A New Era of Spill Recovery

The new way to deal with spill recovery of hazardous materials will save time and money and protect the environment, by Christa Pusateri.


At AAR Corp., one of the world’s leading aviation support companies, Corporate Safety Director Bob Taylor knows the importance of having a HAZMAT safety plan for accidental spills.

“When you are working with aircraft, time and safety are top priorities. If you have an organized plan and the best recovery equipment, you will be able to save time, money and comply with EPA regulations if an accidental spill occurs,” Taylor says.

In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests that all companies have a HAZMAT plan in case of such spill emergencies. In its 2001 report on economic incentives, the EPA stated that, “Liability is an important incentive mechanism, one that is seeing increasing use in environmental policy.”

Increasing enforcement of environmental codes forces businesses to find more effective and efficient ways of recovering and tracking the hazardous waste they generate.

The US Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) allows for civil penalties up to $25,000 per day and criminal penalties as high as $50,000 per day for each RCRA violation.

Creating and managing a spill management plan necessarily involves:

  • Identifying potential spill locations

  • Providing accessible response and recovery equipment and supplies

  • A worker alert system and evacuation plan

  • Thorough response training of designated personnel and documenting and reporting spill events Nearly every industry in the United States uses hazardous materials in some way.

What are Hazardous Materials?

According to hazmatlaw.com, the following materials are considered to be hazardous:

  • Common chemical compounds, such as butane and methanol;

  • Most fuels, including gasoline, kerosene, propane and diesel fuel;

  • Industrial and consumer products, such as aerosols, paints, adhesives, cleaning solutions and pesticides;

  • Certain infectious substances, biological agents, medical cultures, diagnostic specimens and regulated medical waste;

  • Hazardous waste and reportable quantities of CERCLA hazardous substances;

  • Certain elemental materials, such as lithium and mercury;

  • Radioactive articles;

  • A wide spectrum of manufactured articles, such as internal combustion engines, airbag inflators, fuses, first aid kits and certain plastic molding compounds;

  • Edible items, such as flavoring extracts and certain spirits

Typically, most spills of these and other hazardous materials have had to be recovered manually with the use of absorbents, such as loose materials (think kitty litter) and spill control pillows or pads.

The Problem with Absorbents

Using absorbents to recover hazardous spills is not only time consuming and labor intensive, but also creates more hazardous waste which has to be disposed of in special hazardous materials landfills.

In the past, it has been tempting for businesses to ignore laws governing the disposal of hazardous waste due to the high disposal cost of contaminated absorbents.

For example, a 50-gallon oil spill cleaned up with absorbents would require disposal of about four 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste at the disposal cost of $350 to $500 per drum. Such an adsorbent-based clean up would not only cost about $2,000, but could also cost thousands from shutting down operations long enough to contain the spill.

Additionally, once a hazardous liquid is recovered by absorbent material, it cannot be recycled. Essentially, the use of absorbents is creating even more hazardous waste to be disposed in landfills or incinerated.

The New Solution

Now, high-powered industrial-rated vacuum systems are replacing the old manual absorbents for a safer, more effective and less costly option for spill recovery.

These systems are solving the spill recovery problems faced by managers by providing fast and safe recovery of hazardous materials including strong acids.

These new industrial-powered vacuum systems are saving time, money and contributing to environmental compliance.

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