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Essay Paper on HazMat Spill Control

by Bailey Cartwright

Every day, hazardous materials that are toxic, corrosive, reactive and flammable are spilled onto parking lots, roadways, airport runways, and other open spaces. These hazardous materials (also referred to as “hazmat”) must be contained and cleaned up in a way that does not pose a risk to human health, the environment, or property (Standards Applicable to Generators of Hazardous Waste, 2011). Once these dangerous materials enter waterways (streams, rivers, lakes, etc.), the potential to cause serious damage grows exponentially as the pollutant is dispersed throughout a widespread area.

In certain situations, temporary dams can be constructed in flowing bodies of water (streams, rivers, etc.) to physically confine spilled hazardous materials (Fingas, 2001). These temporary dams may allow water to pass over or under the structure, depending on the type of hazardous waste involved, logistics of the site, and available equipment and devices. Once the hazardous materials are confined, clean-up actions can proceed.

Underflow dams can be used to confine hazardous materials that float (specific gravity less than one). An underflow dam consists of an earthen barrier constructed with pipes that allow water to pass through the dam. The pipes are positioned so that the discharge point is higher than the intake point, reducing the possibility that the floating material passes through (or under) the dam. The piping configuration is designed to handle the flow rate of the existing waterway channel and reduce scouring downstream of the dam.

Overflow dams can be used to confine hazardous materials that sink (specific gravity greater than one). An overflow dam consists of an earthen or fabricated dam that contains the flow of water so that the material is able to sink. Water is moved over the dam either by pumps or siphon tubes. The siphon piping and/or pumping system is designed to move the appropriate volume of water over the dam. Additionally, provisions to keep the pumping system working throughout the duration of the spill clean-up must be made.

The properties of hazardous material encountered, incident site conditions and available resources are all important considerations when developing a spill response strategy. Underflow and overflow dams are effective containment devices when used in the appropriate situations.

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Fingas, M. (Ed.). (2001). The handbook of hazardous materials spill technology. New York: McGraw Hill.
Standards Applicable to Generators of Hazardous Waste, 40 C.F.R. pt. 262 (2011). Retrieved from http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title40/40cfr262_main_02.tpl

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