Spill Crisis Management

When a spill occurs, you will need to focus on several things, individuals’ safety, spill containment and cleanup, and who to call for assistance. This is not the time to be learning what to do. Train everyone working with pesticides (transport, storage, mixing/loading, application) in the emergency procedures that must be followed. Know whether you plan to apply the spilled material or handle it as hazardous waste for disposal. The pesticide and what you use to absorb a liquid spill determine whether it can be applied legally to an application site on the label or if it requires disposal at a hazardous waste facility.

  1. Know safety procedures and first aid. The first and most immediate concern is for the health and well-being of persons in and around the spill area.
    1. All persons should be trained in basic first aid and evacuation procedures.
    2. First aid kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) must be available and maintained.
    3. Telephone numbers of medical assistance and poison control center must be posted.
    4. Minimize exposure of personnel.
    5. Put on PPE before entering the spill area.
    6. Assess personnel exposures.
    7. Turn off possible sources of ignition (gas engines, electric motors, pilot lights) to
      prevent fire or explosions.
    8. Move injured or exposed personnel to a safe location.
    9. Contaminated clothing should be removed from the victim. Then wash skin that has been exposed to the spill with soap and water. Give additional first aid as required, such as flushing eyes that were contacted by the spill with clean water for 15 minutes.
    10. Get medical help for the injured persons.  Always have someone stay with anyone who is injured until help arrives.
  2. Secure the site.
    1. Prevent unauthorized people from entering the spill area.
    2. Post signs, and use barrier tape or rope around the area.
    3. Get help from police or others to set a safe
      perimeter around the spill site.
    4. Eliminate all sources of ignition in order to prevent fire or explosion from vapors.
  3. Protect yourself and others. 
    1. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
    2. Notify others about the spill, and have backup close by.
  4. Control the spill.
    1. Stop further leakage (close valves, reposition leaking container, etc.)
    2. If the leak is being directed into another container, ensure that it does not overflow.
  5. Contain the spill. The spillage must be contained at the original site. Prevent the pesticide from entering ditches, storm drains, wells, and waterways. A spill pooled on a paved road or other impermeable surfaces can be easily removed. But if it reaches surface water, recovery will be very difficult or impossible. Block any entrance to storm drains or waterways.
    1. Block the spill from spreading by encircling it using a:
      1. Dike of sand or soil
      2. Absorbent material – some absorbent materials can be applied to a registered treatment site (for example, kitty litter), while others, such as absorbent pads, require disposal.
      3. Trench
      4. Rags
  6. Cover the spilled pesticide to stop it from spreading.
    1.  Liquid spills should be covered with an absorbent.
    2.  Dry spills should be covered with plastic or a tarp
  7. Carefully handle leaking containers.
    1. Segregate clean, undamaged containers from the leaking ones for cleanup at a later time.
    2. Repackage leaking containers.
      1. Over-pack leaking containers that are
        going to disposal.
      2. Transfer pesticide to a new container,
        same type as the original.
      3. Properly label the new container.
    3. Triple rinse the damaged or dirty empty container and collect rinsate for later disposal or use as a diluent.
  8. Clean contaminated area after finishing repacking.

Know the Drainage Types

It may not be obvious until you have a spill in a public area, like a street or parking lot, but it is very important to know the different types of underground drainage systems.

There are three main types of underground drainage systems,

  1. sanitary sewer
  2. combined sewer, with sewage and stormwater
  3. storm sewer or stormwater drain

Sanitary sewers carry wastewater, often called sewage, from homes, businesses, and factories to wastewater treatment facilities. Modern sanitary sewers are sealed and are not open to the environment, and should not be vulnerable to a pesticide spill as combined sewers are.

catch basinCombined sewer. When household wastewater is disposed of, it travels through sanitary sewers to a sewage treatment plant. In some cities (usually older ones), stormwater runoff from house roofs, parking lots, and streets empties into the same sewer system that carries household wastewater to sewage treatment plants. This system is referred to as a combined sewer. A combined sewer is open to surface drainage and can be contaminated by a surface spill. Liquids are constantly flowing in combined sewers; thus, spills will be flowing downstream very soon after reaching the system. The only way to stop a spill in this system is to contact the appropriate water authority and inform them so they can take responsible action. EPA on Combined Sewers

Storm sewers or stormwater drains are designed to carry stormwater away from an area. When a liquid enters a storm sewer underground system, typically, there is a catch basin to trap gravel and other sediments in the bottom.  If the trap is dry, the spill may not flow away until it reaches the capacity of the basin. The basin creates an opportunity for the spill to be contained. It may be possible to pump the spill out of the basin before it flows downhill. This possibility must be investigated when a spill occurs. For more information see USGS: Sewage overflows

Photos: PSU PSEP

Initial content compiled by Ron Gardner
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