Van Walt Environmental Connect Magazine Issue 3

Van Walt Environmental C O N N E C T

October 2017 Issue 3

Prison Break “Logger for Life” Fly me to the Moon From Planes to Plains


Tomahawk Lagoon Site Visit

vanwalt CONNECT


Prison Break


A “Logger for Life”


Online, Onsite, Onboard, Ongoing – with Van Walt!


Archaeology Rocks!


There is nothing quite so satisfying, as owner of a business, to go out in the field and to discover that your staff has installed equipment in a beautifully professional way and that the equipment is working to specification and giving the customer the data that he or she requires. I’ve written about the Cardrona ski-fields before and in mid-winter of this year in the Southern Hemisphere, it was again my pleasure to inspect the work carried out by Dirk and Casey, to see, on that beautifully crisp winter’s day, the snow cannons spraying the pistes. The fields were packed, even early in the season with visitors from Australia, China, Japan and a dozen other nations and they come here because of the quality of the snow. Making snow is the easy part. You connect a snowmaker to a source of water and the machine does the rest. Getting the water is the hard part. All down the mountain, there are streams that carry melt and rain water. Cardrona chooses a few good yielding ones. So it starts at the streams where the take off of water is, but that has to be monitored to make sure that abstraction meets the requirements of the regulator. Hence the flumes which measure the flow rate. From the stream, through massive pumps, the water travels up mountain to a reservoir and the inflow is measured. From the reservoir it travels to the snow makers with further measuring points for flow and volume data and at every stage the regulator is copied in so they can monitor compliance. And the hardware? Flumes, high accuracy level sensors, flow meters all synching with each other and telemetrised to the data bank hourly.

LevelSCOUT Training in Tasiast


How can we help you?

Remote Monitoring anywhere in the World A versatile, accurate data transfer system that takes water parameter readings from a sensor(s) on-site and delivers them to your desktop, tablet or mobile. Data that could protect property, life and deliver substantial cost savings.


Is your pump racing fit?


Future-proofing the jewel in Kent’s natural crown


and the winner is ...


Passive Sampling – not just for the brave!


From planes to plains: the TDR Technique


From construction to conservation


Fly me to the Moon


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Core blimey! Water level a surprise

Hamish now sits at his desk facing a giant screen looking at the data so that he knows when and how much snow he can make.


Rory Flood - From student to Dr


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Rhizome, Rhizon, philosophical concept!

Tomahawk Lagoon Site Visit

On a beautiful summer’s day in Dunedin, Dirk and I visited the Tomahawk Lagoon as part of an exciting, interesting and valuable community project. The Tomahawk Lagoons are two closely connected lagoons in near proximity to the city and there is a high level of interest in the health of the lagoons within the surrounding community. The name of the lake is not derived from the Tomahawk weapon - it is believed to be an anglicised word taken from the Maori phrase “tomo haka”, which means dancing on a gravesite. The upper lagoon has a walking track and is popular amongst many locals for activities including dog walking, fishing and viewing the birdlife which frequent its waters. Otago University has been studying these lagoons for a number of years as part of undergraduate and graduate student projects. However, the lagoons are not currently part of an official lake health monitoring programme, even though they are part of a Department of Conservation wildlife reserve, which is where the idea of a community project has come into fruition led by Environmental Consultants Otago (ECOTAGO). The project also involves students from three schools in the area and a team of experts including Dr Marc Schallenberg, a freshwater scientist from Otago University, Dr. Jonathan Kim, an environmental chemist and high school science teacher, and Andrew Innes, a retired high school science teacher. The day we arrived marked the Tomahawk Lagoon Lake Health Monitoring project’s first birthday and a new group of eager, attentive students from Tahuna Intermediate, Bayfield High School, Columba College, Otago Girls High School and John McGlashan College were given this fantastic opportunity to study the lagoon and hopefully to encourage the next generation of environmentalists. Marc begun the day with a presentation explaining the history of the lagoon and how past studies and observations have shown the lagoon to be cyclical, every two to three years the lagoon alternates between a healthy and an unhealthy state. An aim of this project is to involve the students into finding out why this is occurring. It was also an ideal time to restart the project as the previously healthy lake was beginning to show signs of returning to an unhealthy state with an increase in algal blooms. Some algal blooms are caused by cyanobacteria and can be a significant health risk to humans, dogs, livestock and wildlife, this isn’t great news for the visitors who frequent the lagoon. Toxic algal blooms have been recorded in a number of rivers and lakes and is a hot topic in the media in New Zealand and government / councils seem to be at a loss about what they are going to do about them. I am proud to be part of this project to contribute and educate as to the options for protecting our waterways. After the presentation by Marc the students were taken out to the lagoon and were taught how to take accurate, representative samples, use analytical equipment, make observations and record these to collect meaningful, repeatable data from the lake. Each school was given a site to take charge of and will be responsible for returning once every two weeks throughout the school year. We were able

is an important indicator of the abundance of lake weed. The swans follow the abundance of the weed among shallow lakes and lagoons, so by taking note of the swans in the lagoon you will have an idea of what is going on beneath the water. The plan for the data is to follow in last year’s students footsteps, who presented their 2016 results at an information evening which was open to the whole community and was described by everyone who attended as very informative, interesting and a great success.

