When the news reports on spills, they’re usually major spills that are having far-reaching consequences. But small and medium occur more often than you might think — making the need for spill containment critical. And every spill has consequences, affecting the environment, wildlife, your team members and your company’s bottom line.
All spills are regulated by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), so it’s important to know the risks, be compliant with their rules, and be prepared. It’s all about preventing the spill first, and then planning a response if the unthinkable does happen.
Your company should have intimate knowledge of the EPA’s compliance procedures to protect the environment and keep your employees safe from harm. The EPA Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) guidelines, for example, state that facilities that store large qualities of petroleum must have an adequate plan in place to contain a spill should it occur. This is just one of many of their significant guidelines in this area.
Spills occur on both a small and grand scale. Thankfully, when one does occur, companies now have the knowledge to be prepared with updated products, such as spill trays, pallet rack trays and pop-up pools. Outdated containment techniques like catch basins are quickly losing favor to more modern, cost-effective solutions.
Preparation is the most effective response you can have to what could be a disastrous situation.
Readying Your Team
Spill containment products are only as good as the employees who implement them. Your staff needs to be educated in spill prevention and trained in how to use spill prevention products. When a disaster is occurring is the worst time to learn.
If a spill does occur, it’s critical you and your team resist the urge to clean. Your first instinct should be to contain the liquid and stop it from draining away. Drain covers can be useful in this situation. Under no circumstances should you look to hose the spill, as this just relocates the original spill, causing more damage.
From an organizational point of view, spill containment and, more often than not, secondary spill containment methods are required.
Spill containment is the act of stopping an active spill as it’s happening. When a spill occurs, your first emergency response must be to stop the bleeding. You don’t want it to spread unnecessarily, as it will take more time to clean up and cause more damage to the surroundings. Spill containment might address the need for absorbent socks, booms and sumps. A containment boom, not to be confused with a berm, is placed directly over the spill to contain or absorb the oil. They can work wonders in limiting the damage of a spill. Cleaning up contained spills requires a delicate balance of adequate training and availability of materials.
Drums or tanks are the primary storage containers. However, if these primary storage containers contain a hazardous substance and have the potential to leak, the EPA requires the additional measure of a secondary containment option. Secondary containment requirements apply to portable containers, bulk storage containers and transfer activities.
While there are no clear specifications as to what you use for secondary containment, it must be large enough to hold the entire original volume until it can be cleaned up. An organizational evaluation should be carried out to adopt the best ecological and safety options. Looking at a worst-case-scenario option if the secondary containment fails, then your original spill containment plan will come into play.
Drum and Railcar Spill Containment
Spill containment systems for storage drums and railcars ensure complete compliance when it comes to storing and handling of fuels and bulk chemicals. Products such as pallets, rack trays, berms, drums and vapor locks have the potential to satisfy relevant safety requirements.
Pallets, Berms and Railcar Track Pan Systems
Portable spill containment berms can be used during the loading and unloading of tanker trucks. A great hands-free option, once it’s set up you simply drive the truck into place, and the collapsible end wall springs back into place, leaving you protected. Spill containment berms are available in standard sizes or custom sizes. While portable berms are ideal for tanker trucks, they’re also useful for containing oil drums, trucks and trailers. Basin-like in nature, portable berms are popular in the fracking industry to contain contaminated water. Track pans are versatile and suitable for corrosive applications and railroad refueling, while pallets are ideal for smaller individual drums.
The EPA will impose significant and costly penalties if you fail to protect public health and safeguard the environment. Understanding the consequences of spills, from both an individual and organizational point of view, is meant to be a deterrent to reckless containment practices and to encourage companies to act responsibly.