Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Storing Hazardous Materials

Hello everyone! My topic today is Hazardous Materials. I know, I know. I’ll give you a minute to have a cigarette and take a shower to cool down. As I start to write this, I envision myself biting into a 2 day old scone with no drink; dry as a bone. I do like to work on hazmat projects, so I’ll try to pass along some of my excitement for this subject.

With eight + years under my belt of doing Industrial Upfits, I have worked on some hazardous material storage facilities. I actually really like to upfit them and figure out what classification the chemicals are, however, but I am convinced that the Mayor of Tromaville’s son is on the Committee that writes and enforces the NC State Building code. (Refer to Toxic Avenger, 1986, starring Mitch Cohen….exactly)

What I am trying to say is that the NC State Building Code is tough, and in the case of Hazardous Materials, or potentially hazardous materials, it doesn’t matter whether you are storing, manufacturing, mixing or even licking the chemicals off the floor, it’s all the same set of rules.

The most difficult part of my job is getting the plan reviewers to agree with the inspectors about what is on the drawings. There is little to no way that we can estimate the time it will take from permit to completion for this reason, and I hate that. We all do.

The goods news to all of the doom and gloom on this skin scorching, eye searing, explosive material, is that, with everything else, this industry is getting “greener” or rather, safer. One company had to upfit a “control area” for oil based adhesives which greatly limits storage quantity and height in even the newest facilities in town. Over the next 5- 10 years, those adhesives will be converted to water based.

There are also measures nationwide to keep the chemicals contained at the facility to avoid transport on roads, risking an accident or spill. A paper mill in New Jersey is now manufacturing chlorine dioxide bleach at the site instead of transporting chlorine gas by train. If the hazardous chemicals can be contained and away from flames, heat, gas and sometimes water, then everyone is happy. Chemicals are reactive and what I sometimes fail to see is that the reviewers and inspectors are protecting there “ac-ids” from any potential liability, so let’s just say they handle their duties with “kid gloves”
(I have heard that term twice in the past two weeks, and I was dying to use it).

I couldn’t go on without mentioning that the EPA is receiving money from the Stimulus package to clean up leaking underground storage tanks, and has a superfund for hazardous waster clean up program. This is important for a few reasons:

1. I feel like I should, when I can, inform you of where your tax money is going (So far, $4,052,986.00 has been applied to this*)

2. It demonstrates that, if standards today are tightened and enforced, less money will be paid out in the decades to come to clean up the environment. I am sure we’ll have many other issues to deal with then, so this may just be one less.

I deal solely with NC State building codes, but the facilities always have to deal directly with OSHA. OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) has streamlined the process by developing a Chemical Database a few years ago. It has more than 800 commonly used chemicals and their MSDS sheets. Material Safety Data Sheets have the chemical properties, flammability and state of each chemical and are required to be submitted with the plans for review. The chemicals are at the crux of how a facility is designed so the plans reviewer must evaluate each one and how they are contained, controlled, stored, ventilated, or otherwise residing inside a building.


Overall, the design team makes a great effort and goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of the community in North Carolina. As a native of NY, I often go back to the Buffalo area, which is literally a nuclear dumping ground, and also happens to be a beautiful place; and a shame. It is a reminder that the diligence of OSHA, the plan reviewers, contractors, and design team is well worth the extra time in plan review and extra hours spent evaluating MSDS pages. With EVERY project, communication is key!

Even though Mitch Cohen’s acting career has come and gone, (refer back to Toxic Avenger) these chemicals will be around for a very long time and will potentially affect the health safety and welfare of our families for generations to come, if not handled properly. On that note, I am signing off… and as always, have a nice day!

*information complied from http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/273309

Toxic Avenger V is currently in production. Hmmm…I’ll leave it at that.

There is a band called Hazardous Waste. They are a hardcore punk band. One of their MySpace friends is ‘Bad Skin’. Pretty fitting. They aren’t good.

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