Lessons Learned: Chemical Spill Gone Right

Lessons Learned: Chemical Spill Gone Right

Quick Summary

  • Proper secondary containment kept a chemical spill from causing any damage or injury

Incident Description

A research lab discovered liquid surrounding its 4L waste container while it was in secondary containment. They moved the container the sink and contacted EH&S for guidance. EH&S arrived and determined the bottle was safe to remove from secondary containment, which revealed a crack on the bottom of the waste container. The bottle was placed on an absorbent pad and the content of the secondary container were poured into a sound replacement container via funnel. The lab was instructed to label both the new container (with the liquid waste) and the broken, empty container as hazardous waste and dispose of them via the online, WASTe system.

What went right? 

The waste container was stored in secondary containment, which was large enough to contain the content of the bottle. Since the lab was unsure what to do, they contacted EH&S daily on-call number (530-752-1493).

What should have been done differently?

The waste should not have been moved to the sink, as this increases the chances that hazardous materials could go down the drain. Due to the leak, the fume hood would have been the best to store it until the issue was resolved.

How to prevent this in the future?

  • Many labs recycle glassware to use for chemical waste storage. Always ensure that containers are intact and that any residual contents of the old bottle will not react with the new contents. Incompatible mixtures could result in the release of toxic gas or over-pressurization.
  • Always choose secondary containment that will contain the contents of the bottle if a spill occurs and that are chemically compatible with the waste contents. For example, hydrofluoric acid will dissolve glass, so Pyrex secondary containment would not be appropriate.




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