Hazards Below the Surface

Bulk storage tanks for liquid chemical products can take up a lot of space.  Many chemical distributors and industrial manufacturers have large facilities and tank farms to house the chemicals they handle.  For smaller distributors, especially in urban settings, space limitations might prevent above ground tanks from being an option.  When the space isn’t available, underground storage tanks (UST’s) are the preferred method for chemical storage.

Gas stations, farmers, chemical companies and even private individuals have utilized UST’s for their liquid chemical storage needs for decades.  The EPA estimates that by the 1980’s, there were over two million UST’s in the United States that stored hazardous materials and petroleum products.  Until that time, these tanks were largely unregulated.  They were often made of bare steel and frequently corroded and leaked their contents into the surrounding soil, posing a threat to groundwater sources.  Since underground tanks aren’t visible, a leaking tank could release its contents for years before the leak was noticed.

The Federal UST program was created to track and regulate tanks in order to prevent leaks.  The program defined a UST as a tank and it’s piping that had ten percent of its total volume underground.  Only tanks that store petroleum products or certain hazardous substances are regulated by the program.  This means that a tank might be buried underground, but isn’t regulated because it stores water or another non-hazardous substance.

A tank regulated by the UST program has to meet certain standards for design, installation, and leak detection.  These criteria ensure that every new tank minimizes the risk of leaks and put in place a system to detect leaks if one does occur.  When a UST is removed, it must still be handled in a way that is compliant with the UST regulations to prevent chemical spills.

The UST program also dictates that the tank’s owner/operator as being financial responsibility for monitoring, cleaning up a spill and damages to third party property if a leak occurs.  An operator that allows a leak to occur and fails to act on it can still be held liable for the cleanup, even if they’ve already sold the property.  In the event that owner is unknown, unwilling or unable to pay, a fund operated by the EPA pays the costs.

Since the inception of the UST program in 1984, a majority of the old UST’s that existed prior to the program have been removed.  As of March of 2017, there have been over 535,000 confirmed cases of UST releases.  Roughly 86% of these sites have been remediated, but thousands more still remain.

Some property owners may not even realize that they have a UST on the premises if the previous owner failed to inform them.  It can come as quite a surprise to find out that a tank storing hazardous chemicals is right under the surface.  As an environmental contractor working for the TCEQ and property owners, Protect Environmental has helped to detect leaks, dispose of the hazardous contents, remove the tank and remediate the contaminated soil.  We can handle all the details of the project including testing, reporting and waste disposal.

If you have a UST that you need removed, or suspect that you might have one, feel free to contact our office to learn more about how we can help.

 

 

 

Spill Response; a Complicated Business

As anyone who’s handled a chemical spill response from beginning to end can attest, it’s complicated.  Depending on where a spill occurs, there can be many players involved in the response.  A small spill in a warehouse will be completely different from a spill in a public or natural area.  Local police, fire and environmental officials are almost always involved when a HazMat spill poses a threat to public safety.  Larger spills and spills on waterways can also draw in State and Federal regulatory agencies such as the TCEQ and EPA.

All of these public agencies have an interest in protecting property and lives in the aftermath of a chemical spill, so the responsible party for a spill could potentially have many different groups to answer to at the same time.  Communicating with all these various government officials while meeting reporting requirements, collecting samples and coordinating with vendors to actually clean up the spill can be extremely challenging; especially for someone who has no prior experience with the tasks involved.  Mistakes or missteps can end up becoming very costly for the responsible party.  Many companies that aren’t prepared to handle spills are at risk of going out of business if one does happen.

That’s where Protect Environmental comes in.  Our staff have extensive experience working in the high pressure environment of spill response.  We’ve successfully responded to thousands of chemical, cargo and bio-hazard spills since 1996 and routinely handle every detail for our clients.  We send HazMat trained teams, dispatch the necessary equipment, make calls to regulatory agencies, and coordinate with other first responders on scene and compile a meticulous report, all while keeping the client up to date during every step.

By offering a quick, comprehensive cleanup solution, we’re able save our clients from extra costs and government fines that stem from non-compliance with cleanup requirements.  You can rest assured that every task will be handled by experienced professionals who care about giving you the best outcome possible following a spill.

In addition to emergency spill response, we offer a wide array of environmental services including tank cleaning, confined space rescue and special waste disposal.  By calling or emailing our office today, you can find out what we can do to keep your employees safe and your business running smoothly in the face of your unique environmental needs.

