Siltbuster Minimises the Environmental Impact of The Raising of The Costa Concordia

19 Sep 2013

Innovative water treatment specialist, Siltbuster Limited, has helped the international wreckage recovery company, Titan Salvage, as it recovers The Costa Concordia. Siltbuster, which is based in Wales, has supplied specialist equipment designed to minimise the environmental impact of what is the largest salvage operation in history.

The $569 million Costa Concordia is the largest passenger cruise ship ever to be sunk. It ran aground on 13th January 2012 at Isola del Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany during a seven day luxury cruise. It had 3,206 passengers and over 1,000 employees onboard. The high profile incident resulted in the loss of 32 lives and received global media attention. So all eyes are on the complex salvage operation, which was awarded in April 2012 to an American-Italian consortium comprised of Micoperi and Titan Salvage.

The scale of the salvage task was daunting and during many months of careful planning it became clear to Titan Salvage that the work presented a big environmental challenge. Complex stabilisation and anchoring systems needed to be successfully installed, requiring a considerable amount of bore-holing on the sea bed. This in turn could result in large volumes of sediment-laden water being dispersed around the bore holes, with potentially damaging effects to the local ecosystem.

Titan Salvage contacted Siltbuster as it has a reputation for developing tailored water treatment solutions for unusual situations. Formed in 2003, Siltbuster has carved a name for itself in the specialist world of water treatment. It has worked with companies as wide-ranging as Amec and Babcock International Group. It has helped tackle the dirty water produced by construction work on projects all over the UK, from Birmingham New Street station, Crossrail and Devonport Royal Dockyard through to the construction of Airbus Operation UK’s factory. It also has a sister company which provides water treatment systems and advice to major companies such as Heinz, Premier Foods, Bulmers, Heineken, Chivas Brothers, Nestle and First Milk and works with all the major utilities.

Dr Richard Coulton, environmental engineering expert and founder of Siltbuster says: “We’ve been involved in high profile projects before, and enjoy setting our specialists to work on unusual situations but I have to say that this one is more high profile and unusual than most!”

Coulton elaborates on why silt is such an environmentally challenging issue: “It is natural to find silt and sediment in water. However, a sudden release of large amounts of sediment could harmfully affect water quality, damaging fish and the habitat that fish depend on.”

This was indeed a potential problem with The Costa Concordia salvage. The silt produced by the operation, if released into the sea, could damage gills, affect migration and make it hard for fish to feed and breed. For instance it could block the small spaces between gravel particles on the sea bed, preventing the free flow of oxygenated water. This could suffocate any eggs developing in the gravel, rendering the sea beds unsuitable for egg incubation.

After a call straight from the Salvage Contractor Siltbuster’s engineers recommended their Siltbuster HB40R water clarifier unit to prevent adverse impact on the sensitive marine environment. The clarifier unit was used to treat the accumulation of sediment from the 30 boreholes that Titan Salvage drilled adjacent to the 950ft submerged steel carcass. This high performance clarifier is capable of not only receiving the flow of sediment-laden water generated by the bore-holing, but also captures and stores the material within a single hopper at the bottom of the clarifier. The collected slurry can be pumped off for further dewatering while, at the same time, discharging the treated water safely back into the environment. The Siltbuster HB40R was shipped to Tuscany and having performed well, handling up to 40m³ of sediment laden water per hour, a further 3 similar units were deployed, with 2 smaller HB20 Clarifiers hired in temporarily to cover a peak in operations

Dr Coulton concludes: “It’s great to think that technology developed and built at our Monmouth facility, in the UK has supported one of the most high profile projects in salvage history and helping to protect this precious Italian coastline.”