We were given this opportunity to not only lend our expertise but also to deploy our Exo Sonde in the lagoon to log data at 15 minute intervals for 4-6 weeks to provide a more in-depth analysis of the lake’s DO, pH, Conductivity, Temperature and ORP. A particularly important parameter to study once the Sonde has been retrieved will be the DO - large fluctuations in DO over 24 hours is another indication of an unhealthy lake. Plants such as lake weed produce oxygen and an overabundance of lake weed can lead to DO super

to assist the students in calibrating their instruments as ECOTAGO had their own YSI Pro Plus and a YSI ODO to measure Dissolved Oxygen (DO), pH, Conductivity, Temperature and Oxidation Reduction Potential. This gave them an insight in to how well their instruments are behaving. ECOTAGO seemed especially pleased to have us there to compare results as another verification of the results they were recording. The physical observations taken by the students were very interesting, I learnt that counting the number of swans 05


Tomahawk Lagoon Site Visit What is success?

And how do we measure it?

saturation during the day and consequently very low levels at night when all the plants are respiring. This can cause stress to the native animals found in the lake. Too many nutrients entering the lake from outside sources can cause the lake weed and algae to flourish and upset the natural ecosystem of the lagoon, and we were about to be shown first-hand how this can happen. As the day was coming to a close we observed a neighbouring farmer fertilizing a paddock adjacent to the lake with what was either lime or superphosphate. Common practice in New Zealand farming is to fertilise the grass with superphosphate to enhance grass growth. The main ingredients of super are calcium, sulphur and phosphorus, these are known to feed the algae and the lake weed. The

timing of the farmer was extraordinary as the EXO Sonde had been deployed just hours before, the data collected will provide the team of students and experts invaluable information into how the extra nutrients spread next to the lake by the farmer, will affect the health of the lake. Talking to all of the individuals involved with the project has provided us with a greater understanding of who is involved in the health of waterways in New Zealand. I have learnt a lot from this day, especially with how the YSI and EXO are used out in the field and this is invaluable to me as I can now appreciate what our rental customers are doing out onsite.

Success – “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, “the good or bad outcome of an undertaking”

Our clients tell us they want to be successful – but what does that mean and how do they know that they have achieved it? There is no one measure of success nor is there a timeframe for success and it will most likely look different for each and every one of us: achieving a certain level of profit that enables them to have the lifestyle they want or a level of turnover; creating a legacy for future generations or merely winning one particular sale. Mostly success is only achieved if a combination of factors are realised – it’s no good having fantastic sales and profits one year if that isn’t sustainable, or a significant number of clients are lost or key staff leave. Measurement is crucial in securing success. Without accurate measurement the business won’t know with certainty its starting point; how far it has progressed and, most importantly, it won’t get the warning signs when things aren’t quite going to plan. Financials – timely, accurate management accounts so the key decision makers have a snapshot of the business finances as at today. With comparisons to historical figures and forecasts for the future, trends can be seen which indicate the health of the business. Accounts that show which products and services are selling and delivering acceptable profits so action can then be taken to address things quickly. However, the most crucial financial indicator is cash flow. Increasing sales and great profits are no good if they are not converted to cash because without cash, sustainability and the ability to invest for the future is in jeopardy. Customer retention - if your customers aren’t satisfied after buying from your business, they probably won’t purchase again. An interesting statistic to bear in mind - an unhappy customer is likely to tell 15 or more people while a happy customer will only tell six. Customer feedback is vital and it can help you improve. Customer surveys are a useful but the most important indicator is retention. Growing customer base – following on from retention is a growing customer base. Businesses need to keep what they’ve got and grow their base. An expanding customer base indicates that your marketing efforts are focussed in the right areas as long term success is dependent on delivering new customers. Employee satisfaction - if you are financially prosperous does that make for a successful firm? Not really, and this is where the ‘emotional’ elements of measuring success step in. This is far harder to measure accurately. Employee satisfaction is crucial to the long term stability and success What to measure?

Dirk van Walt – Van Walt New Zealand

One of the consequences of abundant lake weed If there is a lot of plant biomass in a shallow lake and whether it be algae or macrophytes (an aquatic plant large enough to be seen by the naked eye), that plant biomass will be photosynthesising during the day and respiring at night. On a warm, calm, sunny day, the plants will produce oxygen faster than they can diffuse oxygen out of the lake water into the atmosphere. This can lead to a supersaturated oxygen concentration in relation to the saturation point of water at the in situ temperature and barometric pressure. The reverse will happen on a calm night, when all the plant biomass (plus all of the heterotrophic biomass including bacteria, fish, invertebrates) will be consuming oxygen faster via respiration than DO can be diffused into the lake from the atmosphere, resulting in a typical DO sag that is common in lakes in the early hours before dawn. If there is some wind, waves and turbulence, the magnitude (amplitude) of this cycle will diminish because the lake will be better able to equilibrate with the atmosphere faster. The same patterns can occur with pH (high in the day, low at night) in very productive lakes although different mechanism to do with inorganic carbon equilibria are concerned.

of a business. Happy employees are more productive, develop better relationships with customers and will go that extra mile for the business and its customers. Finding accurate measures of employee satisfaction is more difficult but strategies might include staff retention rates, regular staff surveys, progression and development of your team. In conclusion, success means different things to different people and so there is no one set of measures. Ideally identify what success looks like for you; agree your measures of success; accurately monitor in a timely way and take action. The goal posts will constantly move so therefore must your measures. Enjoy your success!

