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NSLS ESH Highlight #1

Chemical SPill Incident

Date: March 22, 1994 (Rev. 8/21/00)
Editor: W. Thomlinson, R. Casey

Solvents and other liquid chemical reagents are commonly used for experiments at the NSLS and occasionally spills will occur. BNL requirements for addressing spills are covered in the BNL Spill Response Subject Area. NSLS had a spill several years ago which provided a number of lessons that should be kept in mind when working on the experimental floors.

While working on the VUV floor, a User spilled about two liters of a methanol/acetone mixture on the floor next to his beam line. He cleaned up the spill using a mop and pail from one of the custodian's utility closets. He mopped up the liquid, and returned the equipment to the closet. The next morning, when one of the custodians opened the closet, vapors that had accumulated in the closet overnight were released and produced a very strong chemical odor that caused the custodian some discomfort. He reported his problem to the NSLS ES&H staff.

The User who spilled the solvents made at least two mistakes; he didn't notify the Operations Coordinator that there was a spill at the beam line and the wastes associated with the spill were incorrectly stored. These mistakes resulted in an increased risk of a fire in the building, resulted in a minor exposure to a custodian, and were a violation of BNL and DOE requirements. The following guidelines should be followed when working with chemicals.


  • Choose an appropriate location for your work. Wet chemistry should not be performed at the beam lines. All Users have access to the sample preparation laboratories.
  • Be prepared for spills. There are six spill-control boxes located on the experimental floor (Across from: X4, X8, X16, X25, U7, & The NSLS Stockroom) see map. They contain adsorbents, disposal bags and protective clothing and are available to trained personnel. Experimenters who routinely work with liquid reagents are encouraged to maintain their own supply of spill pick-up materials near their work location.
  • The spill must be cleaned up immediately. Contact the Operations Coordinator or the NSLS Safety Staff for assistance. NSLS is required to report to BNL Emergency Services (ext. 2222) certain types of spills.
    1. Any spill to the environment
    2. Any spill involving a highly toxic or highly volatile material, or PCBs.
    3. Any spill greater than 5 gallons.
  • Chemical wastes must be taken to the Hazardous Waste Collection Area (see Map and the NSLS Hazardous Waste Home Page).