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8 Tips for Creating Secondary Containment Systems

Even though regulations are specific about the need for secondary containment, you’re free to use anything that meets the requirements. So whether you’ve got a single drum or a 30,000-gallon tank, there are lots of options for creating secondary containment that can hold the entire volume. Here are eight tips to help you create a system that will work for you:

1. Use Containment Pallets and Decks

If you store less than 20 drums or just a few totes, then a dedicated containment room with sloped floors and integrated retention sumps is probably overkill — and way beyond your budget. Portable spill containment pallets and decks provide instant containment for drums, totes and other containers, and provide you with the flexibility to move your containment as your facility grows or changes.

2. Build Cement Berms

Poured concrete and cement block structures are two common ways to create custom-sized secondary containment. These types of berms are most commonly used outdoors — especially for tank containment — because they can last indefinitely. Sealing the concrete creates an impervious barrier when regulations require it. Concrete berms also provide strength, and in some cases added security for the materials stored within the bermed area. Just remember, concrete berms are permanent structures.

3. Install Flexible Barriers

If you need forklift and cart access to your secondary containment areas, PIG Build-A-Berm Barriers provide containment they can drive over. Because the core is made from flexible foam, the berm contracts when weight is put on it, then springs back to shape when the weight is removed. This allows practically any area with a solid, impervious floor to become a “full-access” secondary containment area.

4. Create Slopes

Grading a parking lot or an area within a facility to channel liquids to a location where they can be collected, vacuumed or otherwise contained is an increasingly popular option for new construction or facilities that are remodeling.

Sloping a secondary containment area helps to keep containers out of the spill and lets responders collect spills more quickly. It also helps rainwater and snowmelt drain from outdoor containment systems. Sloped outdoor systems can be fitted with filtration media to remove trace oils or other contaminants from storm waters to help prevent pollution.

5. Construct Retention Ponds

Retention ponds are commonly used as a best management practice (BMP) for Stormwater compliance, but they can also serve as secondary containment for spills inside or outside a facility. In some cases, they can be built solely of earthen materials, but some regulations may require them to be lined or otherwise impervious to prevent chemicals from leaching through the pond and into the environment.

6. Build Earthen Berms

Large tank farms are the most common location for earthen berms that are created from well-packed soil. These are very low-cost and don’t take very long to put into place. The big drawback is that in the event of a spill, these berms often become contaminated and need to be remediated or replaced – which can be very expensive and add considerable time to any cleanup efforts.

7. Use Double-Walled Tanks and Equipment

Tanks and oil-filled equipment are two examples of devices that are often available with double-walled secondary containment. In the event that the primary wall of the tank or equipment develops a leak, the second wall contains the spill so that it is not released into the environment.

Some tanks and equipment are even designed with alarms or gauges to alert you that the inner wall has been breached.

8. Deploy Collapsible Containment

If your secondary containment needs vary from one month or job to the next, collapsible containment may be the perfect solution. Collapsible systems are similar to aboveground swimming pools, but are stronger and much faster to deploy. They also have walls that fold down to allow vehicles to drive in and out. When they’re not needed, they can be folded compactly for storage or transporting from one location to another.

Think Outside the Box

You can find pre-fabricated or create engineered solutions for just about any secondary containment need. The eight options listed here are just the beginning; when it comes to secondary containment, the EPA gives you the flexibility to create what works and comply with this requirement in a way that works for you.