Why You Need a Geomembrane to Properly Contain a Spill

Felon Wilson on Jul 27, 2017 2:18:04 PM

BNSF - Argentine Yard You may be wondering why you need to worry about installing a chemical/hydrocarbon-resistant liner to catch spills. After all, if you already have a permanent above-ground tank or a portable spill unit, the chances of the geomembrane receiving a large spill are very low. Further, the spill may be cleaned up within a short period of time.

These are logical assumptions, but there are two main reasons why utilizing a geomembrane for spill containment is necessary: 

  1. No matter how hard you try, absolutely every bit of the spilled liquid will not be removed. So, you now have primary containment in addition to secondary containment. That’s why you need a membrane that provides long-term resistance to the contained liquid.
  2. The membrane acts as a critical secondary containment layer that protects your facility in the short-term as well. However, it’s crucial that the rigors of installation and service don’t leave this layer breached. Punctures and tears, and in the case of exposed geomembranes, thermal expansion contraction, must not comprise its integrity. If buried, the geomembrane must be strong enough to resist damage during installation. If left exposed, it must resist surface activity, weather and sunlight.

You also need to address these specific items in your facility’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan to ensure all spills are properly contained:

  • Capacity of the system to contain oil and other diked storage as determined in accordance with good engineering practices and the requirements of the EPA’s SPCC rule
  • Presence of spilled or leaked material (standing liquid)
  • Dike or berm permeability
  • Cracks in containment system materials (e.g., concrete, liners, coatings and earthen materials)

A minor spill should not require a complete reconstruction of the containment system, but if the wrong material is used in the wrong way, it could be very expensive to correct and it might be a regulatory breach.

Compare and Contrast Containment Options

Compare and contrast the use of concrete with Reinforced Flexible Membrane Liners with extensive data from several industry studies.

Download our whitepaper to learn why reinforced flexible membrane liners offer superior performance to concrete in containment applications.

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