RICHLAND - Every year, the Washington Department of Ecology gets an average of 3,800 reports of oil and hazardous material spills, and the agency's emergency responders mount an average of 1,200 field responses to these incidents.
Responders face unique challenges and risks when they respond to and clean up illegal drug labs, chemical spills, and abandoned drums with unknown contents.
Wednesday, about 50 Ecology responders from across the state trained to update their skills at Richland's Columbia Point Marina Park. Training includes responding to a simulated hazardous material incident using monitoring instruments and protective gear.
Tuesday, they worked on what to do if you find an abandoned drum filled with hazardous waste. How to test what's in it and how to clean it up. The training they do will also be used to dismantle drug labs.
"One of the reasons we're here doing hazardous materials is that we respond to meth labs, and clean up meth labs. A lot of time we go in there and we don't know what we're going to encounter. so we have to go in there and enter into an area where there's unknown chemicals, and do it safely. protect human health and the environment," says Curt Hart, the Communications Manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology Spill Prevention Preparedness Response.
In Washington, the department of ecology typically cleans up about 300-350 meth labs each year. Hart says meth is more of a problem in the Puget Sound region, and the number has recently been on the rise.