Responding to a Water Treatment Chemical Leak

When news gets out about a chemical leak at a nearby water treatment plant, it would make sense that the general public starts to panic. But, in reality, if handled properly, a chemical leak can end up being nothing more than a nuisance. However, if these leaks aren’t handled with the right care and leadership, or prepared for enough beforehand, a spill can seriously disrupt the activities of a water treatment plant.

In most cases, chemical leaks and laboratory spills involve small levels of materials and can present minimal hazards. Having a solid response plan can help to limit exposure and cleanup efforts while also keeping liabilities low.

Communication and Assessment

Whenever a chemical leak occurs, it’s important that employees know who to go to once they discover it. No matter how small a leak may seem, it can end up having dire consequences if left unattended or if the wrong chain of command is informed.

When a spill happens, employees should move away from the area where it has taken place and find cover. Next, the risks should be evaluated to see how they could potentially affect human health, bring damage to the property, and harm the surrounding environment.

Here is a closer look at those steps:

  • Human Health: The most important category to consider when assessing a leak is the potential health effects it can have on people in the area. Some chemical releases may have results that affect the overall health of employees. Other chemical spills may represent health threats because of their ability to spread rapidly. If the potential for a fire exists, outside assistance from emergency responders should be sought.
  • Physical Damage: It’s also important to look at the overall potential for physical damage to a property, such as equipment, building materials, or structures. Any real threat to these items will also threaten the people who are in charge of cleaning up a spill. It should be noted that an attempt to protect property should not be attempted if there are any human health or explosion hazards present.
  • Environmental Threats: Some chemical leaks have the potential to escape out into the surrounding community and environment. Spills may end up releasing into the air or discharge out to the sewer system. While few chemical leaks from a water treatment plant present environmental threats, it’s still important to notify the proper authorities if a spill can end up causing major environmental damage.

Procedures for Cleaning Up Spills

An environmental health and safety office should be notified following the discovery of a spill. Most importantly, before cleaning up even a simple leak, it’s important to be sure that it can be done safely. The right personal protective equipment should be used including eye protection, protective gloves, and lab coats.

What’s more, water treatment insurance representatives should be notified when a spill is detected as this can help to limit the exposure to liabilities throughout the response process. Having this kind of coverage can help to limit risks such as financial payouts and legal problems.

Here are additional steps that should be taken during a spill cleanup:

  • Neutralize Acids: Spills of most liquids, such as acids or bases can be mopped up once neutralized and rinse down the drain. It’s important to be extra careful during this process as splashes can occur. Acids should be neutralized with sodium bicarbonate.
  • Control the Spread: It’s important to contain the spill as much as possible. Make a dike around the edges of the spill and use absorbent materials like spill pillows.
  • Absorb Liquids: Add absorbents to the spill, such as cat litter or spill pillows. Special absorbents are required for chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid and sulfuric acids.

About Watercolor Management

WaterColor Management has insured the water industry for over 30 years.  Our policies include unlimited defense cost coverage in the event of a lawsuit against you. Call us at (256) 260-0412 or email for a quick quote for your Water Business Professional, Products/Completed operations, Pollution and General Liability Insurance.