Chemical spills in waterways in waterways present a significant threat to the environment and the health of local communities. It doesn’t matter which type of liquid we are talking about.
Fluid can become hazardous and affect ecosystems if a sufficient amount is spilled or washes pollutants into our waterways. There are thousands of chemical spills in the United States each year, but most are small in size and easily contained.
However, since 1969, there have been at least 44 significant oil spills in U.S waterways requiring an emergency response.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about chemical spills. We’ll talk about how spills occur, what constitutes hazardous substances, and why emergency responders care for such incidents.
Where do Hazardous Leaks and Spills Happen?
Oil or chemical spills are a real risk anywhere a business works with liquids. This includes:
- Restaurants and fast food joints that store cooking oil
- Offices storing large quantities of cleaning products
- Mechanic facilities storing oils and fuels
- Council depots where they might store paints, pesticides, fuel, and oil
- Farms storing agricultural chemicals or fuel
- Service stations
- Chemical manufacturers storing industrial chemical
There are two ways in which liquid hazardous material can affect our waterways:
It’s easy to mistakenly think that chemical spills occurring inland and away from significant waterways might not affect water in a too drastic fashion.
However, chemicals can seep into the ground and pollute the groundwater, which is used for:
- Drinking water for towns
- Irrigating crops
- Drinking water for farm animals
- Swimming pools, ponds, and fountains
In other words, a hazardous leak that spills into the groundwater can poison that water for future use.
Surface Water Pollution
Surface water pollution occurs when a hazardous leak pollutes rivers, streams, and reservoirs. These are the waters that constitute our main water supply. Polluting surface water can result in people falling ill.
Businesses that maneuver liquid products across the sea or rivers with ships containing liquid cargo compartments are at the highest risk of creating oil or chemical spills.
The Importance of Managing Chemical Spills in Waterways Effectively
Chemical spills can quickly get out of hand and become polluting to water. Once groundwater is contaminated, the contamination can spread rapidly and cause grave danger to public health, the environment, and local wildlife.
According to the IDR, two-thirds of aquatic life is endangered due to the improper disposal of chemicals and other waste.
But chemical spills also have implications for your business. For example, you may be liable for any damage caused by chemical leak incidents, which may also impact the public perception of your brand.
How to Respond to a Chemical Spill
Whenever a spill might occur, an immediate and conscientious response is vital. The first step is to assess the situation and get a clear idea of what’s spilled and how it could be contained. You should also consider any risk the chemical spill might pose to staff.
Early containment is the best way to avoid any large damaging effects from spills. Keep well-maintained spill kits at hand for this purpose. These will give you the tools to absorb and control the spread of chemicals.
Hazardous oil or chemical spills should also be immediately reported to the EPA.
Their emergency chemical or oil spill response may include:
- Burning or otherwise treating hazardous substances
- Removing chemical spills in soil or containers
- Using other chemicals to stop the spread of a leak
- Encasing substances in place or making sure wind or rain cannot spread them further
- Providing a safe supply of drinking water to communities affected by chemical spills in the waterways
- Installing fences to prevent any direct contact with hazardous materials
Or, draining waste ponds or repairing waste disposal pits, so chemicals do not seep into the ground.
Prevention and Maintenance
More important than responding to chemical spills in waterways is avoiding them in the first place.
By ensuring you have the right equipment for your purposes that ensures spills are unlikely to happen, you can prevent risking your staff or the environment.
Installing overfill or high-level alarm sensors, for example, would allow you to monitor production and ensure you can stop operations if any risk arises.
The best overfill alarm sensors are fully compliant with the U.S coast guard and 46 CFR and are simple to operate.
Another way to prevent emergencies is to ensure both deckhands and tankermen are trained to handle your equipment and respond efficiently to any danger of a chemical spill. ERL provides hands-on training for all hands on deck.
Always use hazardous waste disposal companies instead of illegally disposing of chemicals yourself. According to state regulations, these organizations are skilled and trained in managing harmful oils and chemicals.
Be a Part of the Solution, Not the Problem, by Choosing the Right Service Partners
If you’re in the marine business and transporting liquid products, oil and chemical spills are a great risk factor to your good name.
That’s why it’s vital to be prepared in case of an emergency and to do everything you can to avoid chemical spills in waterways in the first place.
The first step is installing overfill protection equipment from a reputable supplier like ERL.
Still, you must also ensure all staff on-site are trained to respond to chemical leaks if they occur and knows how to work with the authorities to minimize damages. Browse our website today to review our barge packages and products.