Safety

New Emergency Preparedness Training Requirements for Hospitals

The implementation date for the new training requirements is November 15, 2017.  The new rule establishes national emergency preparedness requirements that include adequately planning for disasters that fall on a continuum between disruptive to disastrous.  The new regulations apply to healthcare providers, including hospitals, critical access hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and long-term care facilities.  To find out more, please follow this link to Occupational Health and Safety magazine.  https://ohsonline.com/articles/2017/11/01/cms-emergency-preparedness-training.aspx

If you need assistance with assessing your training needs or if you are looking for a training provider, please contact SSCI at 800-324-7724 or visit our website at www.sscienvironmental.com or SSCI-HEALTH-SAFETY & TECHNICAL TRAINING_201509.

Total Eclipse, August 21, 2017

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a total eclipse will cross the entire country, coast-to-coast, for the first time since 1918.  Check out when you’ll be able to see the solar eclipse at NASA.  NASA is sharing information on safe eclipse viewing with community centers, and citizen science projects are developing.  If you can’t watch Monday’s total solar eclipse, don’t worry. Another one will be visible in the U.S. in 2024.

According to NASA, the following materials should never be used to view a solar eclipse:

  • sunglasses of any kind
  • color film
  • medical X-ray film
  • smoked glass
  • floppy disks

 

The only way to safely view the Sun – eclipsed or not – is to either project or filter the Sun’s rays.  The pinhole projector is a quick DIY project.

You Need:

  • a long cardboard box or tube
  • scissors
  • duct tape
  • aluminum foil
  • a pin or a thumbtack
  • a sharp knife or paper cutter
  • a sheet of white paper

What to Do:

  1. Cut a rectangular hole at the end of the box. You can tape 2 boxes together to make a long box. The longer the box, the larger the projected image.
  2. Using the scissors, cut out a piece of the aluminum foil slightly larger than the rectangular hole. Make sure the foil is completely flat and not crinkled.
  3. Tape the foil over the rectangular hole in the box.
  4. Use the pin to poke a tiny hole in the center of the foil.
  5. Tape the sheet of paper on the inside of the other end of the box.
  6. Stand with your back toward the Sun. Place the box over your head with the pinhole towards the Sun. Adjust your position until you see a small projection, a reversed image, of the eclipsed Sun on the paper inside the box.

Using a Tube?

If you are using a long tube or taping 2 tubes together, cut the end of the tubes and tape the foil with a pinhole on 1 end. On the other end, tape a piece of white paper over the end of the tube. This will act as the screen. Close to this end, cut a rectangular hole using the knife. This will be your viewing window.

With your back toward the Sun, point the end with the foil toward the Sun, angling the tube along the Sun’s rays. Look into the tube through the viewing window until you see a reversed image of the eclipsed Sun on the screen.

 

Hazards of Invasive Zebra Mussels

Zebra Mussels have been positively identified for the first time at Lake Travis in Central Texas.  Zebra Mussels are an invasive species originating from eastern Europe and western Russia. A single adult female zebra mussel can produce up to one million larvae each year that cannot be seen by the naked eye, causing infestation to occur before a sighting. Zebra mussels attach to any hard surface in the water including submerged infrastructure, piping, watercraft, and even native mussels. Currently, there is no known way to eliminate zebra mussels from entire lakes without harming native species and colonies, and are expensive to remove from surfaces. With infestation occurring rapidly due to the swift reproduction rate, zebra mussels require large amounts of plankton to survive, depriving other species of food.

First discovered in Texas in 2009, zebra mussels have now infested 11 lakes including Belton, Bridgeport, Canyon, Dean Gilbert, Eagle Mountain, Lewisville, Randell, Ray Roberts, Stillhouse Hollow, Texoma, and, as of June 22, Lake Travis in Austin, Texas. Lake Travis is upstream to Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake making infestation to the downstream lakes inevitable.  Zebra mussels damage boats, plug water systems, and sink navigation buoys.  Millions of dollars are spent each year controlling, cleaning, and monitoring zebra mussels.  Zebra mussels have a high rate of filtration which leads to an increase in water clarity and decreases beneficial phytoplankton like diatoms and green algae.  Water temperatures increase and the depth at which light penetrates the water increases negatively impacting organisms at deeper water depths.  Zebra mussels also feed on zooplankton and will smother an existing colony of native mussels.

