Responding to what it describes as a history of “serious incidents” in the hazardous waste treatment and storage sector, the Environment Agency has issued guidance aimed at helping to prevent them arising again in the future. This development may interest many companies taking advantage of the hazardous waste collection services of Collect and Recycle (http://www.collectandrecycle.com).
The guidance is entitled ‘Review of Incidents at Hazardous Waste Management Facilities (Version 2.7 October 2013)’, and gives a summary of various incidents that have taken place over a period exceeding 15 years. The Agency said that “incompatible or poorly characterised wastes being mixed or stored together” was the root cause of many of these incidents, adding that the issue had been addressed in detail in the S5.06 guidance.
The Agency further commented: “This guidance reflects the high priority areas, including accident prevention and limitation of consequences. It sets out, amongst other things, rigorous standards for waste pre-acceptance, acceptance, storage and treatment which operators should have in place. Despite this, further high profile incidents have continued to occur within the sector, many arising for similar reasons to previous incidents.”
The Agency said that it reviewed all incidents and near misses at hazardous waste transfer and treatment sites. The findings are then disseminated to its staff, as part of permitting and compliance work aimed at preventing any of the incidents reoccurring. The Agency added that in the light of all incidents, it also reviewed the adequacy of its guidance – which explains the introduction of its most recent guidance for those involved in the storage and disposal of hazardous materials.
Although the Agency said that it had previously circulated the information that followed such reviews in an internal report, it was now making its findings available to the waste treatment industry – expressing its hope that in doing so, its knowledge would help other operators in their prevention of similar incidents at their sites. It added that the time since a number of these incidents occurred had seen a change in operational practices.
One incident, in Preston in 2007, involved a major fire consuming 130 tonnes of mostly flammable waste. It is believed that the fire broke out when a pallet of lithium batteries spontaneously ignited as a result of rainfall contact. Although the Agency said the premises sustained a “significant” amount of damage, nobody was harmed.
The only fatal incident mentioned in the guidance occurred in Newport in July 2001, and was caused by the addition to a treatment tank in one go of three times the usual amount of caustic. This led to a vigorous reaction and a cloud of sulphide gas being released. The incident was only noticed on the discovery at the treatment site of the site chemist, then unconscious and pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
Businesses seeking economical, safe and compliant hazardous waste removal services, such as the disposal of paint, acid, oily rags and/or contaminated packaging, are encouraged to contact Collect and Recycle (http://www.collectandrecycle.com). A list of other companies that deal with hazardous waste can be found using an online UK Business Directory.