A pesticide spill refers to unplanned spill or leakage of a pesticide into the environment that occurs during storage, use, transport, or disposal of a pesticide.
If you are transporting pesticides, have an emergency plan in place for accidents. Since accidents are often caused by others, you must be ready with a spill action plan.
A spill is any accidental release of a pesticide. The spill may be a minor one involving only one or a few leaking containers, or it may be a major accident in which a piece of equipment malfunctions and releases its contents or a tank truck or rail car overturns and spills its cargo.
You can minimize the chance of pesticide spills by checking facilities regularly, having a contingency plan, and scheduling training and training updates for employees.
In spite of planning and training, spills do occur. Typical spills range from a one-gallon service container falling off a vehicle, to several 55-gallon drums punctured by a forklift. The worst case of a spill would be exploding containers in a fire. The problem for all persons concerned is the management of the spill, the cleanup and the proper disposal of all the residual material.
All pesticide users must be thoroughly familiar with the laws and guidelines governing chemical spills. The inability to respond properly to such an emergency, no matter how minor the problem, could seriously endanger public health and environmental quality.
When a spill occurs, the focus should be on individual safety, spill containment and cleanup, and who to notify.
- One of the first steps should be to determine if there has been any personal injury. If personal injuries have occurred, immediately seek emergency medical assistance.
- The suggested guidelines in the event of a chemical spill are known as the three Cs:
- CONTROL the spill,
- CONTAIN the spill, and
- CLEAN up the spill.
Control the Spill
If a spill occurs priority should be given to taking immediate steps to control the release of the pesticide product(s) being spilled. If a sprayer has tipped over, if a pesticide is leaking from a damaged tank truck, or if a container on a storage shelf is leaking, do whatever you can to stop the leak or spill at once. For instance, smaller containers can be put into larger containers to prevent further release of the chemical. For larger leaks, try to plug the leak if possible. Outside assistance and heavy equipment is often required to control large leaks.
Never expose yourself unnecessarily to leaking chemical. Always wear protective equipment before attempting to control a spill. Make sure you wear at least the minimum PPE listed on the chemical label for the products involved in the spill. Never enter a scene blindly, even if someone is injured; first, make sure you are properly protected.
A cellular phone should be standard equipment on every vehicle transporting pesticides. Have all phone numbers you may possibly need saved in your phone and available at your office. Save the following phone numbers on your cellular phone:
- CHEMTREC (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center): 800 262-8200
- Florida Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection: 850-245-2010
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: 850-617-7996
CHEMTREC® serves as the world’s foremost emergency call center for information on hazardous materials s to be recognized by emergency responders, industry, government, and others. CHEMTREC provides a round-the-clock resource for obtaining immediate emergency response information for accidental chemical releases. CHEMTREC is linked to the largest network of chemical and hazardous material experts in the world, including chemicals and response specialists within the American Chemistry Council membership, response specialists within the carrier community, public emergency services, and private contractors.
Alert the state and local police if the spill occurs on a public highway. If the spill involves pesticides regulated as hazardous wastes, contaminants must be disposed of properly, usually by a licensed hazardous waste contractor. Check the product safety data sheet (SDS) to determine if it is a hazardous waste. In certain cases, it may be necessary to alert the fire department, public health officials, and/or the nearest hospital emergency room. Be sure to have the product label(s) and SDS available for emergency responders.
If the spill is large or dangerous, have someone get help. Do not leave the site unattended. Operators need radio or telephone communication available in the vehicle in case they need to call for assistance. The first contact you should make in case of a spill is to your county 911 emergency number, which can help coordinate the emergency response. They will assume command of the cleanup unless they know you are capable of handling the situation. In addition, CHEMTREC provides access to emergency response information and technical assistance from chemical industry experts. They can be reached at 1 800-262-8200 or [email protected].
There is also an emergency telephone number on many product labels and on transportation or shipping papers. These lines are answered 24 hours per day by people who are prepared to handle pesticide emergencies involving the company’s products.
A “safe” perimeter should be set to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the area. Rope or tape or a similar material should be used to separate the area and keep unauthorized persons from entering the area.
Keep people at least 30 feet away from the spill. Avoid contact with any drift or fumes that may be released.
The danger of fire must be minimized or preferably eliminated. Do not use road flares if you suspect the leaking material is flammable. In some cases, it may be necessary to evacuate people from residences or businesses downwind from the spill.