Sharon Ward, Partner - Roffe Swayne 07


Prison Break

trenches for the cable conduit. None of us wanted to spend more time in the gloomy surrounds, made gloomier when we did a spot of sightseeing; the graffiti, particularly poignant on the walls of the debtor’s section of the prison, some dating back 100 years. As soon as the batteries were connected and we saw the data streaming in we legged it out of there toward the restorative glades of Surrey. The installations have been reporting diligently and boringly consistently since that day. It seems that they are adhering to the strict discipline of the prison and that they

too are afraid of being out of step with the prison’s rules and regulations . The vanwalt CONNECT systems are ideal for these situations. Robust, accurate, flexible. If plan A doesn’t work then that flexibility will allow for plans B and C and more and soon, these systems will be available under our “Loggers for Life” scheme.

Vincent van Walt, Van Walt Ltd

I failed my first year at University. I was reading Law in Luxembourg and to this day I only remember the first part of the first page of the “Code Napoleon”: “Nul n’est censé ignorer la Loi” which roughly translates that you’re not supposed to ignore the law. Not bad for 18 months of partying. It was my habit to sit at the very back of the lecture theatre and one day, during a constitutional law lecture, I leaned back on my chair and my head accidentally hit the light switches and all the lights came on. The professor acidly commented that it was the only sign of brilliance that he had ever seen from Mr van Walt. To the disappointment of all; including parents and lecturers I opted out in my retake year and my father then suggested that I might consider taking a job and to become a more useful citizen. It was not until much later, at a relatively mature 25, and a marriage, one child and another on the way that I went back to University and actually managed to graduate. But the point of this introduction is that there was one other episode during this quasi academic time that satisfied my curious mind and that was the visit to a prison and the opportunity of chatting to some inmates; just those very people who had chosen to ignore that one law which I managed to remember. It made so much of an impression on me that I immediately joined the Luxembourg branch of Amnesty International as a volunteer but it was not until December 2016 that I finally made it back to prison. Underground archaeological remains are preserved by water. Left remains dry out and they will rot and disintegrate. Historic England’s publication “Preserving Archaeological Remains” explains this well: “…almost all types of archaeological material will be much better preserved where oxygen is excluded, in saturated (waterlogged) deposits. In the absence of oxygen, most soil fauna (insects, moulds and micro-organisms) and fungi which feed on organic matter cannot operate. The corrosion of iron is also reduced in anoxic environments…”

to take archaeology into consideration when determining planning applications. As a result of this the archaeologists, by way of Keith Wilkinson and Tom Ball from the Winchester University Archaeological Unit and Cotswolds Archaeology, among others, were called to make an assessment of the impact of a proposed development at Her Majesty’s Prison Gloucester. Much has already been reported in the press (just Google Gloucester Prison Medieval Castle and you can spend an afternoon of fascinating reading) but in brief, there were two medieval castles in Gloucester’s history, the latter built on top of the earlier one. The first one even gets a mention in the Doomsday Book and the later one was demolished in the late 18th century to make way for the prison which closed in 2013. HMP Gloucester claims fame for two notorious inmates, Pierce McCan, one of the founders of Sinn Fein and a Major Herbert Armstrong who achieved notoriety as the only solicitor in the history of the UK to have been hanged for murder. He attempted to murder a rival with arsenic and later he was charged with the murder of his wife. As to the small packets of white powder he had in his pockets at the time of his arrest, he claimed that he always carried some arsenic to kill patches of dandelions. Be that as it may, it is obvious that there is some important archaeology getting in the way of the development and clearly this has to be protected. Sensors were placed to record the water levels to alert of any fall which could signal potential damage to the important remains. December in the UK provides short days with little light and only very few spells of respite from the drizzle and that feeling of gloom was accentuated as soon as I stepped within the walls of HMP Gloucester. Hard to believe that there were inmates here just 3 years ago. They really can’t have had a very fun time there. I made the initial site visit as short as possible determining the locations of the monitoring wells, measuring signal strength (pretty dismal) and decided that any solar panel to top up the batteries wasn’t going to stand a chance on north facing walls. Armed with that information I couldn’t get out of there quickly enough. The installation day came and went. We did the job in under two hours! Even Dr Keith Wilkinson was conscripted to help dig some

A “Logger for Life”

