Question: I store my drums and totes of hazardous materials in one area, and my hazardous wastes in another area. Instead of using spill containment pallets, can I create secondary containment in an existing room?
Answer: We have seen this done successfully in several different types of facilities. Some of the questions you need to ask include the following:
1. Do you need to seal or remove any drains?
Drains give spills somewhere to go, which is not what you want. The main point of secondary containment is that it keeps spills contained. If you need functioning drains to periodically wash down the area, you can seal the drains with plugs. Otherwise, consider permanent methods such as concrete to seal drains.
2. Is the floor in good condition?
Floors with deep cracks, seams or holes will let spills migrate into the ground and eventually into groundwater. Fill in all surface imperfections to prevent leakage.
3. If the floor is concrete, do you need to seal it?
Concrete may seem like a solid surface, but it is actually porous to some degree and therefore permeable. It is also liable to degrade when subject to certain chemicals. Sealing the concrete in your containment area is not always required, but it simplifies cleanup, can add chemical resistance and might save you the cost of digging out the floor in the aftermath of a chemical spill that penetrates unsealed concrete.
4. How will you seal the bottom of the walls where they meet the floor?
Most walls simply sit on the floor without any sort of seal. This would let spilled liquid flow under them. Some facilities prevent this by sealing this seam and any gaps up the wall to a height generally between 6 and 24 inches. Other sites install berms next to the walls to provide containment, as depicted below.
5. Do you need to provide forklift, hand truck or cart access to the room?
If the storage area is flat, you can use flexible berms or ramps to ensure containment in doorways or entrances. If the storage area is sloped, be sure to place the room’s access point at the top of the slope.
6. Do you need to segregate incompatible materials?
Use flexible or rigid berms within a containment area to keep incompatible materials from mixing. Note that some incompatible materials must be segregated by a certain distance, and some even require segregation by full walls between the materials.
7. What other safety considerations are there?
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is primarily concerned with safeguarding the environment, other regulations might also apply to the area, such as OSHA’s flammable storage regulation. Include your facility’s safety officer during the planning phases to ensure that the area will comply from a safety standpoint as well. The EPA allows facilities to choose the best methods for their particular situations and circumstances. Whether you fabricate a secondary containment room, use portable containment systems, purchase pre-fabricated spill containment pallets and decks, or rely on earthen berms, secondary containment is a proven best practice that prevents spills from becoming harmful environmental releases.
See the document below for aerial-view diagrams of rooms equipped with PIG Build-A-Berm flexible barriers to serve as secondary containment
Download (PDF, 735KB)