“It turns out that milk is hazardous to fish and the hazmat team was pumping out the storm drain to keep the milk from reaching the river.”

6298552521_142f7a9c68_zWe can never learn enough about hazardous materials. When a milk truck overturned on a street near my home, I was surprised to see the hazmat team respond, complete with white ty-vek suits. It turns out that milk is hazardous to fish and the hazmat team was pumping out the storm drain to keep the milk from reaching the river. Perhaps it was the white protective suits that made the response seem a bit overdone; but the suits were no doubt mandated by statute. As a painting contractor, I had to learn a good deal about statutes. Washing out a latex paint brush in the garden is forbidden in my state, but washing it in a sink is OK because the sewage treatment plant can handle the contaminant. Washing a building with a pressure washer requires the capture and proper disposal of the dirty water. Violating a statute can result in a fine of many thousands of dollars so it behooves contractors to train their employees well.

Training a new employee, however, takes time, and one can only hope that common sense will prevail when correct protocol has not yet been taught; but sometimes hopes are dashed. I once got a call from a local gas station that there was a massive paint spill involving one of my trucks and my new apprentice. I immediately called all my workers to report to the gas station and bring pressure washers and sand bags. The scene at the gas station was mind-boggling: bright blue latex enamel covered a very large part of the driveway. My young apprentice sheepishly explained what had happened. Having spilled a gallon of paint in the back of the truck, he became concerned about the damage to the truck.

He used the hose he found at the station to clean out the truck and intended to wash the paint down the storm drain. Fortunately, the paint dried on the hot asphalt before he could do so. We set to work with sand bags, pressure washers and sump pumps. Though dry, the paint hadn’t cured and, three hours later, the mess was gone and properly disposed of.

It was easy to convict my employee of a lack of common sense. On the other hand, if I had dropped a gallon of milk in the gutter, I wouldn’t have thought twice about letting it enter the storm drain. It appears that common sense is a result of education.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s