When is good enough just that, good enough? And if it is good enough at the beginning of a project, is it still good enough at the middle or at the end of the project? Take loggers. They are ten-a-penny and not a month goes by without seeing another coming to the increasingly congested market. They look more or less the same, within a category they do the same thing and even the specifications are matched by the manufacturers. So, choice is made according to other criteria. The reliability of supplier, the “typical” accuracy which is often so different from the specifications, the weight, the track record, durability and so on. Over the years we’ve sold thousands of loggers but we’ve seen only a few hundred come back (from a variety of brands), for a “performance check”. Normally we only see these because the data has been queried or because there was a discrepancy between the logger and dip meter value. And then the question always arises as to when the item had started to drift or mis-record. It is my job to review these things. When we talk about water quality instruments we talk about verification and calibration but this is rarely discussed in the context of loggers. Is this because this is a non-issue? Not in my world. I believe it might be because of an implied sense of security and therefore to my review as to how we would like things to progress. All things considered, loggers for the determination of Level and Electrical Conductivity, (as opposed to

other parameters such as pH, Redox, DO, Turbidity…) are pretty stable and reliable but they should still be periodically checked. I’d set the period at 6 or 12 months for those two parameters. And so we come to our new concept of a “Logger for Life”. My vision of a logger for life is one whereby the customer never has to purchase the equipment and it works on the basis an “exchange” at each verification frequency. For example, 12 months for a water level logger, 6 months for a combined Level and EC logger and 6 weeks for a multiparameter installation. A replacement unit is sent to the customer who exchanges with his or her current unit and returns the original to us. We verify and if necessary recalibrate and that unit then becomes the replacement for another occasion. Essentially this mirrors our rental service but extended for longer terms which will usually be the length of a project, anything from 12 months to five years or longer. We are currently creating a price list which will include quite a number of items for this scheme; from our water level logger: LevelSCOUT, research grade vented systems for surface water, through to multiparameter systems and with logging or remote data forwarding with our very new vanwalt CONNECT datalogger with telemetric options. We will be phasing in the products within the “Logger for Life” program and this service should be starting toward mid-October. Meanwhile however, I would be delighted for any feedback directly to me:

Loosely, in order to protect archaeological remains, as a material consideration, planning authorities are required

Vincent van Walt, Van Walt Ltd 09


Online, Onsite, Onboard, Ongoing – with Van Walt!

High quality

Everyone over the age of 30 knows that if you were to compare your IT skills with those of the average 12 year old – you would fall short. We live in an online age where the average person picks up their mobile device 85 times a day and up to every 6 seconds in the evening; we are regularly spending two in every 24 hours online on our smartphones and now 92% of the UK population use the internet and currently spend almost £1 in every £5 of their shopping online. As you know Van Walt offers equipment for onsite environmental and groundwater monitoring, measuring, collection and research – we have done so for more than 35 years. That’s not to say we don’t move with the times! We’re onboard with the very latest technology; from telemetry, data transfer modems, smart sensors and e-commerce, plus it’s true to say we want a share, albeit a very small share, of the £320bn – the figure online shopping is predicted to grow by in the next three years. Shopping is flourishing on the Internet. Over the last decade, e-commerce sales have grown an average 19% per year, far faster than offline retail. So while traditional retailers have been struggling to survive, forward-thinking online merchants have unleashed a wave of innovation that is improving the economics of e-commerce. It is also fair to say that online developments are ongoing because until recently, when it came to winning new customers e-tailers had relied mainly on search engine marketing (Google Ads) but now many recognise the value of search engine optimisation to drive free users to websites through natural search. SEO became an industry that everyone was keen to exploit but then social media burst onto the scene with the promise of more free (viral) traffic and, although many organisations still haven’t achieved meaningful sales from this channel, a growing number consider social media to be one of the most effective customer acquisition tactics for the future. What has also changed is the challenge to convert visitors to a website into buyers. In the past online retailers focused on

landing page optimisation by ensuring that the messaging and layout might entice visitors to buy. By streamlining the checkout process and supplying deep, relevant content, such as product specifications, photos, plus reviews that can help potential customers make buying decisions are also vital. So too is more traditional marketing techniques to boost conversions. Techniques like limited time or limited quantity offers, brand or product discovery, and product “story-telling” have also become more prevalent. You only have to look at our new LevelSCOUT film. The generation that grew up with the Internet is now in employment and has money to spend. These are the individuals who are comfortable buying online, using their smart phones. But after a lifetime of gaming, fast internet speeds and life-like, film quality graphics, these individuals have high expectations for a compelling online experience. But get the ‘bricks and mortar’ right so they can search for exactly what they want; make it convenient with easy price comparison, plenty of customer reviews and recommendations with the inevitable 24/7 access then – what still matters and is the bedrock of successful sales - a great customer experience, excellent customer care and value – is what will generate future successful sales. And for Van Walt the revolution in online is part of our strategy for the future. We continue to offer a wide range of equipment for onsite projects but increasingly we are incorporating the latest technology to deliver your data online without the need to visit site every time. We can now offer you an online shopping experience via our webshop where you can compare prices and place orders for rental items and purchase consumables and level loggers. It’s true we’re onboard with developing our online but also our onsite offerings as an ongoing, continuous process, so you can access our equipment whenever, however and whichever way best suits you!

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We have made it easier for you to order your rental equipment, compare prices and to work on your customers’ quotes with all the information you need in front of you

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Tracey Daley - Van Walt Ltd


Archaeology Rocks!

