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stuff you shouldn't burn

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  • stuff you shouldn't burn

    Our building here at work was evacuated the other day when a ventilation system was found to have leaks. It was a system originally designed to suck exhaust through holes in the floor in a lab where dyno testing of engines used to occur. It hadn't been used in a long time and was found to leak...when used by an instructor for an experiment.

    The experiment was with trying to oxidize grinding swarf. The idea behind this is that a large manufacturer makes *tons* of this stuff and it currently has to go to a toxic waste landfill. The idea is to render it such that nothing is left that is in any way toxic.

    Now they are testing the system with smoke from the same experiment. Here's my concern: If the stuff is already nasty enough to have to go to a toxic waste landfill, what do you get when you burn it (in our building no less)? I think I know that a lot of things that are nasty can form even more nasty compounds when burned. I have to believe that the only non-inert portion of this "stuff" is the grinding fluid...and who knows what's in that...maybe even varying from day to day. The other components would be broken down grinding wheel and the iron or steel that was ground in the first place.

    All I know is that I got a headache after the fire trucks left the other day (it tripped a smoke detector in the building where a leak existed) and I am getting one now.

    Paul Carpenter
    Mapleton, IL

  • #2
    Combustion of toxic material in the proper environment can be a very effective way to render them safe. This is done with materials from dioxin to PCB's, although there are often more cost-effective methods. The proper environment includes regulating both the temperature and the amount of oxygen and other gasses present.

    However, some materials do form more dangerous compounds when burned. In fact, burning PCB in the wrong environment will form dioxins, which are much worse than the original PCB. So, it all depends.

    (Before someone goes all ape-sh*t about burning PCB - the "fire-proof" transformer oil - let me just say that PCB's can be combusted in the right environment. Wikipedia claims that the "current regulations" require that PCB's be incinerated at 1200 degrees celcius for two seconds in the prescence of excess oxygen and fuel oil... for whatever that's worth)

    The reason I know this about PCB's is because I just happened to pick up a pole-pig transformer. It weighs 279 lbs, a significant fraction of which is PCB.

    <edit> If you are concerned, is there a "safety officer" or etc that you can approach? The labs that I work at have "health physicists" and the shops have "safety officers". They correspond with the NRC and OSHA, respectively, and conduct inspections. Because they are full time employees, they are well known and liked. They are also much more reasonable than some of the OSHA inspectors I've heard stories about. Approaching them with a potential safety hazard does not produce the anathema that being a "whistle-blower" does. Or how about a union rep?
    Last edited by Fasttrack; 08-07-2009, 04:19 PM.


    • #3
      I work at a university....and in a way I see this as a potentially noble or wise experiment so my goal is not to squash what is happening. Burying this stuff forever may not be as smart as burning off the toxic stuff.

      I have to be careful. This guy used to be the department chair in our Manufacturing Engineering department and in any case is in a department which has *very* kindly let me use their shop on a lot of occasions. As such, my goal is not to piss them off. I went down stairs and talked to this fellow rather firmly though. I told him that the problem with the vent stack must still exist since they managed to fill our floor (2 floors up) with the stench from this. I mentioned my headache the other day and that I had one again. I told him that I realized they were experimenting to see if they fixed the ventilation leak issue, but that it would be nice if they used colored smoke. I said "who knows what nasty compounds you are burning...or what they become when you do". He shut it down immediately. That lead to more digging by our facilities folks and they found a hole in the squirrle cage blower that creates the suction on the inlets---and the pressure to pump it up the stack.

      In conclusion, we determined that the real problem was that it was a positive pressure stack in the first place. That way, any tiny leak allows the evacuated stuff to be sent under pressure into the rest of the building. The current blower with the hole in it is in an equipment room....with the rest of the air handling stuff for the first two floors, so that was what was responsible for distributing it throughout the building. If nothing else it probably contains plenty of CO.

