A hazardous material is any biological, chemical, or physical material with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. Hazardous materials can be released to the environment in a variety of ways.
When hazardous material comes into contact with rain or snow, the pollutants are washed into the storm sewer system and, ultimately, to surface water bodies and/or ground water. Hazardous materials have negative impacts on fish habitat, ground water drinking water sources, and recreational uses of Minnesota’s lakes and streams.
A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water. Hazardous materials associated with MS4s and their operations include, but are not limited to, oil, gasoline, antifreeze, fertilizers, pesticides, and de-icing agents and additives. This fact sheet provides guidance on storage and handling of hazardous materials.
Minimizing or eliminating contact of hazardous materials with stormwater can significantly reduce pollution of downstream waters. Proper hazardous material handling and storage also contributes to employee health, an organized work place, and efficient operation.
Hotspot facilities are facilities that produce higher levels of stormwater pollutants and/or present a higher potential risk for spills, leaks or illicit discharges. Hazardous material storage and handling is of particular concern in these areas. Common MS4 owned or managed hotspot facilities are those that handle solid waste, wastewater, road and vehicle maintenance, and yard waste, such as:
Confine outdoor material storage to designated areas that are covered, away from high traffic areas, outside of drainage pathways, and on impervious surfaces
Other fact sheets developed for this guidance document provide hazardous material storage and handling procedures for specific materials.
Winter road salt and de-icing additives - see Winter Road Materials Management fact sheet
Equipment and vehicle wash water – see Vehicle Washing factsheet
Fertilizers and pesticides - See Park & Open Space Fertilizer/Chemical Application Programs factsheet
Spill prevention plans are created for prevention as opposed to after-the-fact reactive measures. Specifically, SPCC Plans are required by the EPA for oil spill prevention at facilities that meet the following three criteria: non-transportation-related, having an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or a complete buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons, and have a reasonable expectation of a discharge into or upon navigable waters of the United States. Remember that a spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate a million gallons of water. Even if an SPCC is not required at your facility, spill prevention plans for any and all hazardous materials can be an effective preventive measure and training tool (see Employee Training below), and SPCC Plans provide a good framework for any type of spill prevention plan. For details on what to include in spill prevention plans see the EPA and MPCA guidance documents in the Additional Resources.
Municipalities and other regulated MS4s can greatly reduce potential water quality impacts by creating chemical application programs and training all full time and seasonal employees that are responsible for handling hazardous wastes. Consider registering city staff into existing training programs or providing in-house training. In-house training could include the development of guidance documents for trainees to keep with them on the job site.
Maintenance of loading/unloading areas, storage areas and containers, and equipment, as described above, is inherent for proper storage and handling of hazardous materials.
Pollution prevention measures are not inherently costly and are more a matter of culture. However, providing cover over hazardous materials stored outdoors can be equivalent to the cost of a pole building (💲5 to 💲12 per square foot) and a concrete slab (💲3 to 💲6 per square foot). If waste reduction measures are taken, an accurate inventory is maintained, and regular waste disposal is implemented, MS4s can minimize the amount of materials stored onsite, decreasing costs.