Van Walt has strong connections with the world of archaeology and is proud to list customers from archaeology departments from the top universities globally, some of the sector’s leading lights involved in conserving our nation’s heritage, to archaeological charities doing amazing work with very limited resources. We are proud to support such a diverse selection of professionals dedicated to the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology goes hand-in-hand with history. Without the discoveries from archaeology it would be more difficult for historians to give an accurate account of the past because archaeology widens our understanding of humans and their past interactions with objects and architecture. Previous misconceptions about archaeology: a hobby for the elite as a way to uncover priceless artefacts and explore vast and mysterious abandoned cities. A view largely endorsed by the hugely popular Indiana Jones films in which archaeology was portrayed as an exciting, lucrative vocation has, thankfully, changed. Thanks to the increase in programmes like Time Team and Meet the Ancestors there has been a huge upsurge in public interest and, at the same time, a realisation that archaeology is not just about retrieving the lost treasure and winning the heart of the beautiful girl, but much more about the hard work involved in carrying out the research, undertaking modern surveys, excavations and data processing. And that’s where Van Walt comes in. We supply the soil and sediment sampling equipment required to carefully and painstaking excavate a site. From hand augers for every type of soil condition, even spatulas for the most intricate of ‘digs’, to percussion window sampling systems to core down to depths of 10 m to take undisturbed samples of the soil structure to identify, for example what people were eating hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Increasingly we are also getting more and more involved in the supply of data for the long term research, preservation and conservation of sites and relics. Like our water quality telemetry system installed to record

water level, redox potential, pH, temperature and conductivity, where water level and redox potentials are considered the two critical parameters to record in order to assess the effectiveness of in situ preservation. TDR sensors used to monitor soil moisture in and around Glastonbury to ensure high levels of groundwater and even flooding do not destroy archaeological assets and our vanwalt CONNECT system to monitor groundwater levels on a site of a former prison in Gloucestershire, prior to the redevelopment of the location into exclusive homes. research equipment was our Dirty Weekend promotion. For every order placed before the year-end deadline we added the customers names to a prize draw to win 2 tickets for two days of action-packed archaeology: good, clean, dirty (muddy) fun! It seemed, whether you were directly involved in archaeology or not – you wanted to be! The lucky winner was Luke Beesley from the Hutton Institute. Keep an eye out for our next down and dirty promotion. If you want to get involved in archaeology and support, improve and celebrate the archaeological heritage of the UK and our participation in archaeological research way beyond Europe, worldwide in fact. To re-emphasise the positive benefits of engaging with culture, heritage and our environment so that even non-experts get to participate in and communities can take pride in their heritage, town and country - get involved. Visit a museum or archaeological site, volunteer on an excavation’ join a local archaeological group or club. In the UK the Council for British Archaeology http:// is a good place to start. An educational charity working throughout the UK to involve people in archaeology and to promote the appreciation and care of the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations. At the end of 2016 one of our most successful campaigns to foster sales of our soil and sediment

Go on: get down, get dirty sign up to find out more about archaeology in your area. Archaeology rocks!

Yvonne Coonan - Van Walt Ltd 13


LevelSCOUT Training in Tasiast Mauritania

Mauritania is somewhat off the beaten track. In fact, tell people that you are going to Mauritania and invariably you get the answer “Wow, lucky you, I hear Mauritius is wonderful”. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a vast country, predominantly desert and rich in mineral resources with a population of some 4 million and a quarter of those in the capital Nouakchott. It has borders with Western Sahara and Algeria to the northwest and northeast, Mali to the east and Senegal to the south. We had no opportunity of exploring Nouakchott so that has to wait for another opportunity but it is a flat, sprawling city on the Atlantic coast. Over recent years, since independence, it has progressed from a small fishing village built around a water well of the same name into the capital of this young country. Getting to our destination in Tasiast, the world’s sixth largest gold mine, is not particularly easy but Ikky and I nonetheless set out to reach Nouakchott by way of Casablanca where we spent a comfortable couple of nights in the Kinross’ well appointed and modern guest house. Forgetting my passport the morning of departure for Tasiast which made us almost miss our onward flight was not cool but the drivers were very good natured and extremely patient. I felt a bit like it was my first venture from home. Tasiast is in the middle of the desert and only a short hour’s flight from Nouakchott. On landing the co- pilot beamed a big smile and said “welcome to paradise”. And some paradise it proved to be.