 

The Secret to HazMat Response

Protect has been in the business of responding to hazardous material spills for over twenty years.  During that time, new technologies and techniques have been introduced and marketed as a ‘cure all’ for environmental remediation needs.   These new technologies may show promise in certain circumstances, but each one comes with limitations.  Experienced safety and emergency response professionals can see through the marketing hype around new products.  They realize that new additions to the cleanup and remediation market need to be examined thoroughly before being utilized in situations where the well being of humans and the environment is at risk.

Bio-remediation in soils is an example of a technique that is recognized as being useful in some but not all situations.  It can result in the breakdown of contaminants into less toxic substances, but it is a slow process.  Bio-remediation works well when contaminants are minimal and mostly immobile, but it isn’t recommended in areas that are highly sensitive to the spilled material or where the material can run off into waterways.

Super absorbent polymers were developed in the 1960’s and have since been used in numerous consumer and safety products.  These polymers are commonly sold as absorbents for chemicals spills due to their ability to absorb and retain a large amount of liquid.  Since these polymers will soak up oil products and water; however, they are ineffective at removing petroleum contamination from waterways.  They will also absorb a number of different chemical products, but the user has to exercise caution since certain chemicals, such as Nitric Acid, will react with the polymer and can cause a fire or explosion hazard.

Pozzolanic stabilization is very effective at removing the leaching ability of metals from waste sludges and contaminated soils, but its usefulness essentially ends there.  Spills of solvents, fuels and most other waste materials should not be exposed to the chemical reactions involved with this type of stabilization.

Today, chemical recovery scrubbers are commonly touted as the most effective way to clean up hazardous materials and petroleum spills.  Once again, this type of technology has certain uses, but does not guarantee a quick and complete cleanup.  Spilled liquid material can easily spread while a scrubber works its way through the area and rough surfaces such as concrete roadways slow down the cleanup process.  Once the material reaches waterways, storm drains or soil, the scrubber is no longer effective.  Non-miscible products such as oil based paint are extremely difficult to remove with scrubbers.  Also, since they utilize water, it’s not advisable to use them for cleaning up corrosives or water reactive material.

The truth is that there is no one machine or technique that is always applicable to every HazMat spill.  Response contractors that lack an experienced professional staff will try to make up for it by emphasizing new gadgets and machines.  Be wary of anyone promising ‘state of the art’ or ‘proprietary’ solutions since real HazMat professionals know every situation is unique and requires different strategies.

Emergency response companies have to invest in new equipment and trucks to tackle tough spill situations, but the most important asset they can invest in is their employees.  Protect Environmental has spent the past twenty-one years focusing solely on hazardous materials emergencies and special waste disposal, so our HAZWOPER certified teams have unmatched experience.  They know how to properly analyze and respond to any spill situation while complying with State and Federal laws.  Every member of our staff believe in what we do and work hard to give our clients the best possible outcome when spills strike.  That is the secret to HazMat response.

Don’t Let Waste Wait

Businesses that generate hazardous chemical wastes as part of their day to day operations are typically up to date on the requirements put forth by the EPA and the TCEQ.  Large and small quantity generators track waste shipments and report their waste activities to the state, but generators who don’t produce hazardous waste on a regular basis aren’t required to follow the same guidelines.  The EPA created the category of ‘conditionally exempt small quantity generators’ for organizations that periodically find themselves needing to dispose of hazardous waste because of special projects or other sporadic events.

These generators are allowed more flexibility when it comes to storing and disposing of wastes, but that doesn’t mean that hazardous wastes should be stashed away and forgotten.  Any material stored on site that can adversely the health of the employees or the environment poses a potential risk for the business that has possession of it.  Companies that store large amounts of hazardous products on site with the intention of using them are also at risk.  Allowing chemical products to pile up, whether they are wastes or not, increases the chance of having a spill that can lead to employee injuries, government fines and lawsuits.  

