Car Battery Acid Beware!

Consumers discard approximately 27 million cars a year, about 26 cars a minute! In fact, salvaged autos are the most recycled consumer product in the world today. Furthermore, 95% of salvaged automobiles are processed for recycling each year. Recycling helps the environment greatly by reducing over 30 million metric tons of CO2 and GHG(Greenhouse Gas Emissions).

Did you know that 98-99% of car batteries (universal waste) can be recycled! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Proper storage, containment, and handling of salvaged auto components are necessary to eliminate the chance of stormwater contamination due to the release of suspended solids, liquids, or metals. Car batteries contain heavy metals and acid compounds. If any of these substances leak into the ground or are discharged into the streets, stormwater runoff can become contaminated. Stormwater contamination is a primary environmental concern at salvage facilities. Pollutants such as: suspended solids – automobile fluids, and heavy metals in car batteries can contaminate stormwater. This can be prevented with pollution prevention thus eliminating the opportunity for groundwater contamination. Therefore, specific management standards have been developed by the EPA(Environmental Protection Agency) that must be implemented to protect humans and environmental health.

The National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES) regulates point source discharge of stormwater runoff from industrial facilities such as salvage yards. Therefore, operators of regulated industrial facilities must obtain an NPDES stormwater permit and implement pollution prevention techniques that reduce contamination of stormwater runoff. Most regulated facilities are eligible for coverage under the Multi-Sector General Permit(MSGP). These standards assure that when handling discarded car batteries that have been removed from discarded or recycled vehicles that salvage facilities follow proper BMPs and store them in designated areas, usually in a single layer. They must be stored in a secondary acid-resistant container to prevent from spillage. Acids can affect soil chemistry, which in turn can adversely affect plants and human health, and can create conditions toxic to soil organisms, and result in soil contamination. In order to assure safe handling, those handling the waste must wear appropriate safety glasses and make sure to wear acid resistant gloves to prevent skin or mucous lining contact. Furthermore, acid batteries cannot be stored on-site for more than one year and must be marked with the date it was taken out of service. Once car batteries are handled, labeled, and stored they can be transported to an off-site recycling facility.

The salvaging of discarded batteries at industrial salvage yards is a big business, and proper control and implementation of a SWPPP is necessary to assure that business is done the right way! Here at KCI we can help assist with site specific SWPPPs, and have the proper training to conduct routine inspections to assure your industrial facility maintains environmental compliance.

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