It is important to take safety precautions to prevent spread of the invasive species to other lakes. Boaters are required by law to drain all water from their boats when leaving or approaching public water. This includes sailboats, kayaks, canoes, etc. It is important to inspect the watercraft after use and remove any attached vegetation, mud, or unknown objects. All compartments of the boat must be dried, including the exterior, for at least a week. If it is not possible to leave the boat outside of water for a week, the boat should be washed using high pressure soapy water. Transporting zebra mussels, knowingly or unknowingly, is illegal and first-time offenders can be fined up to $500.  For more information about the invasive species in Texas, visit texasinvasive.org.

SSCI: Hazardous Materials Manager for SH 288 Toll Lanes Expansion Project

SSCI began work on the State Highway (SH) 288 Toll Lanes Expansion Project in Harris County providing hazardous materials management and emergency response in July 2016. Since that time, SSCI has assisted in construction activities, hazardous material handling and disposal, and in managing environmental hazards associated with the project. Construction activities have taken place in the early morning hours before rush hour traffic and in the middle of the night.  We’ve been there to see it all.

The project consists of expanding three major interchanges within a 10.3-mile stretch from US Interstate 59 (US 59) to the Harris County line at Clear Creek. The completed project will provide direct accessibility to the Texas Medical Center and relieve traffic congestion on SH 288.  The construction of new toll lanes will connect Sam Houston Parkway (Beltway 8) and Interstate Highway (IH) 610, and includes the construction of new tolled lanes, direct connectors, an Electronic Toll Collection System, utility adjustments, and adjustments of existing lanes.  Construction began in October 206.

 

Visit Drive288 for information regarding the construction activities and lane closures.

 

 

Environmental concerns for the project were identified in the Environmental Assessment prepared for SH 288, US 59 to CR 60, Harris and Brazoria Counties, prepared by the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in April 2013.   The project area is located with an highly urbanized community south of Houston.  The Environmental Assessment was a comprehensive review of the construction project and any impacts on the environment including but not limited to socioeconomic impacts, environmental justice, wildlife, vegetation, soils, threatened and endangered species, fish habitat, water quality, noise, air quality, floodplains, coastal zones, cultural resources, and hazardous materials.  Several hundred potentially impacted properties were identified in the immediate vicinity of the expansion project. Further investigation included soil and groundwater sampling to depths greater than 60 feet below ground surface in specific construction areas.  Ultimately, the FHWA determined that a significant impact to the human or natural environment would not be created by the proposed project.  

SSCI’s role in the project has been to provide construction oversight regarding potential hazardous materials identified during the performance of the Environmental Assessment. These hazards have included asbestos and chemical compounds in soil and groundwater.  Our team of professionals have developed a Soil Groundwater Management Plan working closely with the Drive 288 team and TxDOT.

 

Drones in Environmental Investigations

The usage of drones by civilians has increased significantly over the past few years.  An estimated 600,000 drones will be in use by commercial enterprises by 2018. The top industry using drones in the United States is photography with the second largest being real estate ( DMR, www.expandedramblings.com).  Drones have been used in military applications for years but as the drones move to the commercial industry and to hobbyists, concerns have been raised regarding safety and enforcement of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.  The FAA refers to drones as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and regulations apply for personal and professional use.  With drones becoming more common, it’s important to know the rules.  Even if you’re just flying a drone for fun, you must register with the FAA, stay at least 5 miles away from airports unless you have prior permission from air traffic control, and have the drone in a person’s line of sight at all times.  Visit the FFA’s website for rules regarding Fly for Fun, Fly for Work.

Scientists have been exploring the use of drones in environmental applications for several years.  Drones can be used to collect ecological data by aerial surveillance without disturbing sensitive environments or species thus limiting human interaction that can often be damaging to the environment.  Drones have also been applied to situations to minimize the risk of human injury such as surveying elevated heights or assessing conditions that may result in physical danger.  The usage of drones also provides efficiency in surveying.  For example, drones are used to survey pipeline corridors from remote stations saving both time and energy by not using aerial flight to photograph corridors.  Drones use a number of imaging techniques including infrared sensing, which can be used to measure vegetation growth and photogrammetry, a remote sensing process that creates an “ortho-mosaic” of the area.  This technology has been used in real estate functions such as Property Condition Assessments and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.  Other environmental applications include detecting water intrusion, animal management and conservation, coastal management, river and flood management, plant conservation, forestry, regulation enforcement, and monitoring change.

