Tanks, drums, cans and bottles are designed to keep liquids contained. But when one of those shells fails, the mess can be anything from a minor nuisance to a major disaster. Secondary containment buys time, facilitates liquid recycling and prevents catastrophic harm.
Instead of having to chase and confine a spill, secondary containment creates a pre-determined area to capture and hold spilled liquids. Several environmental regulations require facilities to identify spill hazards and take action to prevent them from being discharged into the environment. But secondary containment systems can be more than just a proactive pollution prevention measure. They can also be part of housekeeping and safety protocols that minimize cleaning time and prevent slip and fall injuries.
Although there are requirements for secondary containment systems to be adequately sized, the methods for providing secondary containment are not specified. This permits facility owners to use whatever method works best for each situation, but choosing a secondary containment solution that fits your needs can be confusing.
Where should you start? Identifying each area where all types of liquids — both new and used — are stored is the first step in determining where secondary containment may be useful in your facility.
Chemical inventories, purchase orders and invoices can all help determine what liquids are onsite, but they probably won’t provide a lot of detail about where each of those liquids is stored or used. Facility preparedness plans such as Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans or Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans may provide additional information. However, it may be necessary to go look at each area to get the most accurate picture.
Now that you’ve identified areas in your facility where liquid is stored, it’s time to find secondary containment solutions for each area.
Bulk Fluid Loading and Offloading Areas
By road, rail or vessel, bulk fluid transfers deliver large volumes of liquids to facilities. Even if the receiving tanks and containers are in good shape and the delivery vehicle is intact, hoses and valves can sometimes fail and create spills.
In many cases, bulk offloading areas are paved and sloped toward a drain. In these areas, berming or diking the area near the lowest point and covering the drain with a drain cover is an easy way to provide containment. Another option is to provide drive-in containment for the vehicle and hosing.
Some facilities also choose to stock and use spill response products in these areas so that they are ready to take immediate response to a hose or connection leak.
Outdoor Storage Areas
Materials that are stored outdoors are more susceptible to the elements. This makes them more prone to corrosion and UV damage that can break down containers and cause them to fail. Creating secondary containment for outdoor storage areas can include cement pads and curbing to enclose or designate the area, and tarps, canopies or storage sheds to shield the stored items. For temporary storage areas, earthen berms or containment pads may also be an option.
Many tanks in the market today are double-walled, so they provide their own secondary containment. For smaller tanks that are not double-walled, or if more security is desired, each tank can be placed in a large tub to provide secondary or tertiary containment. If multiple tanks are stored in the same area, dikes, curbs and berms may be alternatives that are more practical.
Waste Collection and Container Storage Areas
Satellite accumulation areas and central waste accumulation areas are two locations that can be prone to leaks and dribbles when fluids are being transferred from one container to another. Spill decks keep these nuisances from getting into walkways and creating a slip hazard or from entering nearby floor drains. They’re also a great choice for promoting good housekeeping in fluid dispensing areas.
For larger waste accumulation areas where drums, totes and other containers are stored until they can be recycled or disposed of, secondary containment pallets keep incompatible wastes segregated and bigger spills in check.
Flexible secondary containment berms around baths and equipment filled with oil or coolants prevents leaks from getting into walkways, keeping production areas cleaner and safer. Berms also help to facilitate fluid recycling efforts because a bermed area is easier to pump or vacuum to recover the leaked fluids.
Maintenance Sheds and Material Storage Lockers
Lubricants, cleaning chemicals and pesticides are just a few of the things that can be found in maintenance and storage sheds, closets and lockers throughout the facility. Use shelf trays and drip pans to keep spills contained on each shelf and segregate incompatible chemicals.
Traditionally, laboratories aren’t known for having large volumes of liquids, but they do tend to stock more hazardous chemicals. Chemically resistant trays can help to keep spills contained and save benchtops. Steel trays can be bonded and grounded to channel and earth hazardous static charges when working with flammable liquids.
Fleet Washing Operations
In most municipalities, wash water from cleaning fleet vehicles and equipment must be prevented from entering storm drains because it contains dirt, oil, grease and other materials that pollute waterways. When bays with collection sumps or detention ponds aren’t available, containment pads and collapsible containment can hold liquids so that the wash water from these operations can be collected and pumped for recycling.
Is there an area in your facility that we didn’t mention on this list? Leave a comment to let us know and we’ll help you find a secondary containment solution for that area.