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Secondary Containment Requirements for Chemical Storage

RCRA hazardous waste in blue and gray storage barrels

Hazardous materials can harm humans, animals and the environment when improperly handled, stored or transported. In the United States, laws and regulations are designed to limit interaction with dangerous agents, including chemical, biological or radiological materials. Containing hazardous spills and waste begins with clear objectives, training and accountability.

Chemical Containment and Hazardous Waste Management

To adhere to safety standards, facilities must follow specific requirements, such as the use of high-quality tanks and storage units, as well as protective gear and tools to contain chemicals and hazardous waste. For example, a custom-built secondary containment system can offer the right spill protection for specific facility or material needs.

What Is RCRA Hazardous Waste?

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines hazardous waste under RCRA in Title 40 CFR 216. Hazardous waste is divided into two categories: characteristic wastes and listed wastes. There is no regularly updated list of hazardous wastes, as the hazardous waste determination process involves many steps. However, facilities can ask questions to classify waste:

  • Is the waste a solid waste?
  • Is the waste specifically excluded from the RCRA regulations?
  • Is the waste a listed hazardous waste?
  • Does the waste exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste?

Learn more about characteristics for hazardous waste.

Secondary Containment Requirements Under OSHA

As part of the United States Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promotes safe and healthy working conditions for Americans through standardized enforcement, training, community engagement, and education.

Hazardous waste sites must comply with hazardous material requirements as determined by OSHA, including:

  • Site-specific occupational safety and health programs to protect employees
  • Training programs for employees that discuss expectations, techniques and procedures
  • Decontamination procedures tailored to specific site hazards
  • Emergency response plans
  • Personal protective equipment programs
  • An incident command system to control and manage operations during an emergency
  • Site and safety control plans
  • Medical surveillance programs
  • New technology and spill containment programs

Facilities that handle hazardous waste must implement a secondary containment plan to contain and control accidental spilled material, as well as maintain employee safety. Traditional cleanup techniques include diatomaceous earth. However, modern options, such as spill containment systems, provide first responders with more effective tools and methods for hazard reduction and cleanup.

Some applications and devices for chemical containment under OSHA include:

  • Portable pressurized applicators similar to fire extinguishers
  • Nozzle and hose systems similar to firefighting foam systems
  • Solidifying agents such as acid or caustic neutralizers, or activated carbon absorbents
  • Vapor suppression agents
  • Proper protective clothing

Secondary Containment Volume Requirements

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides volume requirements for secondary containment systems in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) found in Title 40 CFR 264.175(b). According to the RCRA act, containment systems must be designed as follows:

The containment system must have sufficient capacity to contain 10% of the volume of containers or the volume of the largest container, whichever is greater. Containers that do not contain free liquids need not be considered in this determination.

Run-on into the containment system must be prevented unless the collection system has sufficient excess capacity to contain any run-on which might enter the system. Excess capacity must be in addition to the 10% of the volume of containers or the volume of the largest container, whichever is greater.

States and municipalities must follow these federal volume requirements; however, many mandate stricter containment regulations. Explore your state and local regulations to ensure your facility is EPA compliant.

For more information about Polystar secondary containment systems, browse our products or contact us.

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