There are two UAS Platform Types of drones: fixed wing and rotary. Fixed wing drones generate lift through wings while rotary drones generate lift by rotating propellers. This allows rotary drones to land and takeoff from the ground while fixed wing drones must be started by throwing into the air. Fixed wings have longer endurance times, are generally faster, and are more efficient for large areas. Rotary drones are more flexible, can hover, fly lower, and are better for inspections/higher resolution pictures. Both drones can be autonomously flown using apps or by defining a set path.  Drones are now being researched for use to count livestock, check fence lines and roads, find missing animals, and measure the nutritive value of forage.

SSCI participated in a webinar entitled “Drones on Rangelands–The Basics” presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service ecosystem science and management unit.  In the presentation, an example of drone use in range land application was provided.  The drones map out the area surveyed and then a computer software is used to search for the shape of the cattle and take out the background aerial image leaving only the cattle, as seen on the right side with the yellow background. The program then counts the number of outlines of cattle.

Hidden Dangers of Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

Oil spills consisting of crude oil or drilling “mud” are often found at oil and gas drilling sites.  Drilling fluids are captured during drilling in pits and held for later disposal. The frequency of spills and improper maintenance and disposal of drilling mud results in soil, surface water, and groundwater impacts.  Once the drilling field has been exhausted or abandoned due to economic reasons, the wells, drilling equipment, tanks, pits, gathering lines, and other equipment (as seen in the pictures above) are left behind for property owners to cleanup.

Because there are no requirements in most states for property owners to be notified about abandoned oil and gas wells on their properties, may owners and investors are surprised by contamination on their property from exploration activities.  SSCI often identifies oil and gas concerns during the performance of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA).  The Phase I ESA process includes review of historical documentation including aerial photographs, topographic maps, tax records, deed restrictions, regulatory records, water well and oil and gas well records. Historical records are used to locate previous wells, waste pits, pipelines, and other equipment used during the drilling and development of petroleum resources.

The RRC map shows circular configuration at wells located at the Pierce Junction Salt Dome near State Highway 288 (SH 288) in south Houston (Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), RRC Public GIS Viewer). The concentric rings of wells that radiate from the salt dome are shown extending towards SH 288 and Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Parkway), just north of Pearland.  Pipelines are evident transecting the area, all of which are hazards to property developers and construction such as highway expansion and the installation of utilities.

 

Shown here is an aerial image of the Pierce Junction Salt Dome depicting the oil and gas activities in this area of south Houston in 1953 (Google Earth, 1953, Aerial Image).

 

 

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), established in 1891, is the state’s oldest regulatory agency and through its Oil and Gas Division, regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas.  Originally, the RRC was given jurisdiction over operations of railroads, terminals, wharves, and express companies. The RRC expanded it’s reach, taking over responsibility for regulating oil pipelines in 1917, oil and gas production in 1919, natural gas delivery systems in 1920, bus lines in 1927, and trucking in 1929.  Today, The RRC has jurisdiction over spills associated with the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas.   For more information, see Who Regulates Oil and Gas Activities in Texas?

With the history of oil and gas exploration dating back to the mid-1800s in Texas, it is no wonder that many developers are struggling with the hidden dangers of oil and natural gas exploration.  In 1901, Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas gushed and launched an oil boom with 4 million barrels of oil being produced that year.  Crude oil production in the US is anticipated to hit a record high of 9.53 million barrels per day in 2018.  While regulations exist today to prevent environmental impacts from drilling activities, spills and releases still occur.

SSCI has closed hundreds of waste pits and wells in marsh, swamp and upland areas in Texas and Louisiana.  SSCI’s team of professional geologists, environmental scientists, and engineers have worked on hundreds of oil and gas sites to obtain closure under remediation standards established by the RRC and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  Remediation services in oilfields at SSCI include soil and groundwater investigation and site closures.  For more information, contact us at 800.324.7724 or at ssci@sscienvironmental.com.