Spills & Contaminated Sites

When hazardous materials and wastes are not stored or handled properly, pollutants can leak into the ground and into waterways. Reducing the amount of hazardous materials and wastes kept in storage is the safest way to prevent the dangers of pollution. In addition to UBC area specific spill response plans, below are some general recommendations for preventing spills from stored hazardous materials and wastes.

Learn how to be prepared to respond to environmental spills and releases. Follow the UBC Contaminated Site Procedures to ensure compliant remediation and management of contaminated sites.

Spills & Contaminated Sites

How can you prevent a spill from happening?

Taking a few simple precautions to prevent a spill will eliminate the headaches that come with cleaning up after one!

  • Remain in attendance when tanks and open containers are being filled
  • Use a funnel when transferring liquids from one container to another
  • Place trays under open containers and the spouts of liquid storage containers
  • Use secondary containers whenever carrying materials from one location to another. Keeping staff trained and updated on emergency response procedures and conducting periodic review sessions for all work areas ensures everybody is well prepared.

Be prepared

  • Keep a copy of your department’s spill procedure in your work area (include contacts, evacuation route, and location of spill response materials)
  • Include brief emergency response procedures inside hazardous materials storage rooms and waste accumulation areas
  • Train employees in advance on when and how to use spill response materials properly
  • Test and clean-up equipment periodically and maintain hazardous materials inventory
  • Keep rubber mats, temporary drain plugs, or berms in the storage area so drains can be blocked immediately
  • For small spills, use chemical spill pillows or appropriate adsorbent materials
  • For non-hazardous materials, use adsorbents that can be swept or picked up such as sawdust, vermiculite, kitty litter, oil-dry, or activated charcoal (avoid the use of too much absorbent, as it increases waste volume)

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What is the proper spill response at UBC?

As required by law, Environmental Services alerts the appropriate authority to external releases of dangerous goods to air, water and/or land. Completing the UBC Spill Reporting Form ensures that all hazardous material spills are reported as required.
Workers may be able to respond to a small, contained spill; however, one should never put oneself at risk. If there is any doubt about safely responding to a spill, immediately call 911. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) will notify the Hazmat Team. You must also notify Risk Management Services by phoning the Main Office at 604-822-2029.

In the event of a spill or release of hazardous material, persons in the immediate area should act to ensure their personal safety.

  • Follow your work area’s spill response procedures.
  • Act quickly to stop, contain and minimize the effects of the spill, and to clean up the affected area, where possible and safe.
  • Identify the material and the quantity spilled.
  • Contact the Building Operations Service Centre at 604-822-2173 to arrange for quick spill response for vehicular oil leaks/spills on campus (e.g. roads and parking areas).
  • Immediately report the spill to Risk Management Services and complete the Spill Reporting Form as soon as possible

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What are the Spill reporting forms and procedures?

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What are the best practices for preventing spills?

Choose Safe Storage Containers

Selecting proper storage containers is the first step in preventing spills and leaks.

  • Keep products in their original containers, or clearly label containers and cover the labels with transparent tape to keep them from falling off or weathering
  • Ensure containers are in good condition and lined with a material that won’t deteriorate
  • Ensure outdoor storage containers are water-tight, rodent-proof and protected from tampering
  • Construct covered outdoor storage areas with impermeable basins designed to contain leaks and spills
  • Place primary containers within a larger, leak-proof, secondary containers or use spill pallets.

Design Appropriate Storage Areas

A few design features dramatically reduce the chance that spills or leaks will get out of control. Secondary containment is the key method to contain a spill or leak should the original container fail.

  • Use secondary containers that are able to hold at least as much as the original volume. For hazardous materials, the law requires that the secondary container be 10% larger than the original container (110% of total container volume)
  • Place an appropriately sized containment platform (spill pallet) under large containers, barrels or drums
  • Use buckets, pans or trays as secondary containers for small quantities of hazardous materials. (Continue this practice at home by placing pesticides, household cleaners, automotive fluids, etc.)
  • Close floor drains or provide drain covers to prevent spills and leaks to the sanitary and storm systems
  • Seal all the cracks in the floor and corners and by covering the floor with a chemical resistant floor sealer to prevent leaking
  • Convert existing rooms or areas into secondary containment areas to facilitate the storage of several hazardous materials and to minimize the need for duplicate emergency clean-up materials
  • Construct low walls, curbs or berms at the perimeter of the designated storage area to contain spills
  • Position door sills high enough to keep any spilled or leaking materials confined to the hazardous materials/ waste storage rooms
  • Place containers away from the edges to prevent liquids from squirting out of punctured containers and out of the containment areas
  • Never allow storage areas to drain to any part of the storm water management system by connecting drains to a dead-end holding tank, especially when storing hazardous or petroleum based products. (If a spill occurs, the tank’s contents will need to be pumped-out and disposed by a licensed waste contractor).

Use Appropriate Spill Containment Products

Suitable absorbents and spill containment products (absorbent socks, mats, containment pallets, spill berms, drain covers, etc.) allow you to create proper counter measures that contain, clean up and mitigate the effects of spills. Note: links below are suggestions and examples only, you may be able to purchase these specialized products from various other vendors.

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What are the Contaminated Sites Regulations and UBC procedures?

The UBC Contaminated Sites Procedures outline what triggers an environmental assessment other than a spill and the procedures for assessment and clean up.

These procedures are related to the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations and create a framework for the assessment and remediation of contaminated sites at UBC.

Consult the UBC Contaminated Sites Procedure (PDF) if:

  • You are responsible for a site that becomes contaminated.
  • You are applying for a Campus Community Planning Permit for:
    • the subdivision of land.
    • a development involving excavation.
    • the removal of soil from a property.
    • a structure demolition.
    • Prior to any property transactions and lease negotiations.

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