Hazardous Waste Disposal 101: What Do Hazardous Waste Cleanup Companies Do?
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“Hazardous waste” is a broad term. In short, it covers more or less anything that is hazardous to human health and waste. If it’s bad for you and doesn’t have much use, it falls under the umbrella.
So what do hazardous waste cleanup companies do? Quite a lot, in fact. The specifics depend on the nature of the waste, which we will discuss in the sections below.
When DIY is Deadly or Dangerous
When presented with a mess, many people hope to do some of the work themselves. In many cases, this will save them money and give them more control over a project.
With hazardous waste, the equation is different. Cleaning up hazardous waste on your own is often dangerous, if not impossible. By definition, hazardous waste is a threat to you if it is not handled in the right way.
Knowing how to clean up hazardous waste is not always intuitive. The best hazardous waste cleanup companies have gear that protects them while cleaning up waste in an effective manner. Endangering yourself or employees with poor protection only to somewhat fix a chemical spill or other issue is dangerous and irresponsible.
How do you know when to hire a hazardous waste cleanup company? As a rule, they’re the best option for when a cleanup seems to require special equipment or expertise to do the job in a safe manner.
If you’re not sure about a given cleanup, it would do you and your organization good to consult with hazardous cleanup experts to see if it is safe for you to proceed on your own. A lot of hazardous waste is dangerous enough that even one mistake could land you in the hospital.
Chemicals can seep into your skin or their fumes can get into your lungs. Biohazardous waste can make you and others sick. Some waste can even explode under the right (or wrong) conditions; don’t cut corners when it comes to hazardous waste.
Meth Labs and Other Illegal Chemical Sites
If you’ve ever wondered what happens to illegal drug labs or chemical dumping sites when they’re discovered, hazardous waste cleanup companies are how these properties can become safe for normal use again.
In part thanks to popular media, the dangers meth labs and similar drug sites represent are well-known. If exposed to even a small spark, these sites can sometimes explode or otherwise become engulfed in flames. Even if the police break up a drug operation, experts need to come in and check the location for dangerous substances.
This isn’t the only issue these sorts of sites represent either. Illegal chemistry of all kinds, like most chemistry, leaves behind byproducts. This is chemical waste; a mix of chemicals that the person behind an operation can’t use.
Since criminal operations don’t follow regulations and need to hide signs of their operation, this presents an issue. The solution they might come to is to dump the chemical waste in the ground, down water supplies, or store it in a hidden location.
Unfortunately, this waste is dangerous. It is often caustic, often flammable, almost always poisonous, and can be an explosive risk. On top of that, it may give off fumes that are dangerous too.
Cleaning up hazardous waste at criminal operations presents unique challenges too. The details can be blurry, with little or no documentation. Hazardous cleaning companies have experts and equipment to help suss out where the dangers are at a site and how to clean it without anyone getting hurt.
Chemical Spills and Leaks
Most people have seen pictograms warning of possible dangers on tanks, machines, and buildings. These warnings aren’t always for chemical dangers but that’s often what they’re for.
So what happens when one of those tanks ruptures, spilling its chemical contents? What happens if a gas pipe leaks dangerous gas into a building?
As with all hazardous waste, the specifics will depend on the chemicals involved. If you ever are involved in such a leak, your first priority should be to call emergency services and get yourself and those around you out of the building. When you don’t know the specifics of a chemical, assume the worst and don’t stick around to interact with it.
Once people are out of immediate danger and the site closed off, contact a hazardous cleanup company. It’s time for an emergency chemical spill response team. This is when a group of expert hazardous waste cleaners, as fast as possible, arrive at a scene to clean it up.
The issue with problems like this is there is often a window where they will get worse if not resolved. Chemicals leak into the ground and water supply. Gas can fill a building or blow around in the open air onto people farther away than expected.
The experts at a hazardous cleanup company train to respond to these problems before they get out of hand. They first contain a problem to prevent it from getting worse, and then begin cleaning it up so the area is made safe again.
Firing Range Maintenance
This one may surprise people, but we still live in a world where certain day-to-day activities involve lead. Gone are the days of lead paint on children’s toys but it is still present in our lives in other ways.
One such example is bullets. Most bullets contain lead. While it is a small amount individually, some locations see many bullets shot in a given period.
