Used oil is insoluble, persistent and may contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. If spilled on the ground, poured down storm drains or disposed of with trash, it can pollute surface water or groundwater. Used oil is not inherently hazardous, but if it contains certain additives, or if it has become contaminated with other solvents, it can fall under the hazardous waste rules.
Various methods are used to clean oil and grease from auto parts before sale. This fact sheet covers the environmental issues associated with aqueous cleaning methods such as enclosed spray washers, hot dip tanks, pressure washers, and steam cleaning. Solvent Cleaning (e.g., Stoddard solution, mineral spirits) is covered under a separate fact sheet.
Aqueous cleaners are one of the most popular choices for degreasing parts at automotive recyclers and are a good alternative to petroleum-based and halogenated solvents.
This U.S. EPA website contains information on the modeling of subsurface transport of petroleum hydrocarbons and other contaminants. There are a few course modules on the fate and transport of contaminants. There are also OnSite on-line calculators for site-specific assessment calculations.
Floor drains in many industrial facilities have been found to empty into surface waters, or into septic fields. Floor drains, especially those built when designers and contractors were much less environmentally conscious than they are now, can be full of surprises. The discharge of wastewater from the shop floor has been known to cause serious and costly soil and groundwater contamination problems.
EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.
EERL & ATEEC
EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.
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