Voices: Field Notes

Environmental Safety: Give Prime Focus To Secondary Containment

This last line of defense can forestall major environmental events

By Dirk Willard, Contributing Editor
Feb 27, 2019

Diked areas keep fluids released by leaks, spills, overflows, etc., from wreaking major environmental damage. Yet, secondary containment measures sometimes don’t get sufficient scrutiny. Consider what I found when called in as part of a team to repair and verify compliance for a solvent containment area at a paint manufacturer in southwestern Ohio in 1991 after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had put that plant under its microscope. A few years earlier, a storage tank on the site blew up in a lightning storm for lack of a lightning rod; this led to a release into a nearby river. The plant also didn’t provide an automatic shutoff for tanker trucks and a local alarm. Moreover, the site’s procedure for emptying stormwater from the diked areas was simply to open a valve and drain the water into the river. Before you dismiss these lapses as ones that only occurred way back when, let me assure you that I’ve seen much worse, even recently.

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