For this reason, locations such as firing ranges are bound by certain regulations. These regulations help to ensure that the lead cannot bleed into the ground, poisoning the area. It’s a good thing too; lead poisoning is serious.
Range owners have been driven out of business over failure to adhere to these regulations. It’s a detail many people overlook about running a range. We don’t tend to imagine how much lead thousands of bullets might be.
Hazardous cleanup companies like we at HCI Environmental & Engineering Service can help prevent these issues. Our Shooting Range Cleaning and Maintenance Division can assist with shooting range cleaning and maintenance.
In our case, this isn’t just dealing with lead cleanup either. We vacuum floors, tighten nuts and bolts, replace lightbulbs, and overall make sure a range is safe for owners and patrons alike.
Scenes of Trauma or Death
In movies, a violent incident tends to happen and then the camera will cut away to a hospital or other locale where the victims are taken. In the real world, a violent scene doesn’t end with the people leaving. Someone needs to go in and clean it up too.
While it isn’t fun to think about, crime, accidents, and death can be messy. If the incident was violent, there may be blood, organs, bones, or more left at the scene, even once those involved have been taken away.
Someone has to clean up after these incidents. Unfortunately, the average person or even cleaning company isn’t equipped to handle these sorts of messes. It can even be dangerous, as blood is a common vector for disease.
Oftentimes these incidents blindside the owners of the property that needs cleaning. If your business does not deal with bodily fluids and other biohazards, you don’t expect to need to all of a sudden.
This in addition to the fact that these scenes can also have an emotional toll on those trying to deal with them. Hiring a professional team for trauma scene remediation can help erase reminders of tragedy.
Even if that isn’t your concern, leaving blood and other remains (human or otherwise) around is a health hazard and often illegal. They represent what is called a biohazard. (We discuss biohazards in more detail in the section below.)
Somewhat related to the above, hazardous cleanup teams can also clean up biohazardous waste. This can include remains, blood, fecal matter, urine, and a laundry list of other substances bodies can produce.
Many rules and regulations govern how we deal with these substances. They can all carry disease and cause major issues if they manage to get in our mouths, eyes, or into our bloodstreams. Even touching them can cause issues.
Biohazardous substances aren’t just “gross,” even if you do find them repulsive. They’re dangerous and can’t be underestimated. This is why hospitals are careful to store and transport these materials as appropriate.
In fact, one of the sinister aspects of biohazards is the danger is not always obvious. Most people are somewhat aware chemicals can do real harm but we often default to treating bodily fluids and other biohazards only as gross or strange. These threats need to be taken seriously.
Asbestos and Mold
One of the most common forms of hazardous waste people are likely to encounter, asbestos and mold can cause serious health issues.
Asbestos in particular is a challenge in much of the United States, as it was once heralded as something of a miracle substance. Builders used it as insulation in many buildings in its heyday. Unfortunately, we later realized it was a health hazard (and the United States banned its production in 1978).
Asbestos may not look dangerous but the issue becomes more clear under a microscope. Asbestos is made of very thin threads of material that can tear up skin and even your lungs.
While there has been an ongoing effort to get it out of buildings, it is still often discovered in older homes and other structures. If found, it almost always will need to be removed.
Mold, meanwhile, is a problem less of our own making (although there are ways to help prevent it). All most mold needs to grow is a moist environment, with some hardier molds barely needing that.
You should always consider asbestos a serious health danger but mold varies in how hazardous it is to one’s health. That said, it can still cause respiratory issues if breathed in and tends to be quite unsightly. You also need to treat mold regardless, as it can grow and spread if left unattended.
Due to their ability to cause respiratory issues, asbestos and mold should only be handled with the proper equipment and expertise. It is a good idea to hire a professional service when dealing with them to help prevent unnecessary exposure and risk.
Many demolition projects involve the help of a hazardous waste cleanup team. There are a few reasons for this.
First, hazardous cleanup teams can help the heads of a project judge what impact the demolition may have on the environment. The team can also look for potential hazards.
For some projects, these are serious concerns. For instance, if a chemical plant needs to demolished, a hazardous cleanup team (or even multiple) will be needed. The last thing a demolition project leader wants is to miscalculate and blow toxic particles all over the nearby area.
However, even normal demolition projects will have hazardous waste. Heavy metals are common in construction and sharp or heavy debris is universal.