      For sake of this guy's experiment, it would still be nice to know what's in the cutting fluid. If it's toxic enough to require hazardous materials landfill space, is it a problem to incinerate it? That could even vary from time to time as they change materials. He mentioned that if this works, they could likely even scrub the exhaust if needed, but reduce by many tons and many dollars the landfill costs.

      Paul Carpenter
      Mapleton, IL


      • #4
        Get a catridge filter mask and keep it near you toolbox. Even though our shop is a mile away from the main plant whenever I go over to fix something the mask is always in the truck. I dont know what is in locktight or scotchgrip, but I know they clean up with either toluene or acetone. There have been two fires since I've been there. Once in the spraybooth stack(We colorcode the heads of screws). Two inches of dried on paint lined the stack. Most of the paint and the stack were burned away. And once when the tank of toluene caught fire. The only person NOT running out of the building was the Philipino superviser who ran up to the fire with two fire extinguishers and put it out. Brave kid.
        two things;
        You're reponsible for your safety.
        There is always somebody with a degree that thinks they're smarter than everyone else. Watch out for that person.


        • #5
          I was under the impression that cartridge filter masks do nothing to protect against fumes - that they only stop solid particles. Is this not the case?
          Peter - novice home machinist, modern motorcycle enthusiast.

          Denford Viceroy 280 Synchro (11 x 24)
          Herbert 0V adapted to R8 by 'Sir John'.
          Monarch 10EE 1942


          • #6
            Originally posted by Peter.
            I was under the impression that cartridge filter masks do nothing to protect against fumes - that they only stop solid particles. Is this not the case?
            -Depends on the cartridge. There are "activated charcoal" and other filters that do indeed filter out fumes. I used to use ones designed for ammonia, when doing draft surveys on cryo tankers. There's also ones for oil/petroleum fumes, and ones for paint vapors for automotive spraying.

            Typically they're "stacked"- a first stage particulate filter (for things like the actual particles of paint overspray) and then a second stage that absorbs the fume.

            And like a particulate filter, they can become saturated and stop filtering.

            Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


            • #7
              A lot of silly things are labeled or considered to require "toxic waste disposal", a fact you should be more than aware of. There are many "toxic" things which are "toxic" in different ways than you might think.

              For instance..... Phosphoric acid, which many of us use in the shop, is, I believe , considered to be 'toxic" if you need to dispose of it.

              Now, I am aware of a lot of details, all of which are indeed important. But it is important to realize that this "toxic" material is present in many common forms of soda pop. Yes, that is "food grade", blah, blah, blah......

              A drum of undiluted food grade phosphoric would undoubtedly be considered "toxic waste", and for good reason. The mere fact that the material in combination with more water would be edible, is no reason to consider it "non-toxic" while it is still in the drum. Ditto for the fact that in the diluted form used to dissolve rust, you can stick your hand into it and not be damaged.

              Point being that "toxic" has many meanings..... Edible and non-harmful material may be "toxic" in a different concentration, etc, etc, etc,

              Machine turnings may be "toxic" if they cannot be proven not to contain a heavy metal residue...... 12L14 chips are "X" percent lead, and so could be deemed 'toxic".... Chips of the same material used to make your kitchen faucet might be, with a certain amount of reason, considered toxic...... they contain lead also.

              Keep eye on ball.
              Hashim Khan


              • #8
                Sludge is sludge is sludge in the eyes of the EPA. As it can contain things that "may" leech out into the ground water and find their way into either an Auquifier or surface water it all gets treated as hazardous until bless by someone as worthy being harmless enough to spread on a field as fertilizer or mixed in to the cap cover on a disposal site. Does not matter if the chome in the grinding sludge from the stainless is the same as what is already in the ground, since someone dug it out and made money on it you can bet they will find a way to get it back when you get rid of it. Same goes for lead. One of the leading charges against shooting ranges from the "GREENIES" is that all of the lead from years of round may be polluting the ground. Hey people were do you think it came from in the first place, like asbestose. I guess if they could fine the creator they would. An admirerable task to try to find a way to render it safe at less cost than landfilling it as HazWaste. But the carbon cap cost of burning it may be more in the near future.