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Hazardous Waste in Floods

September 25, 2013

Floods have the potential to cause widespread devastation, but that devastation is greatly magnified when chemicals or other hazardous materials, such as hydraulic fracturing waste, fertilizers, and pesticides, are involved. It’s a serious risk and regrettably not as rare as we might think or hope. As evidenced recently in Colorado and New Mexico, sometimes there’s no one and nothing to blame, but the forces of nature, inflicted upon us by rain, hurricanes, or man-made issues such as broken pipes, that potential for devastation is a pretty calamitous common denominator.

And where flooding is concerned, acting after the fact is much too late. If your business is in possession of hazardous materials when a flood occurs, these materials can contaminate flood waters. Contaminated flood waters could be dangerous to you, your business, its employees, your community, and the environment. Liability for hazardous waste in floods can also be a significant concern. And it doesn’t stop there – business owners can be held liable for any contamination and subsequent clean-up.

Preparedness and prevention are key. It is estimated that for every $1 dollar spent on flood preparedness, $7 can be saved in disaster-related economic losses. You might not have control over Mother Nature or any of her helping hands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t act to prevent disaster for yourself and your business. Educating yourself on the risks, such as hazardous waste contamination, as well as making the necessary changes in control and practices, could save you a great headache and even greater expense.

Safeguard your business by implementing the following flood preparedness and hazardous waste management guidelines:

  • Avoid Stockpiling hazardous materials;
  • Always use the safest materials you can;
  • Dispose of hazardous waste and materials regularly (keep on-site only what you must);
  • When it becomes necessary to purchase materials for your business, make sure to buy only what you need;
  • Use what you have;
  • Keep an inventory of all hazardous materials on-site to better assist emergency responders in the event of a flood or other disaster;
  • Store hazardous materials properly, ensuring they are in sealed containers in good condition;
  • Always use waterproof containers for hazardous materials;
  • Label containers – and be sure information is up-to-date;
  • Whenever practical, keep all hazardous materials inside and above flood level, such as on an upper level or second story;
  • Do what you can to ensure equipment is not at risk of falling, breaking, or floating away.

Be Prepared:

  • Keep a spill response plan in place;
  • Invest in clean-up materials for hazardous waste incidents;
  • Educate yourself and your employees on the kinds of materials you have, and their respective hazards (corrosive, flammable), as well as their clean-up protocol;
  • Keep apprised of news reports and alert systems so you can take appropriate action when it seems flooding is possible and/or probable.

In Colorado, we’re able to see this brand of disaster in action – the same floods that have killed and dispossessed have also disturbed storage tanks that hold leftover waste from hydraulic fracturing. Fertilizers and pesticides are another threat still. The ramifications at this point can only be guessed at, but the possibilities are alarming, and owners of such businesses can anticipate long-term and expensive problems. Doing all that you can to implement good management and control practices now is the most effective way to protect yourself and your business.

Hazardous Waste Experts can assist you with handling your material and helping you manage hazardous waste in floods or other emergency scenarios. Give us a call at 800-936-2311.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.