The best way to avoid spills of hazardous chemicals is to avoid having them around in the first place.  If necessity dictates that your employees use a hazardous chemical as part of your business, you can reduce your liability by following some simple tips:

  • Train employees on the proper handling and use of the materials:  
    The likelihood of costly spills or accidents is greatly reduced.  Mishandling of some materials can result in severe injury or death.
  • Make sure products are stored according the manufacturers recommendations:  When materials are stored in conditions that destabilize the product, hazardous chemical reactions can occur.  Bulging drums, toxic gases and fires are just a few of dangerous consequences.
  • Don’t buy large amounts of the material unless you plan to use it within a few months:  Each organization has to weight the costs and benefits of buying products in bulk.  Carefully consider the cost savings of buying and storing products versus the cost of dealing with an accidental spill.
  • Dispose of outdated or excess materials as soon as possible:  Some companies will accumulate waste materials for years before trying to dispose of them.  As time goes on, the cost of disposal services rises and rusted or damaged containers can make it more expensive.  Staying on top of disposal on a regular basis can prevent budget-busting problems down the line.
  • Contact an emergency responder before an emergency:  A quick and efficient cleanup after a spill is crucial to getting back to normal operations.  The contractor must be reliable, knowledgeable and have the right equipment for the job.  Rather than frantically searching for a responder as an accident is unfolding, take the time to find the right one before disaster strikes.  Protect Environmental has dedicated the past twenty-one years to emergency hazardous materials cleanup and special waste disposal, so we have a proven track record when it comes to helping our clients cope with spills.  We invite you to contact our office and build a relationship before you ever need us for an emergency.

Keeping hazardous material safety and disposal near the top of the priority list leads to long term benefits for small businesses.  With these tips in mind, managers and safety officers can help protect their assets, their employees and the future of their companies.

 

 

 

Environmental Services at Healthcare Facilities

At Protect Environmental, we understand that each healthcare facility is unique and has its own set of challenges.  Each facility treats different patients and will have environmental needs related to the care it provides.  Our goal is to reduce our clients’ liability and risk by providing comprehensive waste disposal, decontamination and emergency response services.  We’ve offered our expertise and reliable services to clients since 1996, and during that time have helped numerous healthcare facilities ranging from small clinics to large hospitals.

Our staff can assess your disposal needs and find solutions that best fit your schedule and budget. Whether you have bio-hazardous waste, pharmaceuticals, RCRA hazardous waste, or universal wastes such as light bulbs and paint, Protect Environmental can find a disposal facility and arrange pickup scheduling.  All the wastes handled by Protect Environmental are properly packaged and transported to licensed facilities, so you can be assured that your wastes won’t pose an environmental hazard.  These wastes will also have the proper documentation; keeping your facility in compliance with EPA and TCEQ regulations.

In addition to waste disposal, Protect can dispatch teams to perform regular cleaning and decontamination operations.  We pressure-wash sidewalks and parking lots, and can complete thorough cleanings of interior surfaces with disinfectants.  These periodic cleanings keep animal droppings and debris from being tracked inside your building and prevent the spread of diseases among patients and employees.

If there is ever an emergency at your facility, our teams are available 24/7 for emergency chemical spill or bio-hazard cleanups.  Protect’s technicians are trained to meet all OSHA and EPA standards while containing and removing spilled materials.  We handle disposal of any waste materials generated, so your employees are able to get back to caring for patients while minimizing their risk of exposure to harmful vapors, hazardous chemicals and infectious agents.

One call to our office can take care of multiple environmental needs and save you time while saving your facility money.  We’re standing by to help, so feel free to contact us today to find out what solutions we can offer.

Protect Environmental: Inclusive Emergency Response and Waste Management Services

Most companies, to one degree or another, transport, handle or store chemical products.  The presence of these chemical products means that the possibility of a spill exists as well.  Managers at small businesses with a handful of employees may not face the same level of risk that large industrial companies do, but they can still find themselves suddenly trying to cope with a HazMat spill.  Without prior planning, the scramble to contain and clean up hazardous chemicals can become a dangerous and costly endeavor.

When a spill occurs, whether the material is a fuel, a cleaning compound or an adhesive, it will need to be handled in a safe manner by trained employees.  The product’s chemical characteristics can vary widely and so will the precautions that need to be taken.  Spilled materials can catch fire, give off harmful vapors or burn employees exposed to them.  The ability to assess the hazards of any given chemical and form a containment plan is key to conducting a cleanup without any injuries.  

Having untrained or otherwise unprepared employees engage in a HazMat cleanup not only puts them at risk but the company as well.  The National Safety Council estimates that when an employee is injured and requires medical treatment, the average cost to their employer exceeds $40,000.  This does not include any property damage costs, OSHA fines and litigation that may also arise after an employee is injured while handling hazardous materials.  All these expenses can quickly add up and a single, serious employee injury can be mean bankruptcy for many small businesses.

