Hazardous Material Spill Control

Mandel [47] reported that no convenient method exists to neutralize and solidify spills of acids and bases and to render these materials as noncorrosive solids. Also, there is no convenient method for adsorbing common fuel and organic solvent spills and for elevating their flashpoint to above 60°C (140°F). Furthermore, to date there is still room for improvement of the methods for application of cleanup chemicals at a safe distance from a spill in order to minimize the risk to emergency personnel. Present techniques of spill cleanup utilize mostly manual application methods that, in most cases, only absorb the spilled materials or employ time-consuming applications of neutralizing nonsolidifying materials. In most instances, therefore, the end result of the cleanup effort yields a waste material that is still considered hazardous and has to be handled and disposed of as such.

In a market survey of persons employed in US industries utilizing or producing hazardous materials, with responsibilities in environmental quality, environmental engineering or management, and industrial hygiene and safety, the following information was collected from the 1800 respondents. Some of the major industries surveyed were fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, chemicals and petrochemicals, explosives, drugs and cosmetics, food and beverages, fats and oils, plastics, paints, petroleum refineries, fibers and textiles, soaps and detergents, and semiconductors. The respondents listed the major areas in which spills occurred at their facilities and the percentage of the number of spills in each area as follows: shipping 9%, receiving 8%, warehouse 11%, manufacturing 30%, process piping 14%, tank storage 17%, laboratories 10%, and offsite transport 4%. The average spill size in these typical industrial facilities was determined to be 11.2 gal, with a spill frequency per plant being eight spills per year. Interestingly, the number of spills reported above 55 gal (a standard drum) was statistically insignificant.

The respondents indicated that, in their view, the spill incidents were unpredictable and posed a threat to the environment and safety and caused business interruption and profit loss. They further reported that in the surveyed plants the hazardous materials mainly fell into three broad chemical classes: acids, bases, and organics. Therefore, the bulk belonged to the corrosive and ignitable classes of hazardous materials. According to the information provided in the questionnaires, current methods of spill cleanup included containment, soak-up or absorbing, neutralizing, increasing viscosity, or diverting to a sump. Most of these methods were considered time-consuming and dangerous.

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