Interesting calls - September 2011

Disposal of Ethanol

NCEC recently received a call from a fire fighter who required disposal advice for a large quantity of ethanol in containers of mixed sizes.

Our Emergency Responder advised the caller of the hazards of the product, namely that it is highly flammable, can form explosive mixtures with air, is narcotic in high concentrations, may be irritant, and has limited evidence of carcinogenic effects. The Emergency Responder recommended that the containers should be stored away from ignition sources in a well-ventilated area. Furthermore, it was suggested that the product was stored away from acids, oxidisers, alkaline earth metals and metal powders, due to the potential for reaction.

Immediate access to the chemical hazards and incompatibilities allows incidents such as this one to be closed more quickly, and reduces the risk to emergency personnel and the public.

Hydrogen Peroxide Leak

NCEC recently received a call regarding a leak of hydrogen peroxide from a 1000 litre IBC at a waste treatment works. The caller required clean up advice.

Our Emergency Responder advised the caller of the hazards of hydrogen peroxide, i.e. it is oxidising, corrosive and harmful, and can decompose violently upon heating. The Emergency Responder recommended that liquid tight chemical protective clothing with breathing apparatus should be worn when dealing with the leaked material, and that it should be adsorbed on to an inert non-combustible material, such as sand. The caller explained that there was a ready supply of salt and wanted to know if this was suitable. Our Emergency Responder advised that there was no evidence of hazardous reactions, but that salt is water soluble and so would dissolve in the hydrogen peroxide. The caller had proposed washing the remainder of the leaked material into the site drains, but our Emergency Responder explained that contact with metal grids, etc. would catalyse the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide, creating an oxygen-enriched atmosphere in a confined space, thereby increasing the risk of fire and explosion.

Immediate access to qualified chemists ensures that the most appropriate actions and suitable precautions are taken. Our Emergency Responders draw on their academic knowledge, industrial experience, and specialist training at the NCEC to protect people, property, and the environment.