Cleaning up small leaks and spills is often a nuisance that some facilities deal with daily. But for most, the spills are contained to a small area and can be cleaned up quickly.
We recently visited a utility provider to see what it takes to generate power and get it to homes and businesses. At this location, it takes more than 300 people working around the clock to keep everything running smoothly.
The “facility” includes a fixed site with natural gas and electric power generation plants, as well as hundreds of miles of pipelines that go to every home and business in a large geographic area. It also means that leaks and spills aren’t relegated to one specific area — they could happen anytime, anywhere.
Instead of a 2-gallon puddle on sealed concrete in a production area that takes less than five minutes to clean up, their spills are more likely to be leaks of dielectric fluid or fuel oil, underground in a large city with 24-hour traffic issues. Being prepared to quickly handle these situations, restore traffic patterns as quickly as possible and prevent environmental damage means more than having a couple of socks and mat pads in the back of the truck.
Technology helps the company know exactly where power outages and pipeline leaks are so they can dispatch repair crews quickly and, in the case of large spills, coordinate response and recovery efforts with spill contractors. It allows them to work with other utilities, such as the water authority, to understand where underground pipelines lead so that if there is a large spill, it can be contained before it reaches the sanitary sewer or a navigable waterway.
Beyond the technology aspect of preparedness, they also make preparations for each day’s work. Each day, technicians take the time to stock the tools and equipment that they need to do their jobs safely and effectively before they head out. They know that forgetting an item can mean hours spent in gridlock traffic waiting to go back and retrieve it.
Just like fixed facilities, space is at a premium on fleet vehicles. Everything in the car or on the truck needs to serve a purpose and be effective and easy to use. In addition to clamps, pipe wraps, monitors, detectors, generators and other tools, absorbent mats and socks are among the staples that technicians stock daily.
Making space for spill response supplies on each vehicle also means that they’re able to quickly handle hydraulic leaks or fuel line spills that may occur from generators and other powered equipment used for repairs. This helps them protect the environment and minimize the chance that aboveground spills will close roadways.
Not every facility has repair crews working around the clock, but everyone with a fleet can be prepared for leaks and spills. Including spill kits on every vehicle and training crew members to use them can minimize environmental damage and helps them to respond quickly and efficiently to unexpected leaks and spills.