What’s spill response?

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Spill response involves containing and cleaning up hazardous material spills. The response varies based on the materials involved and available resources. The goals are to contain the spill and clean it up. Governments and businesses have spill response plans in place.

Spill response” is the term used to describe the activity that takes place after some type of toxic or hazardous material spill has occurred. The type of response will vary, based on the nature of the chemicals or other materials involved, the degree of negative impact the materials may have on people, animals and the immediate environment, and the availability of resources to deal with the spill. Typically, businesses, municipalities, and government agencies will be involved in any type of emergency spill response involving materials considered highly hazardous, while municipalities and private cleanup companies may deal with issues such as a sewage spill.

With any type of spill response, two specific goals are included. The first step is usually to contain the spill, keeping materials as much as possible from spreading the contamination. To that end, the area around the spill is usually quarantined in some way, with only people engaged in the cleanup effort being allowed into that space. Once the area has been quarantined, equipment is brought in to prevent the spill from spreading, using whatever means necessary. This may include erecting some type of barrier even as efforts are made to seal whatever breach has caused the spill.

Once the spill has been contained, the next step in the process is to begin the cleanup process. Depending on the nature of the spill, this stage of the spill response may involve trapping materials in some type of containment unit and transporting the spill to another area for release or treatment. Other times, the spill may be lined or covered with materials that can quickly absorb the spilled materials before further risk of contamination occurs. Once the hazardous liquid has been fully absorbed, the removal materials are transported from the area and further cleanup is initiated to remove any traces. If successful, the spill has little or no effect on the surrounding area and causes no disease or injury to humans or wildlife in the immediate area.

Many governments have detailed spill response plans in place and also require companies that deal with hazardous chemicals, waste products and other hazardous materials to develop spill response plans that can be activated immediately if needed. Water treatment plans, chemical manufacturing plants, and even trucking companies that transport oil and chemicals from one location to another are likely to operate with a government-approved spill response plan and update their kits regularly to allow for the most effective response should a spill occur.

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