In 2017, the devastating destruction from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria wreaked havoc on manufacturing facilities – and everything else – in its path. But cleaning up the damage caused by a severe storm isn’t as simple as hauling dumpsters out to your manufacturing plant and throwing all of the waste into it.
The remediation work required at a severe storm-damaged manufacturing plant must be meticulously managed for safety and compliance reasons. This is exactly why it’s invaluable to hire an experienced emergency response team to manage this process.
There are several steps involved in the remediation process of a manufacturing facility following a severe storm to ensure the safety of workers, minimize further environmental harm and comply with all applicable regulations.
Surveying the damage
Before an emergency response team can begin the remediation process at your manufacturing plant, they must do a job walk to understand the scope of work it will entail. Not only will the team survey the damage to the plant, but they will also evaluate the damage of the surrounding area to get a better sense of any logistical challenges they may encounter.
While every manufacturing plant and scenario is unique, there are a handful of typical questions that the remediation team will seek answers to before the work can begin:
- Is the site structurally sound? Can the team safely walk through the facility or is it too structurally unsound? Is there any part of the structure that should be kept? A complete structure is very different to remediate that one that is partially collapsed. However, many unknown dangers can await the remediation job if the building is still intact.
- What chemicals and other hazardous waste are in the facility? Are there any industrial cleaning chemicals that need to be removed? For safety and compliance reasons, great care must be taken when managing hazardous chemicals and waste during a remediation job. If the emergency response team can’t safely walk through the plant, various containment procedures will be used to prevent spills from spreading.
If possible, hazardous waste should be removed from the manufacturing plant before the arrival of a hurricane, tornado or other severe weather. However, if all hazardous waste cannot be removed from the facility prior to the storm’s arrival, you should still attempt to secure the hazardous waste that will remain on site and in the path of the storm. Solids and powders can be covered in plastic and secured properly, with the correct lids securely fastened on containers. Additionally, containment areas should be set up and cleaned properly. Known waste areas should also be cleared out prior to the arrival of the severe storm. Whenever possible, place hazardous waste into higher storage areas to reduce the risk of the waste spilling into flood water.
- What processing equipment is on site? From accessing the damage inflicted upon the processing equipment to determining if any of it needs to be cleaned, the emergency response team will survey the state of the processing equipment at the facility.
- Are the roads accessible? Determining road safety and accessibility after a severe storm is an important detail to consider when evaluating the scope of a remediation job. Can trucks hauling heavy machinery safely reach the manufacturing plant? Washed out roads, downed power lines and other factors can greatly impact accessibility to the site following a hurricane or another natural disaster.
- Is power available? Power outages following a severe storm can severely impact the ability to begin remediation efforts. Months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, power outages are still plaguing the island, which is one of the several reasons remediation efforts have been so delayed.
- Are severe weather conditions still affecting the area? The local environment and weather are also critical to evaluate prior to starting a remediation job. For example, in areas like South Florida, high tides and erosions present challenges that must be taken into consideration when determining the scope and start time of the remediation work.
Preparing the site
Once the emergency response team has determined the scope of work and that it is safe to begin the remediation, the site preparation can begin. Waste will be segregated, packed and removed, with special precautions taken for hazardous waste for safety and compliance reasons. A knowledgeable third-party emergency response team will be aware of the regulations that must be followed in the event of an environmental emergency as well.
Ultimately, the goal when prepping the site is to create a safe working area for the remediation to begin. In addition to chemicals and waste being properly removed from the site, debris such as nails, light tubes and electronic equipment must be transported away from the manufacturing facility too. When demolition of the structure is taking place, the emergency response team will take great precaution to mitigate the risk of contaminated waste being spread.
Given the unprecedented level of destruction that occurred with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, it’s best to know what to expect should your manufacturing plant require remediation work in the wake of a natural disaster.
About the Author
Maricha Ellis is the Vice President of Marketing and Sales Operations of Stericycle Environmental Solutions, a leading provider of environmental and regulated waste management solutions. Stericycle Environmental Solutions leverages a nationwide network of experts, facilities, equipment and subcontractors to provide clients with one-call simplicity for any hazardous waste emergency response or disaster recovery need.