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The importance of dealing with a spill

Fri, March 04, 2016 - 1:37:00

The importance of dealing with a spill

Oils, fuels and chemicals are often used in industrial environments, in areas where workshops and garages are found and in places where tanks containing these fluids are kept. Therefore, there is potential for spills to occur.

With so many people all over the world using, working with, or in possession of these fluids, it’s vital that when a spill occurs, it’s dealt with correctly and cleaned up quickly.

Knowing how to deal with a spill is extremely important, as it can have impacts both environmentally and socially. The impact of a fuel spill can vary site to site. Factors including the location of a leak and the amount of fuel leaked, will determine the severity of the spill and therefore the implications it may have. 

Environmental impacts…

• Soil degradation – the presence of oil on land can result in the soil becoming infertile and therefore making it impossible for plants or crops to grow. This then has a knock on effect for both people and animals.

• People who use the land to grow crops will no longer be able to grow them. Existing vegetation will suffocate or become polluted, resulting in produce being inedible and unsellable.

• Animals who feed on the land could become sick or even die because of it being polluted.

• Groundwater concern – when oil is absorbed into the earth it risks underground water systems becoming contaminated. If a spill reaches groundwater, it has the potential to spread over a huge amount of space in a short amount of time.

• Spilt oil also has the potential to pollute streams and rivers if located in rural areas or close to water supplies.

• Animals that live on the land, risk coming into contact with the substance.

• The strong scent of one of these fluids on an animal or its young can result in rejection or abandonment, which can lead to starvation and possibly death.

• For animals that fly, the substance can impair its abilities and therefore leave the animal incapable of foraging for food or escaping from the clutches of a predator.

• Finally, preening animals could ingest the contaminant which could then lead to kidney damage, dehydration and death.  And if the contaminant comes into contact with the eyes, it can cause blindness, resulting in defencelessness.

Social impacts…

• The main social impact of not dealing with an oil, fuel or chemical spill is that you can be prosecuted if you are found to have not dealt with it, despite knowing it had occurred.

• It is against the law to cause pollution, and therefore you will be liable for any spill that’s ignored.

• You are also liable for any clean-up process should your tank leak or spill.

Tanks should regularly be inspected and serviced…

It is essential that any fuel tank is regularly inspected and serviced, to help identify a source of a potential leak before it’s happened. Corrosion or degradation of the tank is also important to look out for, as these are all factors that could eventually result in a leak.

It’s a good idea to do some simple checks yourself to detect any problems with your tank:

• Inspect pipework, valves and seams of the tank.

• Inspect a bund for water, oil, debris etc – as this could take up critical capacity in the bund.

• Check the tank vent, fill point and inspection chamber haven’t been tampered with.

• Ensure any equipment such as tank or bund gauges and alarms are working properly.

• The surrounding area of a tank can give you a good indication as to whether your tank is leaking – and oil staining, dead grass or plants and sodden ground can all be signs that it is.

• It’s important to arrange a thorough examination and service of your tank by a qualified and registered engineer. It is recommended that a low volume user should have their tank serviced annually, and for high volume users to have their tank serviced six monthly.

During a service visit, the following should be checked:

• Tank, supply lines and valves

• Water contamination and sludge build up

• Cleaning or replacement of filters

• Visual inspection of accessible fittings

• Pressure tests where relevant

• Operation and accuracy of gauges

• Compliance with current Environment Agency guidelines

You should also be informed of any deterioration of the tank, bund or other components within the installation, and be recommended appropriate products that could improve protection of fuel loss.

Dealing with a spill…

Fuel spills can be difficult to deal with, especially if you have no knowledge of how to deal with one and even more so if you aren’t prepared for it.

It can also be very expensive, so ensuring you have the appropriate insurance cover is essential.

Your policy should include – environmental clean-up for accidental loss, the cost of replacing lost oil, the cost of the clean-up and a high enough liability limit to cover you if neighbouring land or borehole is affected.

Oil spill Do’s…

• Deal with the spill immediately.

• Have an oil spill kit at your property, which is easily accessible.

• Shut off the oil flow using the tanks isolation valve.

• Use leak sealing putty as a temporary solution if you’ve identified where the leak is coming from. This will buy you time to call out an emergency engineer, or put measures in place to prevent a larger spill.

• For environmentally sensitive locations, if your spill hasn’t yet reached the water, ring the 24 hour UK pollution incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 who will give you advice on what steps to take.

• If your spill has made contact with a water source, contact the Environment Agency immediately!

• Also contact your insurance policy provider to tell them a spill has occurred and that a clean-up process may be required.

…and Don’ts:

• Never ignore a spill or put off the clean-up. Always deal with it immediately.

• Don’t use other chemicals to clean up your spill; it will only cause more pollution.

• If the spill has spread or reached groundwater, do not try and hide it from the authorities. The penalty will be severe if you’re found to be the source.

• Using a hose will spread a spill and do so quickly.  It also increases the chances of the contaminant finding its way to neighbouring land or water supplies.

• Rags and/or tissue are only temporary measures and won’t last long. Leak sealing putty will give you more time, until an engineer can reach you.

EnviroSpill spill control…

It is always good practice to have a spill kit. Our Envirospill spill kits are small and compact, ideal to have lying around close to your tank or drum to quickly grab in the event of a spill or leak.

Our range covers oil, maintenance and chemical spills, and come in two different sizes:

• Oil – 20 and 40 litre kits

• Maintenance –  20 and 40 litre kits

• Chemical – 10 and 20 litre kits

For commercial properties, we offer boxes of 200 spill pads for oil and maintenance spills.