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The Importance of Chemical Spill Containment Solutions for Industrial Plants

Chemical products are a foundation of modern life. In fact, more than 96 percent of all manufactured goods include some kind of interaction with the chemicals industry, according to trade groups

Plastics, silicone, industrial gasses, solvents — the list goes on. The American Chemistry Council has identified more than 60 chemical-specific groups within the Chemical Products and Technology Division of their trade organization, which gives you a sense of the breadth of the chemical industry in the United States. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the United States is the world’s leading chemical producer in the world, producing nearly one-fifth of the world’s chemicals. The chemicals industry is the country’s second-largest manufacturing sector, on a value-added basis. 

Dangerous Chemicals Used in Industry

The EPA defines hazardous materials as any substance “with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) divides Toxic Industrial Chemicals into two categories: chemical hazards (e.g., carcinogens, reproductive hazards, corrosives, or agents that affect the lungs or blood) and physical hazards (e.g., flammable, combustible, explosive, or reactive). 

According to Eastern Kentucky University, four industries are responsible for 90% of all industrial materials and waste. They are:

  • Chemical Manufacturing

  • Primary Metal Production

  • Metal Fabrication

  • Petroleum Processing

Not all chemicals are harmful all the time, but the risk of adverse exposure to these materials is higher for people working in chemical manufacturing. 

Eastern Kentucky University lists gases or vapors, liquids, dust, and solids as potential forms that toxic chemicals can come in. Skin damage, infections, allergies, asthma, chemical burns, reproductive problems, birth defects, asphyxiation, damage to internal organs, various cancers, and death are potential outcomes of exposure to industrial chemicals. 

The Houston Department of Health & Human Services notes that poisoning happens most quickly when chemicals are inhaled. 

While many different types of chemicals are used across all industries, Eastern Kentucky University singles out ethylene oxide and formaldehyde as particularly common in the chemical industry. 

Ethylene oxide is used in the production of various industrial chemicals, including ethylene glycol. It is both highly reactive and flammable, and exposure can lead to numerous and serious health issues if workers are exposed to it long-term. Chronic exposures can lead to mutagenic physical changes, reproductive effects, cancer, and neurotoxicity. Short-term effects of exposure to ethylene oxide include headaches, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and eventual lung damage.

Formaldehyde is commonly used to manufacture resins and is a known carcinogen. Eastern Kentucky University notes that even short-term exposure to moderate or high levels of formaldehyde can be fatal. Over time, low-level exposure to formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and eczema.

To curb exposure to these and other industrial chemicals, it’s important to correctly use safety equipment and maintenance procedures in day-to-day work and in the case of leaks, spills, or other accidental exposure.  

How to Safely Store Caustic or Corrosive Chemicals

Safe storage of chemicals is part of ensuring overall safety when dealing with these materials. Different chemicals require different storage environments to ensure they will not harm people in your facilities. 

Incorrect storage can lead to toxic fumes, fires, and explosions, according to OSHA. These can lead to damage to physical property, negative impact on the surrounding environment, and even injury or death. 

To safely store caustic or corrosive materials, The University of California at Berkeley Office of Environment, Health & Safety recommends separating and storing chemicals based on their chemical family or hazard classification. 

UC Berkeley suggests keeping each chemical family separated with a non-combustible partition or, if that is not available, maintaining 20 feet of distance between each storage group. The university says that ideal storage for chemicals would be a different cabinet fully segregated from other hazard classes. Further, any chemicals from within the same hazard class that are incompatible with others in their own hazard class should be stored safely away from one another. 

In the workplace, OSHA’s Laboratory Safety department outlines specific requirements for the Labeling and Transfer of Chemicals. Failure to follow these rules can result in penalties. In some cases, states may also have additional guidelines for workplace safety in environments housing or manufacturing chemicals. 

Avoiding EPA Violations

For industrial chemical manufacturers, it’s important to ensure facilities are not in violation of standards set by the EPA for clean air, clean water, and hazardous waste disposal.

The EPA has a wide range of enforcement obligations related to waste and chemical pollution. These include the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data.

Hazardous waste requirements are enforced by the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which governs the safe handling, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes. The EPA and the states have a comprehensive compliance monitoring program involving facility inspections and document and record reviews. If found in violation of the required protocols, the EPA may use enforcement measures like fines to bring facilities into compliance with the RCRA or other applicable laws. 

Looking at a recent example, Dyno Nobel Inc. was found to be in violation of both the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Clean Water Act at their explosives manufacturing facility in Carthage, Missouri, and ammonium nitrate facility in Louisiana, Missouri.

The EPA alleged that Dyno Nobel violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by disposing of hazardous waste (including explosives) without a permit and, at the Carthage facility, by failing to meet other requirements for hazardous waste.

In addition to paying a civil penalty of $2.9 million, Dyno Nobel must develop and revise pollution controls at both facilities with the goal of preventing future unauthorized discharges of pollutants and hazardous waste, among other facilities and planning improvements. 

Chemical Spill & Secondary Containment Products and Solutions

Don’t get caught off-guard. Prepare for spills, leaks, or hazardous accidents by keeping the right spill containment equipment, like flexible spill containment berms, light-duty berms, and maintenance drip berms on-site. 

BCI offers a wide range of chemical-resistant products that meet the unique needs of chemical producers. Offering both full immersion and secondary containment products, we can help you fit custom solutions and offer a wide range of sizes to help you meet safety regulations and achieve compliance.

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Basic Concepts has the ability to customize our products for many of your specific applications. Whatever your requirements, our custom solution will be durable enough for the most stringent spill control requirements. We are committed to providing the best solution for your needs. We will be happy to customize this or any other spill berm to satisfy any of your size requirements and applications.


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