Pcb Spill Cleanup: The 6 Steps Of Spill Response

September 5, 2014

In our last article on PCB spill cleanup, we talked about the importance of having a good PCB spill cleanup policy, as well as some of the guidelines for cleanup of PCBs outline by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 40 CFR 761. This time, we’re going to talk more generally about 6 steps of proper spill response. So, first off, what are the steps?

  1. Prepare
  2. Contain
  3. Assess
  4. Contact
  5. Cleanup
  6. Verify

No matter what kind of spill you’re dealing with, your cleanup response plan should always include these 6 steps. We’ll talk about each one in a little detail, so that you can see what you need to do to be ready for a spill, and how you can keep a spill from turning into something worse.

1. Prepare
You should have a spill kit ready before a spill occurs, which should contain:

  • Relevant contact information
  • A drum or bucket
  • Oil sample kit with pipettes, bellows, and sample jars
  • A wipe test kit
  • Chlor-N-Oil Field Test Kit
  • Oil absorbent materials
  • Several pairs of disposable nitrile gloves
  • Disposable booties
  • Plastic sheeting and vinyl tape
  • Heavy-grade tape and large plastic bags
  • Solvent
  • Safety glasses
  • And a camera

Your spill kit should include adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), including a Tyvek suit or apron if needed, so make sure that you use it! And remember that you don’t want to track PCBs back home to your family, so never wear any potentially contaminated PPEs (such as disposable booties) outside of the spill site.

2. Contain
When a spill occurs, your first priority is to keep it from spreading. Keep the oil in as small an area as possible, and make sure that it doesn’t get into sewers, waterways, pastures, etc. If you believe that the spill has already gotten into water sources, grazing land, or gardens, have an authorized employee contact the EPA immediately!

Cordon off the spill area to keep people or vehicles from passing through it and potentially spreading the spill. If the transformer is still leaking, stop the leak.

3. Assess
The next step is to assess the spill. Get in touch with your relevant contacts immediately, and be prepared to let them know details of the surroundings and any potential hazards in the area. If you can, find the unit serial number and manufacturer of the equipment.

4. Contact
As part of your spill preparedness, you should establish who in your organization is responsible for contacting the EPA, your state environmental department, and the National Response Center, if such contact is necessary. Spills that meet certain requirements have to be reported within a certain timeframe (usually 24 or 48 hours, depending on the size and concentration of the spill). These reports-or the failure to make them-can have major repercussions and need to be made correctly, so only authorized individuals should make the actual calls.

5. Cleanup
Once the spill has been contained and assessed and any regulatory agencies have been contacted, it’s time to actually clean up the spill. Cleanup requirements vary depending on the size and concentration of the spill, as well as the spill’s location and any environmental conditions that may affect cleanup. For more information, see the guidelines in 40 CFR 761, or our previous post about cleanup policy.

6. Verify
A spill can be a serious thing, and so good follow-up is important. Certain spills have requirements for reporting and post-cleanup sampling, and any spill should be reviewed to determine what sorts of follow-up efforts would be prudent. A spill is never a good thing, but by following the 6 steps of proper spill response, you can help ensure that your spill response is quick and effective.