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Cleanup of Oil and Fuel Spills in Agricultural Buildings Associated with Flooding

Kenneth Hellevang, Extension Engineer

Fuel and oil vapors are extremely penetrating and volatile, and may cause a fire and health hazard. Keep flames and other ignition sources away from the area. Ventilate the area by opening windows. Wear rubber gloves, overshoes and a proper respirator when working in the area. Exposure to high levels of petroleum products can cause health effects, primarily on the nervous and respiratory systems. People who inhaled elevated levels of fuel oil vapors for short periods of time had nausea, increased blood pressure, eye irritation, headaches, lightheadedness and poor coordination.

If a layer of oil is floating on top of the water, remove the oil before pumping the water out. For an oil film, oil-absorbent “socks” may be sufficient to collect the oil. Contact your local fuel supplier for a source of absorbent pads. For a thicker layer of oil, a vacuum truck may be necessary to skim the oil off the water. Do not pump the water into your yard before removing the oil because the oil may spread and contaminate other areas, including nearby wells, water bodies and homes. Contacting a waste oil or sanitary sewer hauler permitted for handling industrial waste usually is best. For a list of these haulers, contact the N.D. Department of Health's Division of Waste Management at (701) 328-5166.

Porous materials, such as removable wood, cardboard boxes, cloth, drywall and insulation, need to be discarded. Use Oil-Dri, cat litter or other absorbent materials to absorb any remaining oil. Hard surfaces, such as glass or metal, can be cleaned with detergents, degreasers or other cleaners. Concrete and wood are porous, so oil is absorbed into the material, and it requires more than surface cleaning. Use products intended for petroleum removal that can be purchased from hardware stores. Removal will require several washing and rinsing operations. Odors should decrease after each application. Some people have used steam cleaning. Fuel oil absorbed into structural wood may be difficult to remove. If the spill occurred on soil, remove as much of the impacted soil as possible. Persistent odors indicate that a contaminated source has not been removed. These sources may include contaminated concrete, soils, wood materials and drywall, and oil in sumps or floor drains.

Additional information is available from the N.D. Department of Health's Division of Waste Management at (701) 328- 5166 or on the Health Department’s website at www.ndhealth.gov/flood.

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