Environmentally responsible telegraph pole storage

Utility companies across the UK use wooden telegraph poles in abundance. However, as winter storms are becoming more severe, the demand for the poles is increasing because of the damage they can suffer. A major issue is that suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand. Creosote, a complex mix of chemicals, is used to prevent the wooden poles from rotting, thereby prolonging their lifespans. RSK Response was asked for help by a client wanting to store creosote-treated poles responsibly.

In the past, a tree was cut down to produce a pole, which was then treated with creosote wood preservative and left to dry and mature for several years. Now, with increasing demand, the maturing time is shorter. Consequently, the poles are often delivered to customers wet or prone to weeping creosote, especially in higher, ambient temperatures. This can cause problems when they are stored before use. Correct storage of poles will prevent any leachate from running off into the local environment, thereby avoiding pollution. Consequently, many utility companies have strategically located pole stores.

RSK Response was contacted by a client that produces such poles and had several proposed pole stores around its estate. Working with the client and its designated contractor, a storage bund was built with a drainage system to allow rainwater to pass through an absorbent filter before discharge. RSK Response’s role was to establish the effectiveness of the filter in absorbing the creosote.

An RSK Response team collected and analysed bund and discharge water samples to identify any creosote components. Our analysis of the water samples showed a decrease in contaminants after discharge, thus proving the system worked. Through RSK’s extensive network of specialist suppliers, an alternative filter from GPC Clear Solutions was also tested. This new filter proved to be equally effective at reducing contaminants in the effluent.

Once further analysis across the seasons had demonstrated continued filter effectiveness, RSK Response supported the client’s successful trade effluent discharge consent with the local sewerage undertaker, which enabled discharge of the filtered effluent to the main sewer. Owing to the project’s success, we are expecting to participate in similar projects.