Hazardous material spills can take a hefty toll on all involved parties. Cleanup bills, legal liabilities and frustration for affected property owners only scratch the surface of problems commonly associated with spills. With the potential for facility downtime and personnel injury, it is in the industries best interest to be involved in and oversee the cleanup of these incidents.
By understanding our responsibilities regarding the release of hazardous materials and knowing how to react when an incident occurs, we can minimize the required cleanup effort and the subsequent cost associated with the incident.
Hazardous substances or materials are specifically defined under many environmental statutes by the federal government. But most chemical substances that may pose a health risk to life when exposed are deemed hazardous substances.
When a hazardous substance is released to the environment, or poses a substantial threat to the environment, a release has occurred. The Environment includes surface water, groundwater, drinking water supply, land surface, subsurface strata, ambient air, dry gullies and storm sewers that discharge to surface waters.
Hazardous material release incidents are regulated by the federal and state government under many environmental statutes, as well as worker protection statutes. The enforcement and oversight of the cleanup is usually delegated to the Designated Emergency Response Authority (DERA) for the spill. The DERA may be the state highway patrol, local fire department, sheriff, state health department or the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), depending upon the location and complexity.
Cleanup of uncontrolled release of hazardous substances are further regulated under OSHA. OSHA mandates that workers that provide these services are properly trained, are medically fit to wear respiratory protections and are properly equipped for and knowledgeable in the hazards present. Training requirements are specified in detail, as well as the site controls requirements.