POSTED NOVEMBER 29, 2011
The U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team is assisting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) during a hazardous materials emergency removal action at a former chemical production facility in the Midwest. The site consists of over 500 drums, tanks, compressed gas cylinders, and other miscellaneous containers strewn throughout the abandoned site. A large number of the containers were observed to be unlabeled and unsecured. Many were marked "Toxic", "Flammable", "Corrosive", "Poison", "Reactive", and "Dangerous When Wet.” Multiple signs of leakage and spills from containers were observed in the building including puddles and pools of liquid waste on the floor. This site is located next to a residential area posing a significant threat to the local population.
The Atlantic Strike Team was requested by the Federal On Scene Coordinator to research and review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals on site, review the transportation and disposal documentation for all chemicals departing the site and to support the contracted Chemist. Working with the Chemist, the team is going to conduct hazard categorization of the unknown chemicals. Hazard categorization is a capability of the National Strike Force where a series field tests are conducted to identify or characterize unknown substances on site. This information will be used to determine how to properly dispose of the chemicals.
Due to the complete disrepair of the facility, chemical drums and containers have been exposed to the elements as well as other leaking wastes on site. This condition combined with improper storage practices has resulted in many seriously unstable conditions. MK1 Seth Hartmann, Atlantic Strike Team Response Member, observed contractors donning personal protective equipment in preparation to stabilize ether, a peroxidizable compound. If a chemical, such as ether forms peroxides, it become extremely unstable and has a great risk of exploding violently. Ether comes from the manufacturer with hydroquinone as an inhibitor introduced into the product to prevent the formation of peroxides. The inhibitor, however, is consumed over time, in the presence of oxygen, whereupon the ether is free to begin producing peroxide structures. The build-up of peroxides is an ongoing, self-accelerating process which can culminate with the presence of hard peroxide crystals that are known shock and friction sensitive materials and capable of initiating an explosion.
Mr. Ed Primeau, Atlantic Strike Team Response Officer and Industrial Hygienist, oversees the transfer of a highly corrosive substance from a metal drum to a Poly-Overpack drum. When corrosive materials are stored in metal containers, they eat through the metal and can eventually cause catastrophic failure. The contractors are wearing Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and Level B chemical protective clothing to protect against any inhalation and splash hazards.
The Lyndon Street Drum site emergency removal action is expected to continue through the holidays. The Atlantic Strike Team will continue to support the Federal On Scene Coordinator to ensure this neighborhood is made safer by the removal of these toxic wastes.
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