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Spill & Emergency Response Plans

I. The Issue:

Whenever you use or store chemicals there exists the possibility that an accidental spill or release may occur. Best management practices recommend that you plan for this possibility by preparing a spill response plan outlining how you can respond to a release and by maintaining the spill response materials described in your plan at your site. By being prepared it may be possible to prevent a small spill from becoming a major hazmat incident.

II. The Approach Taken:

Unfortunately, the local school system has a well documented history of chemical spills and accidents which clearly indicate the need to establish and maintain a spill response plan. As a result, there was less of a need to assess the likelihood of a spill occurring at a local school. Instead, we focused our efforts on determining the types of materials that could be spilled and which locations were most likely to experience a release. This involved a review of the chemical inventories as well as materials management practices.

III. Observations Made:

We found that the greatest risk of a chemical spill existed in the following areas: the high school science area, the school department central maintenance and storage areas, and the boiler rooms at each of the schools. We also attempted to identify the different types of materials that could be released which could create health and safety concerns if not properly mitigated. We identified the following materials of concern: mercury, corrosives, flammables, and petroleum based materials. The physical and chemical differences between these materials meant that in most cases different spill response materials would be needed to remediate different releases.

We also noted that initially none of the staff had been trained in spill response and that the school department possessed few spill response materials. We also observed that a written spill response plan had not been prepared for use by the school department staff.

IV. Problems or Concerns Noted:

V. Actions taken:

Several staff members within the high school arts and science departments along with members of the maintenance staff have been provided with spill response training. We used the guidance and direction outlined in the OSHA HAZWOPER Standard 29 CFR 1910.120 for the 8-hour First Responder Training classification as the basis for our training. Our intent is to have these individuals assess the situation and to address minor releases, if possible. All large or more hazardous releases are to be referred to the local hazardous materials response team operated by the Burlington Fire Department.

In addition, we have also made efforts to obtain the appropriate spill response materials needed to respond to the various types of materials present at the public schools. Spill materials are now stored in the high school science department and in the central maintenance area at the high school. The school department has also been encouraged to store spill response materials in the boiler room of each school as a precaution.precaution.

Tips and suggestions:

Seek assistance from local resources. We are all in this together. Tap into the assistance that is available from federal, state and local environmental, and health and safety agencies. Do not overlook local residents, corporations, and medical facilities. These groups have a vested interest as parents and tax payers, and are frequently willing to provide technical expertise and assistance.


State and federal environmental, occupational hygiene, and public health agencies may be able to provide you with guidance and direction when assessing your spill response needs. In addition, local corporations or institutions may be willing to provide training assistance or guidance when you attempt to address this issue.

prepared by Todd H. Dresser, Environmental Engineer
(formerly of)
Burlington Board of Health, 29 Center Street, Burlington, MA 01803

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