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by the NFCC

Control measure

Absorption of polluting materials

Control measure knowledge

It may be appropriate to contain minor spillages by using absorbent materials, such as pads, sheets and booms. Soil, sand and cement all have absorbent qualities and can be used to create improvised containment barriers or bunds.

Polluting materials retain their hazardous properties when absorbed and this should be considered when handling any absorbed material. Absorbent materials should not be used for larger spillages, such as a road tanker incident, because of the amount of waste that will be created and the cost of its disposal.

Environmental agencies supply grab packs that contain resources such as oil absorbent pads and booms. These should be made available on fire and rescue service pumping appliances, high volume pumps (HVPs) and environmental protection units (EPUs).

The absorbent material waste should either be handed over to the responsible person, or arrangements made for its safe disposal.

The environmental agency officer should inform the responsible person about their responsibility to dispose of polluting materials, such as contaminated booms or pads, and cost recovery under the ‘polluter pays’ principle. If the environmental agency is not present, personnel may need to provide the responsible person with this information.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider providing environmental agency grab packs on pumping appliances, high volume pumps and environmental protection units

  • Have arrangements in place for the disposal of contaminated absorbents for incidents when the responsibility for waste disposal cannot be identified

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Determine if the polluting materials can be dealt with by using an appropriate type of absorbent materials

  • Consider using the grab packs provided by an environmental agency or alternatives to absorb polluting materials

  • Hand over the absorbent material waste to the responsible person, or make arrangements for its disposal

  • Be prepared to provide the responsible person with information about the disposal of polluting materials and cost recovery, if the environmental agency is not present