Environmental pollution results from chemical, physical, or biological agents in the water, ground, or air that alter the natural environment. Pollution adversely affects human health, plant life, fish, and wildlife. Pollution can disintegrate nylon line, crumble masonry, corrode steel, and darken the skies. Most important is the damage to vegetation, human illness, and loss of productivity. Most pollution can be prevented, or slowed down, if people control the amount of foreign matter they put into the environment.
This chapter briefly covers ways to prevent water, ground, and air pollution on the jobsite. It also describes the means by which the Utilitiesman can help prevent, control, and clean up the pollution.
Other than creating a fire hazard, oil and other petroleum-related products pose many possible pollution threats when spilled in the water, dumped into the storm or sanitary sewer system, or spilled on the ground. Oil products on the ground infiltrate and contaminate surface water supplies with the groundwater runoff caused by rain. Oil products dumped or carried into a storm or sanitary sewer are also potential explosion hazards.
Oily wastewater from boiler rooms, banks of walk-in refrigeration units, and motor pool operations is caused by the following:
improper handling and storage of new and waste oil,
equipment and vehicle washing operations, and
various other maintenance activities that generate liquid waste or wastewater that must be stored or treated.
An oil slick on the surface of the water blocks the flow of oxygen from the atmosphere into the water. This is harmful to fish, other aquatic life, and other sewage treatment facilities. If the fish do not die from the oil coating on their gills, or from eating the oil or oil-laden food, their flesh becomes tainted and is no longer fit for human consumption. Other than harming aquatic life, drinking water can become contaminated. Drinking water from wells and surface storage facilities are treated with chemicals to rid the water of harmful bacteria. However, no amount of treatment can rid a system of contamination from waste oil products.
The system must be abandoned. As a supervisor, your concern should be to prevent oil in the shop from draining into storm sewers and surface drainage systems. During pipe-threading operations, you should provide catch pans and absorbent material to soak up spilled oil. NEVER wash spilled oil or fuels down a drain or sewer unless an immediate fire hazard exists and an oil-water separator is connected to the discharge line. To clean up a spill, you should sprinkle absorbent material on the spill, sweep it up, and place it in an approved EPA container. Containers are disposed of through the Defense Reutilization Marketing OfficeContinue Reading