May. 11, 2015 Exercise tests hazardous spill readiness

State responder training in Wenatchee May 13

WENATCHEE – Responding to hazardous material spills presents unique challenges and risks to emergency workers. To make sure responders have the skills to handle incidents safely, the Washington Department of Ecology and local emergency responders will participate in a hazardous materials exercise May 13 at Chelan County PUD’s Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee.

It may look like a real incident when approximately 50 responders practice how to safely assess, contain, transport and dispose of leaking hazardous materials containers.

About a dozen teams will use monitoring instruments and field chemistry tests to identify unknown hazards, practice packing containers with hazardous materials and confirm correct use of chemical-protective clothing. The tests strengthen their ability to make an early assessment of a hazmat incident.

The popular Apple Capital Loop Trail through the park will remain open. There is plenty of room for park visitors to detour around the picnic shelter where the exercise will be based.

The first hours of a spill response are critical. Early assessments and identification of hazardous items helps determine what an unknown chemical might be, the correct response equipment to deploy, and strategies to use to protect public health and the environment.

Ecology manages more than 4,000 spill reports and launches more than 1,000 field responses a year that involve interaction with a variety of chemicals – each with its own degree of danger to human health, public safety and the environment. Annual exercises like this one help spills crews safely mount rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated responses.

More information about preventing, preparing for and responding to oil and hazardous material spills can be found on Ecology’s Spills program web pages.