Even if a hazardous chemical doesn’t spill, many companies find themselves needing to remove old, outdated chemical products and dispose of them.  The regulations governing the transportation and disposal of chemical wastes can be complex.  Mishandling wastes could also lead to spills, injuries and penalties from OSHA and the EPA.

The best way to mitigate the hazards associated with the use and disposal of dangerous chemicals is to partner with a competent contractor who can manage your emergency response and waste needs.  Protect Environmental has been doing this for our clients since 1996 and we offer the full spectrum of services.  When your company has a spill, we can dispatch teams 24/7 to contain and clean up the material.  When you need to dispose of old hazardous products or universal wastes, we can handle all the associated paperwork and arrange for removal.

Our staff are dedicated to finding the most cost effective solutions that meet our clients’ unique needs.  Safety and regulatory compliance are our priorities and we give employers piece of mind.  Our clients can rest assured that when the call Protect, they are limiting their liability, protecting their assets and ensuring the safety of their employees.

 

Start the New Year with Protect

Each new year brings new challenges and in the world of environmental health and safety there is no end to the challenges that safety and compliance professionals face.  Whether its at a healthcare facility or an industrial manufacturing complex, the demands of the job require partners that can assess the client’s needs, formulate cost effective strategies and manage smooth implementation.  Protect Environmental is proud to be a contractor that provides comprehensive emergency response and waste disposal solutions for countless clients all over the state of Texas.

Since 1996 our focus has been on hazardous materials management and environmental cleanups.  Our response teams are trained to handle numerous types of situations that require specialized knowledge and equipment.  From confined space operations to biological hazard cleanups, our technicians are able to meet your company’s needs 24/7.  We respond to emergency events every day of the year because we know every second of down time matters to our clients’ bottom line.

The most important thing you get when you partner with Protect Environmental is exceptional customer service.  Our staff strive to provide an open line of communication and are always willing to help answer any questions we can about how a cleanup is conducted and where waste materials are disposed of afterward.  We prepare detailed reports for each spill and wastes are always sent to properly licensed facilities that provide documentation.  This level of thoroughness lets our clients know that they are safe from penalties from state and federal regulators.

Managing safety and compliance is a difficult and necessary job.  It means looking after the well being of the company, the employees and the environment.  It doesn’t have to be done alone; however.  Let 2017 be the year that Protect Environmental made your job a little easier so give us a call or email today.

Spill Waste Management

Businesses that store and use chemical products during their operations are at risk of having a spill but even companies that don’t use traditional chemical products may still be at risk.  Vehicles, forklifts and other power equipment contain fluids such as oils, battery acid and fuels that can pose varying levels of hazard when spilled during an accident.  While it may seem like an unlikely event, the prevalence of spill-able chemical materials in the workplace makes the need for an emergency cleanup a possibility for many organizations.

Once a chemical spill occurs, an emergency cleanup needs to be initiated.  Employees on site who are trained can begin containment procedures while a HazMat contractor mobilizes to orchestrate the cleanup.  When you call Protect Environmental for you emergency, our trained technicians quickly contain and remove the spilled chemical and other materials that may have been contaminated including soil, packaging and other debris.

During the cleanup process, the recovered chemical, contaminated solids and spill cleanup materials typically become wastes and require proper disposal.  The requirements for disposal can vary and will depend on the type of material spilled.  Chemical products that are a listed hazardous waste are still considered hazardous after a spill.  Absorbents, soil, PPE and other spill cleanup materials that are contaminated with the product will be classified as hazardous as well.

On the other hand, characteristic hazardous products may no longer be considered hazardous when they are removed from a spill site.  Due to a change in characteristics some flammable or corrosive products can be safely disposed of as non-hazardous wastes after solidification or dilution during a cleanup.  Other characteristic wastes; however, will need laboratory testing to determine whether the waste generated during a spill is hazardous or not.

Disposing of spill wastes if an often overlooked part of an emergency cleanup.  Even when the cleanup itself meets TCEQ expectations, the improper disposal of wastes can lead to penalties against the responsible party.  When you rely on Protect Environmental to handle your emergency spill response needs, you can rest assured that the cleanup and disposal of wastes will meet all regulatory requirements.  We provide our clients with detailed reporting and disposal documents that allow them to move forward with confidence after a spill.

Accidents can happen at any workplace but they don’t need to be a disaster for a business.  Protect Environmental specializes in emergency cleanups and our staff can manage the the operation from beginning to end no matter how small or large.  We work hard to get the job done fast and right so contact our office today for more information if you want Protect to be on your side during a spill .

