Hurricanes & Waste Releases: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Hurricanes & Waste Releases: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

It is a fact that 2017 has made history with the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Torrential rainfall and destructive winds do not do manufacturing facilities any favors.  Chemical spills, sewage runoff, toxic gas leaks and hazardous waste releases greatly increase during severe weather.

Hazardous Waste & Chemical Spills

These storms have caused industry to reconsider their emergency plans and account for the risk of flooding.   Fire, police and hazmat teams become inundated with phone calls and rescue missions during severe weather and may not have the resources available to assist your facility in the event of a chemical leak or pipe bust.  Environmental, health and safety professionals should think about what happens if emergency responders can’t get to their facility.

Disasters will happen, however there are things your facility can put into practice to help eliminate damages caused by a hazardous release.

Here are five questions facilities should ask themselves.

  1. Are you storing solvents and cleaning agents on the floor? Consider investing in elevated racks and shelves to store your products. Not only will this prevent having damaged goods, it will help prevent potential releases of hazardous chemicals into flood and stormwaters.
  2. Do you need to replace hazardous waste drums? It is never a good sign to see visible corrosion on the bottom of drums.
  3. Can you elevate waste containers? Flood waters can easily make containers fall over, especially if they are light in weight. Consider placing waste containers on pallets or storage racks.
  4. Are you prepared for a rapid shutdown? Always take special precautions when shutting down and restarting equipment.   Equipment and machinery that is normally run automatically is now under manual control during shutdown and start up.  This could cause an increase in safety risk due to human error and compromised attention to detail, resulting in potential releases of chemicals and solvents used during production.
  5. Can you move materials and equipment indoors?  Facilities are held liable for what contents run off their property at any time.  Prior to a severe weather threat, consider moving items indoors to eliminate the risk of hazardous waste or chemical runoff during storms.

Source: Environmental Compliance Alert, Vol 25 No. 566, September 19 2017