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Hazardous Materials

Changes: The FEMA and DOT programs have moved to the Tribe’s Community Building within the newly established Emergency Planning Office. For information on emergency training please call (518) 358-2272, Extension 230 or 187.

What are hazardous materials? Hazardous materials, hazardous substances and hazardous waste all have different meanings and are often times misused terms. The primary difference between these terms is the intended usage of the material. If the material is intended to be used and is hazardous it is a hazardous material; if it is intended for disposal it is a hazardous waste.

The term, hazardous materials, was first defined by USDOT in 1975 as a substance or material which has been determined by the Secretary of Transportation to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety and property when transported. This definition is transportation related. Therefore, you will always see a placard or sign placed on vehicles carrying these materials.

Hazardous substances are defined by EPA, DOT and OSHA and is any material that can produce an adverse effect on the health of safety of the person exposed. These substances are listed in section 101(14) and 101(33) of CERCLA and 49 CRF 172.101.

Hazardous waste is any waste material which is ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic and which may pose a substantial or potential hazard to human health and safety and to the environment when improperly managed.

The abbreviation, hazmat, is short is used for any hazardous material or materials that may pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, property or the environment when used, transported, stored or disposed of.

The DOT uses a classification and marking system to help identify hazardous materials being transported to assist officials with managing accidents and spills.

Hazard classes and UN markings

  1. Packages containing dangerous goods must be durably marked with the correct technical name and with distinctive labels or stencils of the labels.
  2. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is a branch of the United Nations (UN), classifies dangerous goods into nine hazard classes. Diamond labels denote the hazards involved by means of colors and symbols.
  3. Some hazard classes are further subdivided into hazard divisions due to their wide scopes.

There are nine (9) hazard classes: Their order does not indicate degree of danger.

  1. Explosives - This class has six divisions; in addition, this class has 13 compatibility groups that identify the kind of explosive articles and substances that are deemed to be compatible, which is very important when handling this type of cargo.
  2. Gases - This class comprises compressed gases, liquefied gases, gases in solution, and mixtures of one or more gases with one or more vapors of substances of other classes. This class is organized into three subdivisions based on the primary hazards of gases during transport.
  3. Flammable liquids - This class has no subdivisions and includes liquids or mixtures of liquids, liquids containing solids in solution or in suspension that give off a flammable vapor at temperature of not more than 60.5° C (150° F) open-cup test, normally referred to as the flash point. For example, paints, varnishing, lacquers, etc.
  4. Flammable solids - This class is divided into three divisions and includes all flammable solids and substances liable to spontaneous combustion or substances, which emit flammable gases in contact with water.
  5. Oxidizers and organic peroxides - This class has two divisions:
    1. Division 5.1 - Oxidizing substances, which themselves are not necessarily combustible, but may generally cause or contribute to the combustión of other material by yielding oxygen.
    2. Division 5.2 - Organic peroxides, which are substances that are thermally unstable and may undergo exothermic, self-accelerating decomposition. They are sensitive to impact and friction.
  6. Toxic materials and infectious substances - This class has two divisions:
    1. Division 6.1 - Toxic substances, which are liable to cause death if swallowed, inhaled or contacted by the skin.
    2. Division 6.2 - Infectious substances, which includes all those substances that are infectious to humans and/or animals, and which includes microorganisms and organisms, biological products, diagnostic specimens, and medical waste.
  7. Radioactive materials- Radioactive materials are articles or substances, which spontaneously and continuously emit certain types of radiation which can be harmful to health but which cannot be detected by any of the human senses. In this group the principal considerations are the article activity and the transport index (TI), which is a single number, assigned to a cargo and is used to provide control of radiation exposure.
  8. Corrosives - Substances that in event of leakage can cause severe damage by chemical action when in contact with living tissue or that can materially damage other freight or the means of transport.
  9. Miscellaneous dangerous goods - Articles and substances that during air transport present a danger not covered by other classes.
The NFPA uses a system, the NFPA 704 System, similar to the DOT placard that is subdivided into four smaller diamonds. The diamonds are color coded to indicate specific hazards: Health (blue), Flammability (red), Reactivity (yellow) and Special (white) .

The DOT and NFPA marker system are just two means by which authorities identify and manage hazmat spills.

Where does hazmat come from? Hazmat is all around us and is used in everyday life. It is the gasoline we use in our cars, the propane we use for cooking, ammonia used for fertilizers and refrigeration, and the bottled gases used in our hospitals and clinics. When hazmat is properly stored, transported and used they are beneficial to us and our community. Without them much of what we take for granted today would be non-existent.

Hazmat becomes a problem when they are released due to accidents, negligence and poor management. When this happens authorities must step in to prevent further release, prevent or minimize any threat to people, property and the environment, contain or stop the release and have the hazmat cleaned up properly. It is the financial responsibility of the person(s) causing the spill or who have ownership of the materials to pay for the costs of spill responses and clean up.

Hazmat incidents are responded to by highly trained, experienced and knowledgeable people. These people are trained in identifying hazmat, wearing protective clothing, using specialized instruments to test for hazmat and implementing procedures to control and contain materials. These people include fire personnel, police, health officials and environmental officials. The level of training and the type equipment available determines what measures will be taken at a hazmat spill and if additional resources are needed.

Hazmat spills should be called in immediately to authorities who are trained in hazmat response. Hazmat response without proper training and equipment is dangerous and can be deadly.

For any chemical emergency on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation call the SRMT PD (518) 358-9200. They will then contact the Environment Division who will then respond. For further information:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), hazmat information

US Department of Transportation, Hazmat Safety Page

USEPA Environmental Response Team

National Association of Sara Title Three Program Officials (NASTTPO)

On-line Atlas for hazmat spills in the Great Lakes, including the St. Lawrence River

St. Lawrence Seaway. Reports on shipping tonnages, including chemicals

CANUTECH, Canadian Transport Emergency Center

CANUSCENT, A Plan for Responding to Oil and Hazardous Materials Along the Inland Border of US and Canada

Environmental Response Team: Protecting Akwesasne for 10 Years.

PCBs and Health by Les Benedict
Proposed Record of Decision:Minerals Processing Plant by Dave Arquette
How Animals Such as Dogs Can Help Us Monitor the Environment by Dr. Mary (Fadden) Arquette
Hazardous Materials Flow by Les Benedict
Preventative Measures to Help Stop Residential Oil Spills by Craig Arquette
Hazardous Materials Flow Assessment Summary by Les Benedict
Environmental Response Team Leaders - "HAZMUTTS" Cartoon
Clean-Up at General Motors Become a Reality July 1999