Although the camp could be compared to a prison it is modern and very well appointed. It is huge and houses some 3000 people and the facilities include several excellent canteens, all manner of sporting and fitness areas and each of the many hundreds of guest rooms is provisioned with telephone, internet and TV. Ikky and I travelled to Tasiast to visit their environmental department and give their operatives additional training in the use of LevelSCOUT which they deploy on and around the mine to monitor water levels. Our guide while there was Oumar Souleymane, the supervisor in charge of water monitoring, among his other duties. Water in the Sahara is very precious and there is an obvious requirement to take its quality and quantity extremely seriously and this competent and dedicated team does the job with a great deal of diligence. The installation, deployment and use of level loggers is no different from any other location around the world. The job is the same but Saharan temperatures makes the efforts quite challenging. During the day, this time of year, temperatures were in the high 30’s and they peak toward the 50’s in mid-summer. It’s pretty hot and the midday sun and very low humidity takes your breath away. The heat in combination with high EC and warm water within the wells make for a corrosive mixture so the equipment deployed must be very robust.

seriously. No-one moves around until they have passed the one hour health and safety training with specific focus strictly enforced seven cardinal rules. A test must be passed and the kit is issued of the correct clothes and PPE. Ikky’s slip on shoes caused a few eyebrows to be raised and she was supplied with heavy duty boots and trousers. The latter caused some havoc. A slight argument ensued when the stores supervisor issued her with trousers that would have been loose on Father Christmas. What I caught of the Arabic altercation was the question as to whether the storeman really thought Ikky looked like she was a size 18. She really must keep off the chocolates. The LevelSCOUT loggers are deployed on a heavy duty direct read cable in wells to varying depths, some up to 100 metres depth around the perimeter of the mine and then a cluster around the water pumping stations some 40 km away. Driving to that site was an amazing experience as it provided an opportunity to experience the vastness of the desert; more or less flat with only some dry shrubs and the occasional camel to break the monotony. The pumping stations are very modern and provided with a substantial computer room which receives the telemetrised data from a number of sensors. Water supply in Mauritania is scarce. Like most of North Africa, the primary water is surface water but that is jeopardised by pollution and possible salt intrusion into the groundwater in some areas. The Senegal river

to the south was a primary but now decreasing source and aquifers beneath the dried out surface of Mauritania therefore serve as a vital source of water. Monitoring of the water extraction and usage is therefore a primary concern for Tasiast. The training itself was just a short afternoon. We noted immediately that these people are very experienced and in fact there was little we could teach them. Perhaps it was therefore more like a refresher course. It gave me an opportunity to brush up on my technical French with opportune additional explanation from Ikky in Arabic. We made a good team I think. This was not the first time I have been involved in gold exploration. The other occasions were in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Different equipment and different people but there are similarities: the dedication, professionalism and the responsibility for the environment and for the people which are engrained in the philosophy and work ethics of the companies involved. And so this very short visit came to a conclusion and after an uneventful return journey, again by way of Nouakchott and Casablanca we are back in the UK with the knowledge that the well trained people are deploying and using our equipment to monitor the site successfully. It remains for me to thank Oumar and his team. You made us feel very welcome. Soon, insha’Allah we will see you all again.

Tasiast is impressively well organised and they take health and safety very

Vincent van Walt, Van Walt Ltd 15


How can we help you? Is your pump racing fit?

It’s long been recognised us Brits are obsessed with the weather (and traffic), little wonder when it’s so unpredictable. What has this summer brought, a record breaking heat wave or a years’ worth of rain. Both! Come rain or shine, whatever the weather our customers are out on site, you never stop and we want to ensure that your site equipment doesn’t either. I can’t tell you how many phone calls we have had from customers on site arranging to hire a rental item from our fleet because their own equipment has stopped working. We work relentlessly to ensure that we not only have one of the largest selections of groundwater monitoring equipment to hire but that it is always ready to go out to you immediately after we receive your order. And with next day delivery we are proud we are often able to save the day! dedicated team here at Van Walt who spend their time ensuring our rental fleet is kept in tip-top condition. That’s their specialism, that’s what they do all day, every day. I suspect your objectives are different? You often work with organisations on a range of environmental issues, offering expert advisory and assessment services to ensure that possible damaging effects are managed or eliminated. You may be responsible for ensuring that your client or your employer complies with environmental regulations. You might even work on commercial or government contracts, addressing a variety of environmental issues and covering a series of disciplines like air, land and water contamination; environmental impact assessment and flood risk; waste management and recycling; renewable energy opportunities and environmental management systems. Presumptuous I know but I doubt you are an expert on equipment maintenance and servicing and you don’t need to be – because we are! As an environmental professional you need to obtain accurate results, reduce time onsite, deliver value and quality to your customers and manage costs to ensure your customers are happy with your work. Maintaining, servicing and repairing such specialist equipment is an expert job. That’s why we have a

When we come to the rescue of our customers’ onsite a high percentage say they noticed a problem with their equipment a while ago but carried on using it anyway because it was still working. Commendable as this is I sigh; this always causes more damage to the instrument in the long term. A general principle: as soon as you notice something a bit off you should send your equipment in for an inspection. The process we have in place at Van Walt couldn’t be easier. Some of the things you should look out for as ‘signs’ that your equipment might not be functioning properly and might benefit from an inspection soon:

• • • • •

Peristaltic Pump: noisy roller bearings YSI Pro Plus: poor pH millivolt readings

PID: missed firmware updates

Cobra TT: oil leaks, difficult to start’ cutting out YSI Pro Plus: DO probe deposit build up.

