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An interview with our canal & river trust contract manager, harry wimbush

a more detailed insight into our programme with the canal and river trust

An Interview With Contract Manager, Harry Wimbush

Harry is an integral member of the Dovetail Environmental team as he oversees the Aquatic Weed contract for the Canal & River Trust

Q: When did the works commence and how have they been going so far?

Harry: We split our works program into two teams; an “Aquatic Weed” and “Aquatic waste” team. Our waste team commenced works on June 28th and have been running 5 days a week since. In this time, we have covered the entire BCN (Birmingham central navigations) twice and are on our 3rd pass. The vast amount of waste we have retrieved in both frightening and phenomenal. The team can see a positive difference in these areas and even though we cannot stop certain aspects of society from littering and fly tipping hopefully our positive influence can instil change and be part of the Commonwealths games lasting legacy.

The Aquatic Weed” is one of our more impressionable programs to public. The BCN is renowned for its growth of the invasive weed Azola. Once introduced to this country as a decorative plant for ponds it has found its way into our watercourses and if left unmanaged would seriously harm the ecological balance of our canals. Countless tonnes of green waste have been removed from the network so far, all of which has been sent to our waste facility to be processed and made to compost.

Q: What sort of challenges have been posed?

Harry: The entire BCN network covers over 100 miles of canal in some of the most densely populated areas of the country. To cover this vast area effectively needs rigorous planning and a dedicated work force. At Dovetail we have members staff who have worked on the canal network for numerous years and have a personal investment with a passion to deliver outstanding projects.

The waste we see on the surface and the towpath is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, beneath the surface of the water is a minefield of debris which can cause blockages to propellers and damage to not only our boats but leisure boaters also. In one day, we removed 30 tires which had been dumped into the canal. To do this we required a specialist equipment to remove all the tires and liaison with our waste disposal department to ensure the recycling of all our recovered waste.

Along with our tireless efforts we have also encountered unprecedented weather conditions. July’s heat wave was a challenge to all of us, however to our teams on the network this was not just a challenge but a serious hazard to their health. With temperatures reaching nearly 40 degrees Celsius we enforced a change in work practices which mitigated our team’s exposure to elements. We incorporated earlier starting times to allow works to proceed in cooler conditions, we rolled out company wide toolbox talks highlighted the imminent dangers. When conditions worsened the boats themselves became hot to the touch, it is then we decided to postpone works. The health and safety of all our staff iparamount and it is vital we make the correct decisions to ensure the team are safe. This may have affected the schedule in the short term however was a small price in the scheme of delivering a fully compliant effective program of works.

Q: What steps did you take to ensure safety of the public and canal users?

Harry: All our boat operators are trained by the RYA (royal yachting association) and have DEFRA level two health and safety on the water training. Dovetail champion health and safety within the industry and invest in staff development and training to allow them to be as safe as possible not only for the public but also themselves and their team members.

Q: How environmentally friendly are Dovetail as a company?

Harry: Dovetail group has a policy of “Zero to Landfill” this means that all waste we take away we endeavour to recycle 100% of this. We have a sister Waste Management Company called C & R Lewis, who have an accredited waste disposal centre and we work symbiotically with them to make sure all our works are compliant with Environmental regulations.

Q: Are there any other future projects that are coming up that you’re excited about?

Harry: This year we have been recently awarded Aquatic weed and floating litter works for the canal and river trust as part of their 8-year vegetation management service. These works have meant that Dovetail have developed an entire sub-department within our Environmental sector. Over the next years it is my personal vision to develop us further into a leader of Aquatic vegetation management nationwide. We have already worked on a range of different projects from continuation ponds decorative ponds and look to further expand into all aquatic vegetation management.

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