Spill Response

Duke's Chemical Spill Response Team

Despite solid efforts at prevention, accidents will happen. Since a goal of our division is to prevent the release of chemicals that are harmful to human health or the environment, the OESO provides a 24-hour, 365-day per year spill response service to the Duke community.

Our responders are trained according to standards set forth in 29 CFR 1910.120 for Technician Level Responders (essentially the highest level of general spill response training). They are equipped with special personal protective equipment and spill response materials for handling spills up to approximately 55 gallons, after which we have a coordination agreement for assistance from the Durham Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Team.

General Spill Response Procedures

In order to ensure timely response to spills by trained personnel, OESO and the Duke University Police Department (DUPD) have established the following notification procedure:

Duke employees are instructed in the "Emergency Response and Incident Reporting Guide" to dial 911 from a campus phone (or 919-684-2444 from a cell phone) in the event of a major chemical spill. Employees are instructed to be prepared to tell the DUPD dispatcher what chemicals are involved, how much was spilled, where the spill is located, the nature of any injuries, what control measures have been taken, their name, and a call back number at which they can be reached.

To activate the spill response, the DUPD dispatcher calls one of two phone numbers:

919-684-2794 During normal working hours (0800-1700hrs Monday-Friday, except for Medical Center designated holidays). This line is continuously monitored by OESO clerical staff during these hours.

919-417-0263 After hours, on weekends or holidays. This is a cellular phone carried by one of the After Hours Responders. It can be forwarded to the pager of the After Hours Responder, either directly, or with a "no answer transfer" where it rings several times before forwarding to the pager.

The person answering the phone will take down the pertinent information and pass it on to the Spill Response Coordinator and daytime responders, or initiate a response if functioning as an After Hours Responder.

In some cases, OESO will receive direct calls from the person reporting the incident. OESO clerical staff will take the information and, if appropriate, advise the caller to contact DUPD by calling 911 from a campus phone or 919-684-2444 from a cell phone).

The following is a list of actions to be taken during a chemical spill. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact Environmental Programs at (919) 684-2794.

Minor Chemical Spills 

  • Alert people in the immediate area of spill.
  • Avoid breathing vapors from spill.
  • Turn off ignition and heat sources if spilled material is flammable.
  • Put on appropriate protective equipment, such as safety goggles, suitable gloves, and long sleeved lab coat.
  • Confine spill to small area.
  • Use appropriate kit to neutralize and absorb acids and bases.
  • Use appropriate kit or spill pads.
  • Collect residue, place in appropriate container and dispose as chemical waste (call 684-2794 for waste collection).
  • Clean spill area with water.

Major Chemical Spills

  • Alert people in the area to evacuate.
  • Turn off ignition and heat sources if spilled material is flammable.
  • Call 911
  • Attend to injured or contaminated persons and remove them from exposure.
  • Have person knowledgeable of the area assist emergency personnel.

Mercury Spills: Call OESO Environmental Programs Division at 684-2794. After hours, call Duke Police at 684-2444.

Chemical Spill on Body 

Flood exposed area with running water from faucet or safety shower for at least 5 minutes.

  • Remove all contaminated clothing and shoes.
  • Obtain medical attention, if necessary.
  • Report incident to supervisor.

Hazardous Material Splashed in the Eye

  • Immediately rinse eyeball and inner surface of eyelid with water continuously for 15 minutes.
  • Forcibly hold eye open to effectively wash behind eyelids.
  • Obtain medical attention.
  • Report incident to supervisor.