Tuesday, August 18, 2020, started out as a calm morning at a Chicagoland port of one of the largest freight-shipping transportation companies in the world.
“Everything had been going pretty smoothly,” said F.H., dock supervisor for the transportation company.
And then, suddenly, at 8:20 a.m., things were no longer going smoothly.
“We had a huge, huge problem on our hands,” F.H. said. “One of our 53-foot trailers pulled into the dock and we could see there was a fairly large-sized spill under the trailer and in the trough. We opened up the back of the trailer very carefully — it was a monster-sized stinking mess.”
In total, 55 gallons of Mineral Oil had spilled inside the trailer, outside the trailer and in the trough.
“It was brutal,” F.H. said. “It was all over the place.”
By 8:30 a.m., HazChem Environmental Corporation, with its home base 43 miles away, was contacted.
“HazChem doesn’t mess around,” F.H. said. “We knew they’d send us a crew as fast as they could and we knew they’d fix the whole problem, and this was a huge problem — I was certain we’d have to shut down a pretty good-sized portion of our dock to clean up this spill, and that is always a huge inconvenience to our workers, which slows things down and that, ultimately, affects our customers. I was just hoping we could re-open this particular area of our dock by around 6 p.m. This was a big mess.”
A four-man HazChem crew arrived via Emergency Truck at 9:26 a.m.
E.L. was HazChem’s designated crew manager.
“We agreed with the dock supervisor’s desire to shut off this area,” said E.L., a five-year veteran at HazChem. “The inside of the trailer had a lot of freight and the entire trailer was soaked with the Mineral Oil.”
While there are plenty of products that are more dangerous than Mineral Oil, this particular spill still required plenty of care.
At its worst, Mineral Oil can irritate the lungs, causing coughing or shortness of breath. It can also irritate skin, causing a rash or burning feeling.
Taking the proper precautions, E.L. and his fellow HazChem crew members were able to find the source of the leak.
“There was a punctured drum at its bottom and all 55 gallons had leaked out there,” E.L. explained. “We made sure it was neutralized (with a PH test), and then put it carefully into an 85-gallon Open-Top-Steel drum as an over-pack.”
By 10 a.m., HazChem was getting the freight off the trailer.
“We fully understand that time is money,” said HazChem Co-Owner Alan Shapiro. “And we know in the freight business, particularly with this very large company we were working for on this spill, a shutdown of an area for a huge amount of time can be very problematic. So we were happy our crew on this spill got right down to business and knew exactly what to do.”
The crew had placed a huge sheet of Poly on the dock to hold the freight and protect the dock floor itself. All the while, the crew employed the necessary oil dry to help handle absorption and the cleaning.
By 11:45 a.m., the inside of the trailer was cleaned.
“I have always had a great relationship with the guys who work for HazChem,” said F.H., who has been with this particular freight company for 33 years. “HazChem has handled our emergency spills the last 15 years or so. They always let me know their game plan beforehand and I am always appreciative of that. On this particular spill, I could see they had the inside of the trailer completely cleaned before noon. I knew they could get it clean and I was happy they did it so doggone fast.”
Soon after, the trailer was moved so HazChem could clean up the spill outside, on the ground. The Mineral Oil was sitting in the trough, close to 75 feet in length.
“Using oil dry, pads, shovels and brooms, the four of us got everything outside cleaned up in 67 minutes,” said E.L.
With a good-natured chuckle, E.L. added, “Yes, exactly 67 minutes. Our owners like us to take meticulous notes and we know our customers appreciate that, too.”
HazChem Co-Owner Chris Johnson was pleased.
“Once our guys finished with the proper paperwork, and then placed the drums we had used for this cleanup job (seven in total) in OS&D, our guys were on their way back to our shop by 1:30 p.m.,” Johnson said. “Our crew had worked smart and also quickly. We knew this particular company needed this cleanup job not to be an all-day thing — and it wasn’t.”