Just a few of the things that might signpost a problem and then there’s the weather itself! Leaving equipment in the car in freezing conditions can play all sorts of havoc as most equipment has minimum operating temperatures below which the quality of your results will be compromised and you risk damaging the equipment irrevocably. Even field equipment isn’t impervious to extreme conditions and very high temperatures can also seriously impact on the accuracy of your kit, although more likely it’s the long term storage of equipment in high temperatures is when the damage occurs. We provide advice like this on our website and in regular Technical Updates but the rule of thumb is always: if in doubt – ask. So I hope it goes without saying if you want your equipment to perform like a Formula One racing car then you need to invest in the servicing and fine tuning. So why not let our qualified engineers inspect, service and repair – if required - your environmental equipment to not just eliminate downtime on site but ensure you deliver winning results.

Each day a long list of duties describes what we do and offer our customers: advice on what to rent and buy for equipment and services related to environmental research or onsite jobs around groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment collection, measurement and monitoring. One of the best bits of my job is when you, our valuable customers, come to our offices to pick up or return your rental equipment. On Monday we find you fresh and raring to go: the start of your onsite field work. On Friday, a little dustier, tired and ready to drive back home for the weekend. It’s time to offer you a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate, biscuit and ensure everything was in order and you got what you set out to achieve at the start of the week. Unfortunately we can’t deliver ‘a hug in a mug’ to all of you, it’s not economical to pick up equipment from Barcelona if you are based in Seville! That’s why we like to organise technical seminars that are closer to you, where you can explain your doubts and issues and we can share with you best practice and some of the latest improvements in our equipment and suppliers’ research. After successful seminars in Madrid and Barcelona, this time we headed to North Spain and we prepared another event in Derio (Bizkaia). The aim was to host an open forum to talk about technical updates and provide training on our rental equipment for environmental research and monitoring. An interactive seminar, where everyone can participate and we can help solve doubts, experiences and difficulties when onsite. Combining practical and theoretical aspects and devoting some time to comment about the latest trends

in environmental research standards and making all our equipment available to be seen in detail proved, once again, to be a winning formula. Of course we wanted to promote the customer benefits of renting equipment from Van Walt, not only from a technical point of view but also the economic implications of rental versus purchase. And, not forgetting the advantage to your daily routine of having someone else clean, prepare, test and calibrate your equipment! We take away the challenge of balancing your year-end or having to complete mountains of paperwork to procure new kit. Even if you are lucky enough to work for an organisation where money is no object and you have a well populated warehouse and a set of service engineers to ensure your equipment is always ready for your next job, there is no guarantee that the exact piece of equipment you need is already out onsite with one of your colleagues! By renting from Van Walt, you know you will get the proper equipment for your application, on time, checked, calibrated and ready to use in the field; with all the consumables you may need; supported by a complete set of documentation, from Quick Start Guides, an Accessories checklists to calibration reports and on-line videos that you can review in the field – each time, every time! I wanted to close this article by saying a thank you to all our customers for making Van Walt what it is today. You demand that we are a serious, effective and professional company, with an ambition to improve day by day – thank you, it is your custom that maintains us.

Reece Munn, Van Walt Ltd

Miguel Nuñez. Van Walt Ltd 17


Future-proofing the jewel in Kent’s natural crown

as Stodmarsh will have its challenges and in two locations the tree and plant canopy prevented the installation of a solar array. In all instances the water levels are sampled each 60 minutes by high accuracy sensors but whereas the unit with solar input uploads every hour, the other units do this once per day to conserve energy.

early this year, Natural England launched an ambitious long term project to future proof the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve in Kent. The first step? To establish a real-time water level monitoring network to provide the science-base for managing the hydrology and water quality of this important wetland site. Widely regarded as one of the jewels in Kent’s natural crown, the Stodmarsh NNR and its surrounding area represent one of the most extensive, inter-connected and biodiverse wetland habitats in Southern England. Extending along 7kms of the floodplain of the River Stour between Fordwich and Grove ferry, the site contains a broad range of aquatic and semi aquatic freshwater wetland habitats, the national and international importance of which is reflected in its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area for Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar site. Located at the downstream end of a large lowland River Stour Catchment, the site also demonstrates some of the significant pressures and future challenges on some of our last remaining and best preserved wetland wilderness’. The catchment is home to some 35 people and 75% of the catchment is farmland giving rise to a number of water quality pressures on water sources to the NNR.

The NNR is also located in the coastal fringe that is at the forefront of the debate about how we can manage our most valuable wildlife sites in the face of factors such as climate change. Much of the reserve lies close to the level of the highest tides and although the mouth of the River Stour at Sandwich Bay is more than 20km downstream, river levels adjacent to the nature reserve are directly affected by tidal fluctuations that influence the way in which the site functions hydrologically and the way it needs to be managed. Under certain conditions, water from the River Stour can flow into the reserve carrying sediment and nutrients that can negatively impact upon the site. Future-proofing the site will require re-designing critical water level infrastructure to help protect the site from inflows from the River Stour and within the reserve to help manage water levels to enable management of the habitats for nationally emblematic wetland species such as marsh Harrier and bittern. The reserve is also an important local recreational resource that needs to be maintained into the future. An online hydrological monitoring system is helping local staff understand how the hydrology, water quality and ecology of the site interact as a way of helping to design the most self-sustaining, naturally- functioning and low cost management system possible. Three live monitoring locations have been

