What a year!  2020 was quite something different than the usual, wasn’t it?  As I sit on my porch swing and watch fireworks celebrate the arrival of the midnight between December 31st  and January 1st, I’m thinking about how so many people are so happy because a year filled with bad news is over.  And I, too, hated so much of 2020’s bad news.  But, as often happens when pondering takes place on my porch swing, thoughts went elsewhere.  Elsewhere in this case refers to good news in 2020.  “What”, you might ask, “there was good news in 2020?”.  Well, you didn’t hear about it, but there was.  As an old friend used to say before explaining something, “now lemme tell ya”…

Did you hear about the black pool in Blackpool?  About how a huge (an huge) crude oil spill contaminated much of the coastal environment in and around the seaside resort town of Blackpool in Lancashire, UK?  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Dangerous Goods training in emergency response information provision requirements, that situation never happened.  The oil was contained by properly trained and informed personnel, immediately upon beginning to leak.

Did you hear about the nitro that went boom in Nitro?  About how on a frigid morning in Nitro, West Virginia, USA, a truck carrying medicinal Nitroglycerine in Alcohol blew up while crossing a set of railroad tracks?  Chemists say at very cold temperature that nitroglycerine can drop out of solution and become shock-sensitive.  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Dangerous Goods training in package cushioning requirements, that situation never happened.  Even when briefly out of solution, the shock-sensitive nitroglycerine inside the packages was well protected, and the shock of going over the railroad tracks was absorbed.

Did you hear about the paint spill in the Painted Desert?  About how a truck driver reported to the television news that she “was driving up a long grade, and I heard some noise from the back.  Then, some clanging and sliding, and all of a sudden the truck jumped ahead like the load was gone.  I stopped immediately, but it was too late.”  About how the TV newscaster said “hundreds of gallons of paint spilled out of the back of truck, leaving multi-colored streaks down the hillside, literally painting the Painted Desert”.  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Dangerous Goods training in load securement requirements, that situation never happened.  Even at a steep angle, the pallets of paint were blocked and braced into position, couldn’t move, and never slammed into the back door to force it open, even up a very steep grade.

Did you hear about the petrel chicks killed by petrol?  About how a cliff full of nests of an endangered species of petrel was inundated with petrol (gasoline)?  The driver came around a curve, noticed liquid in the road behind him, and pulled over to investigate.  Unfortunately, the improperly closed valve continued to leak petrol down the cliffside, killing chicks, and likely rendering any unhatched eggs non-viable.  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Dang Good training in valve closure and loading requirements, that situation never happened.  The valve was securely closed when the tank truck was filled, AND, it was re-checked by the driver for proper closure before the truck left the tank farm property.

Did you hear about the sulfur burns suffered in Sulphur Springs?  About how near the iconic Sulphur Springs tower in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, USA, ironically a local policeman suffered severe thermal burns and had to be taken to the hospital.  A spilled truckload of solidifying sulfur was still hundreds of degrees in temperature, when the cop tried to kick some of it out of the lane of traffic he wanted to re-open.  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent DG training in tanker marking requirements, such as the word “HOT” inside a diamond and a thermometer inside a triangle, that situation never happened.  The tank did communicate the heat of the sulphur, and so the cop knew not to kick it.

Did you hear about the BLEVE on Levi’s Levee?  About how a railcar of what the railroad reported was “refrigerated flammable gas” unexpectedly blew sky high while crossing Levi’s Levee early one morning.  The train had not derailed nor been in an accident.  The local HazMat team suggested the gas was in a railcar made of a metal the gas gradually reacts with, causing a huge pressure buildup in the railcar, which BLEVE’d (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) when the railcar finally ruptured.  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Hazardous Materials training in packaging compatibility requirements, a different, and lined railcar was selected for the shipment, so that situation never happened.   (BTW, we do know of a similar situation that did happen several years ago:  Ethyl Chloride gas in an aluminum/aluminium cylinder

Did you hear about the toxic cloud in St. Cloud?  About how near Minneapolis, MN, a minor spill of a chemical powder from an imported box container caused a major emergency?  About how after the majority of the spill had been shoveled or swept up, a hose was used to wash down the loading dock, liberating a huge cloud of irritating and toxic gas, sending dozens of people from nearby businesses to hospitals and clinics?  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Hazardous Materials training in classification requirements, especially international differences, that situation never happened.  The warning of reaction with water to release toxic gas was accomplished in other ways, not necessarily by 4.3 label.  Thus, a simple umbrella sticker and the words “Keep Dry” protected the health of dozens of people.

