DPW officials initiate hands-on training for cleanup of small petroleum, oil, lubricant spills

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Some petroleum, oil and lubricant spillage is inevitable during fueling operations, maintenance activities and the sheer volume of hazardous materials that are handled on a regular basis at Fort Knox.

When spills do occur, environmental officials say they should be contained and cleaned up with a porous clay product called Oil-Dri, or Dry Sweep. Oil-Dri products encapsulate petroleum hydrocarbons, preventing them from being released into the environment and impacting drinking water.

To ensure everyone responsible for spillage cleanup understands how the process works and how to mitigate problems, officials at Fort Knox Environment-al Management Division incorporate it into a three-day Environment-al Officer’s Course, which they say is adding to their successes.

“Petroleum, oil and lubricant spills can be very large, requiring several bags of Oil-Dri to contain and cleanup,” said Brian Faber, Solid Waste Program manager. “However, the volume of spills on Fort Knox has decreased over the past several years.”

Spill prevention and cleanup are already a main focus of the three-day course, taught by Faber and fellow instructor Tim Pohlman. What they realized was the need for a new innovation to react to small spills.

They came up with the solution during the Hands-On Training, or HOT, portion of the course. HOT focuses on spill materials, proper use of the products, reacting to spills, proper use of personal protective equipment in accordance with a safety data sheet, use of an oily water filter system, completing a spill report, and notification protocols when a spill occurs.

The most recent class’ practical exercise involved students building their own small clean-up container. The containers consisted of old, empty cat litter jugs that the students used to fill with Oil-Dri. Information labels were affixed to each one along with a safety data sheet for the Oil-Dri, provided by the instructors.

“The intent of the project is to give environmental officers a lesson on repurposing material, and creating a smaller, more versatile vessel for reacting to smaller spills in the workplace,” said Pohl-man. “This alleviates the need of lugging a heavy bag of Oil-Dri to a small spill and keeps the Oil-Dri from getting wet, which drastically reduces its effectiveness.”

Faber and Pohlman said this simple but effective innovation can go a long way in keeping the work environment safe and clean.

“We have learned from many inspections and feedback from the field that organizations do not have the needed material readily available for reacting to spills,” said Faber. “The brooms, shovels, trash bags and Oil-Dri usually get used for other projects and do not get put back; resulting in a lot
of confusion when a POL spill happens.

“Therefore, in our future classes, we will be conducting a practical exercise on building a quick reaction spill clean-up cart. These efforts bolster the Fort Knox environmental policy of preventing pollution and continual improvement, ensuring a clean environment and a safe work place.” n