Hurrican Shutters

Installing "Peace of Mind"

Hazardous Spills

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on August 17, 2012

Hazardous Spills

Facility managers have many duties to handle when a storm approaches, but one that shouldn’t be overlooked is making the right preparations to limit the potential for hazardous material spills. For instance, secure petroleum storage tanks and fill them to the proper level to prevent them from being swept away by wind. If possible, gas lines and other chemical lines may need to be shut off. Store tanks of chemicals, paints, solvents, oils, and other material properly, inside a sturdy building. Finally, a key part of the planning and preparation includes having a crisis plan in place to address a spill.

Over the past two years, the Department has conducted many compliance assistance workshops to reach out to smaller businesses that may not be as familiar with procedures and requirements. This effort has resulted in increased compliance with Department rules and reduced penalties to businesses that comply.

By focusing on education and compliance, the Department is working with Florida businesses to protect the environment from the hazards of a detached fuel tank or the release of a hazardous chemical into the ground that could affect a community’s water supply. By improving compliance, we’re reducing harm to the environment.

Securing or storing what’s on-site
For some facilities, shipping away hazardous materials may not be cost-effective or feasible, especially if the quantity is low. If that’s the case, properly storing on-site chemicals and materials may be the best choice. Proper inventory control is important to reducing the potential for post-hurricane spills and liability. Some suggestions include:

  • Don’t leave chemicals sitting around
  • Properly dispose of waste
  • Don’t buy more than is necessary and create an abundance of materials
  • Create a contingency plan
  • Know the right numbers to call, if there’s a spill

Smaller hazardous waste generators that qualify as a conditionally exempt small quantity generator of hazardous waste may take advantage of a county’s collection program. At these events, county staff will take hazardous waste at a minimal cost. This can be a cost savings to businesses while helping to avoid potential harm to the environment. Not all counties offer this program, so it may be best to contact a local county program early in the planning process.

Communication is important
Most importantly, communication is key to avoiding fines and taking steps to ensure the environment is protected. Alerting the local fire department about what types of chemicals are on-site and making sure contact information for local officials is up-to-date is also critical.

Specialists from DEP’s Office of Emergency Response rely heavily on the communication of facility managers when they walk onto the scene of a chemical spill. For example, after Hurricane Charley hit Hardee County in 2004, damage from a pesticide store created a cloud of chemicals in the air. Because no owner was on-site or available, responders didn’t know what they would encounter. These situations leave responders vulnerable. Responders must use their forensic expertise and equipment to identify any hazard posed by on-site chemicals. They must also determine how the chemicals might affect the environment and decide how best to remediate the situation.

Responders also experienced challenges during cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Housing subdivisions were reduced to slabs where houses once stood. Cylinders of chemicals appeared in what used to be living rooms. Acid, chlorine, and oil covered areas of soil. Gas mains were broken and open.

Applying the lessons learned from the remediation of those large, unknown spills has helped Florida’s regulatory and emergency response communities better prepare to keep Floridians safe, as well as to protect the environment. In most cases, the best offense is strong preparation. For facility managers, proper preparation includes keeping a binder handy that holds important numbers and information about what chemicals are on-site. Inventories should be comprehensive, in both quantities and especially the type of materials on hand. Electronic and smart phone lists are a good idea, but in the event of power and cellular outages, hard copies are critical. Lists should include important phone numbers and e-mail addresses for emergency response personnel, regulatory partners, and critical facility staff.

Facility managers must take the initiative in these critical situations. Businesses can contact the State Watch Office at (800) 320-0519 or (850) 413-9911 to report chemical or hazardous waste spills. Providing the number of a contact person who can provide critical information to a responder is important. The quicker the scene can be evaluated and the more communication available, the better.

Florida’s resilience and the ability to bounce back when disaster strikes depends on good preparation and on strong partnerships between industry and the government agencies involved in response and recovery operations.

Distributed by Viestly

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