Did you hear about the radioactivity outside Radio City Music Hall?  About how early in the year four city blocks in New York City were cordoned off, with no one allowed in or out?  Teams in HazMat suits rushed in, but for a long time no one said what was going on.  About how some suspected terrorism at the venerable Radio City Music Hall, but a news helicopter finally spotted a truck on its side with a radioactive symbol on a “sign” stuck to its cargo compartment?  Of course you didn’t.  Due to excellently thorough HazMat training in radioactive route restriction requirements, that situation never happened.  The truck went a different route, avoided that accident, and didn’t risk exposing such a high density of people.

Hang in there!  Two thirds done on my list.  Of course I couldn’t stop until I’d listed a full dozen.  Just think of it as 12 blows before the point was finally hammered home.  😉

Did you hear about batteries causing a crash in Battery Park?  About how the USA’s NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) released a preliminary report from a plane crash in Battery Park, NY?  About how the pilot’s heroism in nearly, almost, but not quite landing the plane apparently saved a lot of evidence, which showed the cause to be a shipment of improperly packaged and prepared lithium batteries, which started the fire that eventually brought down the plane?  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thoroughly excellent Dangerous Goods training in acceptance checklist requirements, that situation never happened.  The inappropriately packaged Lithium Batteries were rejected when offered, and later, after re-packing, shipped safely on a different flight.

Did you hear about the fish killed in Fishkill?  About how emergency responders said they could have neutralized a spill of a deadly chemical spill, if they’d known what it was when a train derailed into the Fishkill Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River?  About how untreated though, the chemical killed thousands of fish which washed up on both banks, and floated downstream in huge masses, snarling boat traffic, preventing recreation use, and in general stinking to high heaven?  Of course you didn’t.  Due to CDGT (Certified Dangerous Goods Trainer) delivered Dangerous Goods training in Marine Pollutant marking and labeling and placarding requirements, that situation never happened.  The chemical was promptly neutralized, saving the lives of thousands of fish, and preventing the disruption of both commercial and recreational use of the waterway.

Did you hear about the beer spilled near Beer?  (They say it’s no use crying over spilt milk, but how about spilled beer?)  About how in one of the century’s great coincidences, outside the village of Beer, in Devon, England, a truckload of beer suffered a catastrophe, when hundreds of bottles ended up on the motorway?  Okay, okay, I do know that Alcoholic Beverages is a Proper Shipping Name, but that for practical purposes beer meets an exception and is transported as if non-DG.  And I also know that even if it happened (who knows, it may have), hundreds of unbroken bottles of beer on the roadway may have appeared to be manna from heaven to the lucky local residents who were happy to ‘clean up’ the ‘spill’.  So, good news either way.

Did you hear about asbestos loose in Asbestos?  About how near Asbestos, Quebec, in Canada, dozens of miles of road and adjacent land were contaminated with asbestos, which blew out of an uncovered dump truck which was hauling remediated asbestos insulation from a historic building to a hazardous waste disposal facility?  About how municipal officials said at least 10 different accounts of large amounts of strewn asbestos were been reported to them, and how the remediation costs for the wind-blown asbestos were likely to be astronomical?  Of course you didn’t.  Due to thorough and excellent Dang Good training (yes, of course, if it was thorough and excellent then the Dangerous Goods training was in fact “Dang Good” training) in bulk solids in open truck bed requirements, that incident was prevented.  The loose load was properly covered, protected from the wind, and all the contents stayed inside, rather than being blown out across the countryside.

Yes, I’m glad 2020 is over, and I’m looking forward to a spectacularly good 2021 (my attitude is going to help make it that way), but for all the bad that happened in 2020 there was a lot of bad that didn’t happen.  And that’s good.  Thank you to all the HazMat and DG trainers and professionals that read hcb and this column.  Please know that you have been doing your jobs quite well, and the world was a better place for it in 2020.  Keep up the good work, and Happy New Year.