The second thing hazardous waste cleanup teams can help with in demolition projects is asset recovery. Some environments may be too dangerous for a common construction crew but still contain materials or items that need to be recovered. Teams like ours can help to recover those materials in a manner that is safe and efficient.
When one hires the HCI Environmental & Engineering Service, the team can also work with the project manager to recycle as much of the project material as possible. We discuss this more in the next section.
HCI can do more than assist with demolition too. We can provide turn-key demolition services and have been doing so for over twenty years. We’re capable of both selective interior and exterior demolition, assuring that our work will be safe and precise.
Humans are wasteful. Individual humans may make an effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but as a species, we produce astronomical amounts of waste.
Here at HCI, we can help a company or other organization reduce its footprint through recycling. While this may at first seem a strange offering from a hazardous waste disposal company, it isn’t once one breaks down the details.
A great deal of recyclable waste is dangerous. Consider the spinning blades of a blender or even shards of glass. Other waste may be hard to collect without specialized equipment, such as waste oil.
Electronic waste, or E-waste, is any waste with an electronic component. Everything from the previously mentioned blenders to computer towers and monitors qualifies.
This type of waste presents a number of challenges when it comes to recycling. For example, many electronics contain heavy metals, mercury, PCB’s and petrochemicals which can wreak havoc if not contained properly.
Additionally, many companies worry when recycling computer parts, as improper disposal procedures can leak data. This is why our company takes extra care to ensure any data storage devices are wiped (exceeding government standards), shredded, or recycled, as our clients desire.
Waste Oil Recycling
For some clients, waste oil is a major byproduct of their activities. Waste oil can be difficult to manage as well as becoming an unnecessary hazard. Our company can help take waste oil and ensure it is recycled.
Waste oil isn’t useless if dealt with in the right manner. It can be re-refined into a base stock for lubricating oil. It goes from being a burden and moderate environmental hazard to a genuine, useful material in industrial processes.
On a related note, our team can also deal with oil & gas filters. We can help transport all drained, used oil & gasoline filters to facilities capable of recycling them as non-hazardous waste. In addition to being good for the environment, this also can help reduce a company’s reported hazardous waste.
Did you know HCI will purchase and recycle all types of ferrous and non-ferrous metals? It’s true, we can handle your waste disposal needs in a way that can reduce your total waste disposal costs.
We do more than buy metal waste too. We can shear, torch, demolish walls, and more. We are a demolition-capable hazardous waste cleanup team, capable of meeting a wide variety of needs as a given project demands.
Our projects are also customized to our clients. On top of that, we will provide free consultation on how your organization may be able to develop or modify their scrap program to most benefit them.
One service not all hazardous waste cleanup companies offer, but ours does, is that of OSHA training. OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a US administration that sets various occupational safety standards.
Our experts have plenty of experience with safety measures as well as what can happen if those measures fail. Our structured course, available both for in-person groups or online, can help instruct employees on how to operate various machines, how to safe in a variety of situations, and even how to administer first aid.
We can adjust the contents of the course to best fits the needs of your organization. If there is some aspect you require of a course that you don’t see us offering on our site, we hope you will contact us. We frequently can still accommodate, developing a somewhat custom program so that you can prepare your employees, whatever their safety needs.
In some ways, this sharing of expertise applies to our blog too. We want people to be aware of the various dangers of hazardous waste. Moreover, we want them to know how to approach such hazards so they can stay safe and get them cleaned up effectively.
Meeting Insurance Requirements
As a final point, we will note that any legitimate hazardous waste cleanup company will have a variety of licenses and permits. These documents help to prove both to clients and insurance companies that the company is capable of the often complex, dangerous work it engages in.
While we hope it is unsurprising, HCI is fully licensed to operate in all the fields we have discussed thus far. We are proud to say we meet or exceed our clients’ requirements and should present no issue in terms of an organization trying to insure its work.
You can also check out some examples of the training certificates obtained by our employees. Hazardous waste cleanup workers often build up an impressive list of skills, as the nature of their work varies and a lack of appropriate knowledge or training can carry deadly consequences.
Hazardous Waste Cleanup Companies Do a Lot
Even with about 3000 words, we haven’t covered everything hazardous waste cleanup companies do for their clients. Hazardous waste is a broad topic and requires cleanup companies have a broad array of equipment and skills to face it down.
If you need help with hazardous waste, we hope you will contact us. Our company is even available 24/7 in cases of emergency, as we understand that not all cleanups can wait.