Spills occur frequently in the environment. Most of these are handled by specialized personnel and follow strict regulations. Sometimes a pollutant will bind itself to the soil or sand and it will need to be removed from the area, trucked away for processing, then buried at another site. This is remediation.
What is Spill Remediation?
The cleanup of a chemical spill can involve different techniques depending on the nature of the pollutant. For example, if the material is a liquid that has been spilled on a beach, clean up may include both the surface and underneath. This is because the liquid can percolate down through the sand and soil particles, where it can bind to these materials. These contaminated soil and sand may then be removed from the site and trucked away for disposal or treated.
The remediation of a spill may also require the care of wildlife that has been affected by the chemical. Marine birds and animals can be particularly susceptible to the effects of oil spills, since the pollutant can destroy the insulating properties of their fur and feathers. The cleaning of soiled wildlife can be extremely difficult, and can also involve attempting to wash away the chemical while minimizing the loss of hydration and nutrition.
In addition to addressing the environmental effects of a spill, remediation may also address any equipment that has been exposed to the contamination. For example, chemicals that have been absorbed into a hard surface such as a bench top can be cleaned by scrubbing, washing, or rinsing to remove any contaminated dust or vapors.
What is Spill Containment?
Spill containment is the process of keeping spilled materials within a barrier and not allowing them to reach the surface of the ground. This process helps to minimize the risk of chemicals or oil seeping into inland waterways, shoreline waters or ocean waters. It also protects employees from exposure to hazardous materials. Every year there are reports of more than 10,000 chemical and oil spills from workplaces across the United States. These releases cause a variety of environmental damage ranging from minor to severe. Containing the spills and preventing them from impacting the environment can be critical for many businesses.
There are several ways to contain a spill, including diking and ditching, use of absorbents like diatomaceous earth or sorbent pads, concrete walls or berms, and primary and secondary containment systems. All businesses that use, store, and transport chemical or hazardous liquids should consider a containment program for their facilities. These programs can include the development of a spill prevention control and countermeasure (SPCC) plan, which is required by federal regulations.
A secondary containment system is a container, structure, or device designed to hold a legally specified volume of regulated hazardous materials when the primary container fails to do so. This system can be portable or permanent, depending on the business’s needs and the location of the primary containers. A typical primary container may be a drum, tote, or other larger vessel.
When selecting a containment system, it is important to take into consideration the type of liquid that will be stored in it, the size of the primary container, and the location where the chemicals or oil are typically used. In addition, the system should meet all federal and state safety and environmental regulations.
For example, if a facility has multiple lines and hose connections in the same area, a low-profile spill containment tray can be placed under each one to catch slow drips or spills that may otherwise pool on the floor. These trays can also be used to cradle pipe connections, reducing the chance of them failing and creating a potential hazard.
What is Spill Response?
Spill response refers to actions that are taken in the immediate aftermath of a spill or release. These include emergency recognition and taking steps to protect against environmental damage. These may also include securing the site so that unauthorized people do not get into it and determining how the contaminants can be cleaned up. In some cases, clean up is impossible and the site must be entombed or otherwise made inaccessible for future use. This is what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear plant reactor in Russia, for example.
The first step in a spill response is to determine the hazard level of the chemical that has been released. This is done by examining the chemical properties and looking at the physical layout of the area where the spill occurred. The degree of hazard may be determined by factors such as: how much chemical was released, the surface that received the spill, the temperature of the spilled material, whether it is liquid or solid and the ventilation in the area.
If the hazard is determined to be IDLH for building occupants or presents a fire risk, then it must be treated as an emergency. This will require an immediate call to EH&S for assistance. If the hazard does not pose an immediate threat, then it is considered an incidental spill and employees can clean up the material themselves. This will likely depend on the level of hazard for employees, as well as whether the material is in an accessible location and has adequate spill control materials (e.g., absorbents for liquids).
Other activities that are usually part of a spill response include preventing the spread of contamination and cleaning up the contaminated areas. This can involve things such as closing valves, securing containers that have been tipped over, covering drains and ensuring that contaminated workers are able to access decontamination facilities. It is important to keep all of your hazardous materials clean and secure, as well as having the proper spill response materials and training available at all times.
After a cleanup has been conducted, it is essential to ensure that any wastes and equipment used for the cleanup are disposed of properly. This includes any contaminated spill response materials, such as brooms or dustpans, and the containers in which they were stored. It is also necessary to dispose of any containers that contain chemicals, as well as the spilled substance itself. It is important to follow the guidelines for disposal of each of these items as specified by your laboratory’s Right-to-Know Program and emergency response procedures.
What is Spill Abatement?
The purpose of spill abatement is to clean up traces of a spill that may remain on hard surfaces or in soil. The remediation technique used to remove these traces will depend on the type of material that is being spilled and the location. For example, if a spill is causing oil to form on the surface of the ground then an absorbent such as Speedi-dry can be placed over the area to soak up the excess oil and make it easier for cleanup crews to remove. The soaked material should then be disposed of properly.
The process of removing traces of a spill from hard surfaces may also involve using brushes or scrapers to physically remove the material. Alternatively, the contaminated materials can be vacuumed up and taken away for proper disposal. Regardless of the method, it is important that any trace of a spill be eliminated as soon as possible to avoid environmental damage.
Spill abatement can also include care for wildlife that has been affected by a spill. This is especially true for marine animals such as birds and fish. Often, the effects of an oil spill can be especially devastating to these creatures as it destroys their natural insulation (their fur or feathers), and water repellent qualities. Spoiled marine animals are typically left to wash off the pollutant themselves, which can cause them to become even more contaminated as they try to wash off the substance. This contamination can be fatal for these animals.
During the cleanup process, the responsible party must keep track of all work that has been completed and what remains to be done. This is one of the major factors considered by DEC when determining any potential fines or penalties for the PRP. It is also a very important factor to consider when signing a STIP.
During the initial containment and recovery phase, a PRP can request to be granted a long-form order instead of a STIP. This will allow them to negotiate a more detailed plan for the site and is often necessary in situations where it is expected that a longer period of time is required to complete the cleanup. The decision to grant a long-form order is at the discretion of DEC.