Asbestos Key Facts

Asbestos has been a common word in the public sphere for many years.  It’s widely known that Asbestos poses a risk to the public health but asbestos has a long and complicated history that many people at risk of exposure may not be aware of.  The following are a few important facts to know about asbestos, its health effects and safe removal and disposal of asbestos containing materials.

  • Asbestos is a general term for six types of fibrous mineral materials that are mostly composed of silicon and oxygen and can be found in nature.  These minerals have desirable qualities such as resistance to heat or chemical decomposition and were incorporated into many commercial and industrial applications.
  • Asbestos materials have been mined for thousands of years but production of asbestos containing materials escalated in the early 1900’s.  For most of the twentieth century, asbestos was used in the manufacturing of household goods and construction materials.  A majority of structures built prior to the 1990’s still contain asbestos in some form.
  • Certain asbestos fibers can be woven into yarns and fabrics.  The high heat tolerance and resistance to corrosion of these fabrics made them useful for producing protective garments and the vibration dampening ability meant that they were used to reduce noise around ducts and walls.
  • Exposure to asbestos materials can cause several diseases.  Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, and several forms of lung cancer can develop in individuals who are exposed.  While chronic exposure in the workplace is a common trait among patients suffering from asbestos related diseases, OSHA states that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.  Symptoms of an asbestos related disease can develop several years after even a brief exposure.
  • Since asbestos minerals are a natural phenomenon, large deposits that lie near the surface can release fibers into the air through mechanical weathering.  While every person breathes in small amounts of naturally occurring asbestos in the air, people that live near surface deposits have a higher chance of suffering from an asbestos related disease without occupational exposure.
  • Due to the serious health risks that come from occupational exposure to asbestos, the removal and disposal of asbestos materials is highly regulated by the EPA and OSHA.  Old buildings containing asbestos are tested, and asbestos is carefully removed and transported so that workers and the public aren’t put at risk.
  • Asbestos wastes are generally divided into two categories; friable and non-friable.  Friable asbestos is fragile enough to be broken apart by hand and has a high danger of releasing fibers into the air.  Non-friable asbestos cannot be broken apart by hand but can still release fibers during cutting and grinding actions used in the process of removal.
  • Landfill disposal is the most common method for disposal of asbestos but limited landfill space and the development of new techniques are making the recycling of asbestos materials a more viable option.  Asbestos fibrils can be treated to form non-threatening materials such as silicate glass and ceramics.

If your business has asbestos containing material to dispose of, don’t try to navigate the strict regulations alone.  Protect Environmental can help so give us a call or email our office today.

Managing Risk at Your Business

Every business faces natural and man-made events that could lead to potential loses of property or capital.  These negative incidents and their probability are known as risk.  The risks an individual organization will face will vary depending on geographic location and the types of services or products they provide.  Every business has to analyze and manage risks differently depending on their own situation.

For many small businesses, the risks they face may not be apparent and the consequences of failing to recognize and prepare for them can be catastrophic.  Large disasters such as tornadoes, floods and hurricanes can’t be prevented but actions can be taken to mitigate the damage.  Smaller incidents such as chemical spills and fires can be equally devastating for a business but are easily prevented.

One common risk to businesses are the hazardous materials they use such as flammable solvents, corrosive cleaners and other toxic materials that are prevalent in manufacturing and repair shops.  These risks can be reduced by removing the most hazardous chemical products.  Chemical manufacturers have made efforts over the years to increase the safety of their products and offer many alternatives that prove to be less of a liability to the end user.  Many companies are also re-tuning their processes so that they use fewer hazardous chemicals and produce less waste.  When fewer chemicals are on site, the likelihood of a spill or injury decreases.

When keeping hazardous chemicals on site is a must, the risk can be mitigated with proper storage and waste disposal practices.  Flammable cabinets, containment tanks, and reliable waste disposal services require an investment but will be well worth the cost if an accident occurs.  Training employees on safety procedures and equipment upgrades and maintenance are other investments that could prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

If a business takes these steps and disaster still strikes, a comprehensive contingency plan can be the last line of defense.  These plans outline response actions and partners that can be called on to help when an accident is unfolding.  When a chemical spill occurs, a business needs a response contractor who can provide immediate, cost effective containment and cleanup services.  Protect Environmental has performed emergency cleanups for hundreds of clients and our teams regularly prevent further damage and allowed normal operations to restart sooner.

Managing risks can be tough so contact our office and let us help you find solutions tailored to your business.

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