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by the NFCC

Control measure

Decontamination: Polluting materials

Control measure knowledge

Carrying out decontamination at the incident site should reduce the risk of spreading the polluting materials to other locations.

For low level contamination, equipment can be flushed with mains water if appropriate. The resultant run-off water should be discharged to a foul sewer, if this action is approved by the sewerage undertaker.

For high level contamination, the resultant run-off water should be contained and removed by a registered waste carrier. Alternatively, it can be discharged into a foul sewer, if this action is approved by the sewerage undertaker and the environmental agency.

Drinking water supplies need to be protected from the run-off produced by the decontamination process. This should be considered when setting up decontamination areas and if necessary additional environmental protection resources should be requested and used.

If decontamination of people or personal protective equipment (PPE) is carried out in an emergency, it is unlikely that any offence will be committed under the relevant legislation. However, there is no legal defence if pollution is caused by the decontamination of equipment, appliances, roadways or body bags.

If required, decontamination advice should be requested from:

  • Environmental agencies
  • Tactical advisers, including:
    • Hazardous materials advisers (HMAs)
    • High volume pump (HVP) tactical advisers
  • The sewerage undertaker

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Establish arrangements with environmental agencies and sewerage undertakers for the decontamination of equipment at incidents

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider the level of decontamination involved and develop an appropriate tactical plan to deal with it

  • Gain approval from the sewerage undertaker or environmental agency for decontamination activity if required

  • Protect drinking water supplies from the run-off produced by the decontamination of polluting materials

  • Comply with relevant legislation for the pollution caused by decontamination activity

  • Consider requesting advice for decontamination from an appropriate specialist or tactical adviser