efficiency of rainwater removal. Extra holes will also be fitted between the courses, between the walls and between the ground and the walls. Materials will be selected according to their porosity, with breezeblock being an all time favourite.  Any adjustable holes such as valves or potential holes such as joints and couplings, are always fitted on the outside of the bund to maximise the colander effect. As ridiculous as these descriptions may appear, they are typical of many of the containment facilities we have featured in the video.

Drains, Drums Tanks and Bunds - Directors Comments

The Importance of Training

Without proper training and awareness, the results can be devastating. What appears at first to be a minor concern, can turn into a full blown crisis for any business that stores materials without an adequate training programme.  Where a void is left in the minds of those responsible the imagination will rush in to fill it.  For example, one company had a serious fuel spillage, which spread across the yard producing a pond of diesel. The responsibility to manage the problem was given to the new lad who had recently joined the workforce. He was simply told to ‘get rid of it’.  So he did... by setting fire to it. This in turn caused a very visible air pollution incident, which resulted in prosecution.

Of course the spillage shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. Which takes us back to containment; why are bunds often left to fall into such a terrible state? Part of the answer is that those on site often don’t understand the function of a bund. It is just assumed that they do but when they are asked, the answer is often: ‘To stop vehicles driving into the tank of course.’

There is a similar ignorance about drains, most people simply don’t know where their site drains go or why. Most are under the impression that all drains run to the sewage works. There are basically two types of drain: surface water drains for rainwater runoff… and foul water drains for process effluent and sewage.

Surface water drains are designed to take rainwater and prevent flooding. They usually run directly to a river, or canal which can be some distance away from the site. If any oils or chemicals, or just about anything else for that matter, find their way down these drains they can pollute controlled waters.

Some surface water drains, known as soakaways, discharge into the ground. If pollutants get into these drains they can contaminate groundwater and the surrounding land.

Foul water drains on the other hand can run to an on-site effluent treatment plan or in most cases, to the sewage works. So it’s essential to know exactly where drains run to and what condition they are in.  

And what about wrong connections? Building, maintenance work and development by previous owners, can result in a complex network of drains, often very different from the original plans and yet it only needs one fault to cause a problem. For example, sinks connected to a surface water drain instead of the sewer. Anything that's poured down the sink could pollute a watercourse. And what’s going down the foul drain? High strength effluent can dissolve some drain materials so you might find that you not only have a missing drain but a contaminated land problem. Or it might just be rainwater that’s going to the foul sewer but are you paying for its disposal?  All too often it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Drains, Drums Tanks & Bunds’ is a solution that bypasses the excuses.

It’s designed as a fast, low cost method of reducing the risk where training resources and time are limited. The objective is to reduce pollution from the storage and handling of materials that could cause contamination of land or watercourses.

This programme runs for 15 minutes and has been produced in two parts for flexibility and to accommodate individual trainer preferences and requirements.

Part one runs only two minutes and can be used for interactive group training sessions. It highlights several examples of bad practice and invites the audience to spot them. The trainer can stop the video at this point and discuss the examples with the group. This will provide an opportunity for the trainer to assess the existing level of knowledge of the audience, stimulate discussion, add interest to the session and help with motivation prior to running part two. This is also an opportunity to compare the examples in the video with actual situations on your own site.

Part two is the main body of the programme. When time is tight it can be screened without showing part one.

It covers:

Preventing the pollution of controlled waters

Identifying and protecting drains

Good housekeeping

Storage and handling of materials

Emergencies and spill kits

Bunds – purpose, inspection, maintenance, capacity and design

 See also:  Water Pollution Incidents - The Unofficial Laws

Tomorrow is what we make it

£120 + VAT

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