Over the years, I’ve helped lots of customers fit secondary containment pallets and berms into existing spaces. It is fun to figure out what kinds of containment products you can wiggle between permanent columns and I-beams.
I’ve calculated the absolute minimum square footage needed for a containment room. I’ve discussed the pros and cons of poly versus steel pallets and when you need one over the other.
Fitting secondary containment into existing, cramped spaces has become a welcome challenge. But, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be able to start from scratch. No walls in the way. No space the size of a washing machine that needs to contain 500 gallons. And I finally got my opportunity.
A small startup that specializes in mobile oil changes and other vehicle services just moved into a new space. The building was completely empty. When I arrived, a construction crew was onsite removing a section of the exterior wall on one end of the building so that a large rolling door could be put in to allow their fleet vehicles to come in and out of the building.
The manager explained that when he was in technical school, he was fortunate to have a teacher who taught him the importance of keeping liquid contained so that they don’t pollute the environment. He also learned about the importance of keeping a neat shop and cleaning up spills quickly before they get tracked anywhere else or enter a floor drain.
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Because they’re going to be doing a lot of oil changes, they’re going to have a lot of oil onsite. Some of the more common types of oil will arrive in drums and other specialty oils will be in 5-gallon carboys. But, as they grow, they could eventually receive the more common oils in 300-gallon totes, so they want secondary containment that can expand with their needs. They also want to keep other fluids — like antifreeze — contained and segregated from the oil because they have already established a relationship with a used oil re-refiner, but they can’t have the antifreeze mixed in with the oil.
The oils will be transferred from the drums or other containers onto containers in each of the fleet vehicles that will be used in the field to perform oil changes for their customers. In addition to containment and spill preparedness for the actual facility building, he wanted spill kits for each vehicle as well.
We looked over the wide-open space. There were so many options. I felt like a 6-year-old in a toy store with a wallet full of birthday money. The floor was in great shape — solid concrete with no cracks and no floor drains. One option would be to seal the floor and the cinderblock walls up to the top of the first layer of bricks, then use a berm at the end of the building where the rolling door was being installed to make the entire space a containment area. Berms could also be used to create segregated areas for storing the antifreeze and any other liquids that aren’t oil.
He liked the idea of sealing the floor, because it would make cleaning up incidental spills easier. He also liked the idea of having the entire building contained, just in case by some freak accident one of the other forms of containment would fail. But he also wanted to have specific containment for each of his waste containment totes, for the drum storage area and for the area where they will put shelving for all of the specialty fluids.
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We chose a large two-tote secondary containment pallet for the waste containment totes and modular spill decks for the drum and carboy storage areas, which allows for expansion as their business grows. Spill kits for the waste collection area and other spots where fluids could be transferred completed his preparedness package.
It’s not every day that you get to consider every available option when you’re designing a secondary containment area. In fact, this was the first time in more than 20 years that I got to do it. But, at the end of the day, the take away for me was that it doesn’t really matter whether the space is new or old or if it’s cramped or wide-open. There are a lot of great ways to meet every secondary containment need, no matter what space you’ve got to fit!