installed in the river, the lake and the feeder stream. An additional couple of locations on adjoining waterbodies are being monitored using manual download systems. This type of approach supports Natural England’s new National NNR strategy that has established revised ambitions for fostering science and new technologies across the network of NNRs. At Stodmarsh, this strategy will be implemented locally at Stodmarsh by adopting an open source approach to the work it does across the site and disseminating the data it collects via open access data portals. The establishment of this real-time online water level monitoring network is the first step in this process. Aside from the beauty of the Stodmarsh NNR, working there was a real pleasure for all sorts of other reasons. Steve Etherington, the reserve’s manager is completely “hands-on” providing us with all facilities; mounting plates and posts, floating pontoon to work mid river… He just knew what we required! The Red Lion Pub in the village a charming reminder of what an old English pub should be like: clean bedrooms, good food and excellent beer. A flexible platform telemetry such as vanwalt CONNECT allows many options and whereas it is always useful to top up the battery power with solar energy for a completely independent system, an NNR site such

The research at Stodmarsh, carried out by Natural England and advised by Atkins, with added involvement and input by the Environment Agency demonstrates how several parties can work together to produce such a positive influence for the creation of a sustainable reed marsh. They encourage anyone that is interested to follow their progress. A special “Guest” account has been created so anyone can log in and view the data through the open source water level portal. This can be done with the following credentials:

URL: Account number: 100035 Username: StodmarshGuest Password: Stodmarsh

David Gasca-Tucker, Atkins Ltd 19


VAN WALT monitoring your needs

And the winner is ……

Van Walt had asked us to make a short ‘brand’ film about LevelSCOUT , their top of the range water level logger. We really like working closely with our clients, after all they live and breathe their product. And it’s their money! Luckily for us, Vincent and Tracey rose to the challenge and we managed to hammer out the LevelSCOUT story. Obviously, we wanted to feature its properties but what became readily apparent was that Van Walt boasted an extraordinary customer care team. So we came up with a simple story, an engineer on a job being helped by a ‘not really there’ Van Walt team member. This way we could see the LevelSCOUT in action but also any challenges or problems that a user might incur are quickly dealt with by Van Walt’s customer care team. Both Van Walt and we wanted to make something that hadn’t been seen before within this niche industry. We wanted to give it a ‘filmic’ look; making the visuals warm and engaging but adding something more cinematic. We decided to use our in-house drone. Although, its official title is a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). Now there are many problems in using a UAV such as permissions, flying over private versus public land and so on. The right location therefore was the first challenge. Surprisingly, this problem was solved almost immediately. Our production co-ordinator, David ‘The Nipper’ Hayward came up trumps as usual. His parents work a farm in Sussex. It had everything, a choice of ‘work’ sites to mock up, a small river, dense woodland and all contained within a sweeping valley. And all on private land. They also had a Land Rover Defender 90 we could hire!

Next step was choosing our Director of Photography. We needed someone with a great visual eye, who worked quickly and didn’t mind filming in 8 inches of mud. Unanimously, we chose Alex Fouracre, not only did he have all of the above attributes but he’s one of the most unflappable cameramen around. And a lovely chap to boot. Then we had to find our actors. After much to-ing and fro-ing, we chose Ben Scarles as our engineer and Allie Kaufman as the Van Walt Customer Care team member. And what a great choice they turned out to be. Much to his embarrassment, Ben is a now a pin-up at the Van Walt office and Allie’s genuine warmth showed through in every frame she was in. We only had one day to shoot so we kept a careful eye on the weather. We needed the ground to be muddy but the rain to hold off. So the sight of a cloudless sky and a bright sun peaking over the horizon was a welcome sight on our filming day. Torrential rain the day before had made sure that we had the right conditions although we could have done without mud filled wellies, slippery grassy banks and a stuck Land Rover! Vincent and Tracey joining us on the shoot meant that any technical questions we had about the kit were quickly answered. The whole team worked brilliantly together with good humour and it was fitting that our final shot of the day was a spectacular UAV shot across the valley.


BLE 485

Comunication Kit

The LevelSCOUT incorporates the latest in water level logger technology to create the perfect instrument for measuring and recording groundwater level and temperature …

The BLE 485 is a Bluetooth-low-energy wireless adapter connecting down-well loggers to a Windows 7, 8, 8.1 & 10 laptop or tablet device. Hands-free operation of loggers with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity …

Designed to directly connect your LevelSCOUTs and BaroSCOUTs to your computer, laptop or tablet to provide plug-and-play connectivity to download and read your water level data …

Meet the LevelSCOUT Family...

James McCarthy, Director of Odd Man Out



Dyneema Rope

Watch the Film

East-to-use free control software which allows you to view the status of your sensor, monitor real time data and create flexible and powerful test sequences …

The BaroSCOUT accurately captures changes in atmospheric pressure to barometrically compensate absolute logger readings for level measurement …

It is strong, light weight, floats in water, chemically inert, water resistant and highly durable. Van Walt’s material of choice when it comes to suspending water level loggers …

+ 34 93 590 00 07

+64 (0)3443 5326

+44 (0)1428 661 660

www.vanwal t .com


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