Clarecastle – Clean to Shell Phase
We were employed to carry out the ‘Clean to Shell’ phase at the Clarecastle pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Clarecastle, Ireland, separating the decontamination process from the demolition activity, to facilitate a safer and more efficient demolition phase.
The facility was established in 1974 and covered 36 hectares of land overlooking the Fergus River in Clarecastle, County Clare. Operations at the site ceased in March 2020.  The focus of the decontamination activities in the Clean to Shell Phase was within the former production and pilot plant buildings.  By carrying out a ‘Clean to Shell’ phase and separating the decontamination process, only the main process vessels remained, resulting in a safer and efficient demolition phase.  The process and productions buildings contained a vast array of chemical process equipment and materials.  While the client carried out limited cleaning and decommissioning to remove chemical materials from these systems, significant residues and contamination remained. 
Technical challenges
A colour marking system was used to highlight contaminated equipment and pipelines, directly identifying contamination issues at the working face.
To prepare for demolition, all systems were required to be “openloop”. 

The process lines and chemical supply lines were checked and broken under controlled conditions as a preliminary step to the decontamination works.  The aim was to remove the remaining traps of liquid in pipelines. A specialist decontamination team led by a decontamination technical specialist surveyed the pipelines on an area-by-area basis. They opened valves, unbolted flanges, cold cutting/drilling holes to low points, removing drain plugs under controlled conditions, in order to capture and recover the remaining liquid contents for disposal.  

Spot-testing using pH test kits assisted in this process to identify the contents. Oil drains were utilised to recover bulk oils for disposal and duct works, and dust collector systems were inspected to enable assessment for decontamination. 

At this stage, a red/blue colour coding system was introduced to highlight further cleaning requirements or suitability for passing into the scrap chain, an effective method that has been reliably used on previous decontamination projects.

Specific decontamination crews were assigned based upon the decontamination techniques employed on a case-by-case basis.  

Various protective methods were employed, including familiarisations, colour coded overalls, clean and dirty working zones with local changing stations, emergency drench showers and showering and changing before leaving the site.  

A significant risk throughout this phase was the essential electrical systems that remained in operation throughout the decontamination works. We mitigated this risk by developing an accurate understanding of the locations of the live electrical assets, the development of detailed risk assessments and safe systems of work and carrying out the works with sensitivity and due diligence in collaboration with the client’s engineers.   

 The approach taken ensured that the number one priority was to protect life.  

Works within each zone involved final decommissioning, de-plant to remove and clear non-contaminated equipment, decontamination and clearance of contaminated items, packing/shipping of contaminated waste for incineration overseas and removal of floor tiles and screed surface. 
Any activity involving potentially flammable materials or explosive atmospheres were subject to a risk assessment and managed through a permit to work procedure in strict accordance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR).  
Dealing with explosive atmospheres (ATEX)

A high-level joined-up approach was instigated to understand the ATEX constraints starting with desktop studies, production of risk assessments and the individual evaluation of each ATEX area and system identifying any potential threat.  

All findings were recorded in our explosion protection document and were used to determine the required safety measures whilst carrying out decontamination.   

Staff working in high-risk areas were thoroughly trained regarding the hazards, best practices and methods, and how to take the necessary steps in the worst-case scenario with simulations carried out to provide psychological and technical preparation.  

Additionally, all internal lighting was replaced with ATEX-rated temporary lighting, gas checks carried out on a prestart walk each day, use of gas monitors for each crew, alarms, ATEX rated PPE and cold cutting processes.  

All site staff and operatives underwent a familiarisation and training regime to ensure they were aware of the hazards and measures being used to provide appropriate protection while working in the ATEX zones.  


Waste management

After reviewing the client’s Directive K24; Waste Management, we embedded their waste management principles into our approach to waste management on the project:  

  • Avoiding the production of waste
  • Company-wide goals to reduce general and chemical waste
  • Systematic handling of waste to eliminate risks to humans and the environment
  • Waste handling in compliance with applicable laws and regulations
  • Responsible disposal of waste

A full-time logistics and waste manager carried out the management of waste activities. They were responsible for the production and maintenance of the site waste management plan (SWMP) in compliance with Waste Management Acts 1996-2011, associate regulations and the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) waste with the WEEE Directive 2003, ensuring a “cradle to grave” process.  

Checks and measures were put in place to ensure all waste was traceable throughout the project, i.e. GPS tracking. Equipment with IP (Intellectual Property Rights) was identified then physically destroyed, with the entire process clearly documented and evidenced. 

Summary of service 
Familiarisation training
Final Decommissioning
De-plant, remove and clearance of non-contaminated equipment at low level to improve access to contaminated items
Decontamination and clearance of contaminated items
Packing/shipping contaminated waste for specialist incineration
Remove floor tiles and screed surface; package waste
Remaining risks evaluated, and a formal list of equipment items that will remain in the building for demolition
Pre hand back walk down with remaining risks evaluation and snagging
Certification of scope completion client sign off