Contractor Spotlight: Mark Swanston, Rake Remediation

Mark Swanston is the Director and Owner of Rake Remediation, a specialist remediation contracting firm in the UK. Having worked in the industry for more than twenty five years, Mark is highly experienced in both ex- and in-situ remediation. Anyone who has worked with Mark before, will know him for his no-nonsense and practical approach. Perhaps it is not surprising then that his company enjoys a strong reputation for meeting remedial targets.

Rake Remediation is based in Hampshire where he lives with his family, not far from Haslemere, where he grew up. Mark’s passions include rugby and shooting (mainly, pheasant, partridge, rabbit and duck – he always eats what he shoots) and talks enthusiastically about exploring the countryside on his new e-bike.

Rake owns remediation machinery and equipment, to use on projects themselves and hire out. “We undertake a wide range of work” Mark explains, “Anything from small domestic oil spill sites to large industrial redevelopment projects”. Mark rattles out a list of equipment, whilst I’m scrambling to keep up with my notes. As well as the usual pump and treat equipment and machinery, a couple of items stand out as being somewhat unusual: A rotary screening bucket and a quad bike? “The quad bike comes in handy when moving around on large sites, or to access an oil spill location without making, or getting into, too much of a mess” he explains. After which he shows a video clip of the rotary screening bucket and explains how this kit can safely and easily break up soils and thoroughly mix in additives.

Mark enjoys the variety of work and the challenges that each site brings – although he admits that he never planned remediation contracting as a career. “I started doing remediation by accident” laughs Mark. After training as a chartered surveyor and working in forestry, a rugby pal offered him a job on a contaminated land project for a national remediation contractor. “I was asked to put together a pump and treat system on a contaminated site in London, but I was completely inexperienced and had no idea how to do it.” He obviously got it right, as he was offered a permanent position after that.

Over the many years that followed, Mark continued to grow his knowledge and skills. He worked as the Contracts Manager for groundwater treatment, oil spills and bioremediation until 2017, when things were about to change “The company suddenly went bust and I found myself jobless, so I decided that it was time I set up on my own.” With an address book full of contacts, ex-colleagues to join forces with, and several domestic oil spill jobs ready to start, Mark found that his fledgling company was in high demand. Although this was not without its challenges, as he dryly comments, “Overnight, I became both the boss and the floor sweeper!”

Since then, his company has been treating a wide range of organic and inorganic contamination both in soils and groundwater. Mark points out: “I guess we are better known for dealing with the more unusual or complex sites, either as main contractor or sub-contractor. Although we deal with ex situ soil remediation work, soils for landfill etc, most of our work does has a groundwater remediation element to it. A couple of years ago for example, there was a former gasworks site in Suffolk where another contractor dealt with the soils, and we handled the contaminated groundwater part of the job”. Rake Remediation worked with REGENESIS Products and Services on this project and delivered an integrated, phased remediation approach. This consisted of a Pump and Treat system solution enhanced by PetroCleanze in the source area, followed by In Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) combined with Enhanced aerobic Natural Attenuation (ENA) for the remaining residual contamination, using RegenOx® and ORC Advanced®. The works also comprise the installation of a PlumeStop® colloidal activated carbon in situ permeable reactive barrier (in situ PRB) to treat the plume at the edge of the site.

This video shows Mark at more recent site contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, where his team is carrying out an phased, integrated treatment which includes the installation of an in situ PRB consisting of REGENESIS products PetroFix® and ORC Advanced®, to protect an adjacent chalk stream.

For any new graduates coming into the remediation industry Mark recommends getting some hands-on field experience first. “I support new graduates when I can. Once we had two students, both fresh out of University with Environmental Science degrees. One now works as an Environmental Consultant in Canada, the other in Wales. By the time they’d completed their training with us they could plumb a water system together, do other nuts and bolts jobs and had a good understanding of what actually happens on a remediation site. I think this stood them in good stead for whatever they went on to do next.”