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This month and into the distant future (using the side-bar Icon for Hawkins Environmental / ChemCat located on the right side-bar of the homepage at we feature an associate of mine, Mr. Jim Hawkins. At this writing, Jim has over 25 years experience in the area of onsite hazardous waste/hazardous waste management and hazardous materials identification/characterization. His method is through the creation of a copyrighted tool called the “ChemCat” system. We are proud to offer an explanation of this tool to Emergency Environmental Response Teams and Organizations. You may have noticed the side-bar Icon link is up now, you can also click right here (PDF reader required). We hope you will contact Hawkins Environmental for further details.

I have always been a proponent of maximizing efficiency and outcome through responder knowledge, experience, and expertise of chemical skill. The responder MUST know HOW his tools function in order to realize when results are correct and incorrect. A high-tech monitor/detector can only give YOU the correct results IF you understand HOW it functions. Using “wet chemistry” is an EPA standard because of this concept. “Best practices” matched with proven “standardized” chemical reactions cannot fail to give you solid results.  If questionable electronic device performance/maintenance/battery issues cause doubtful identification results you may unknowingly commit personnel into an unknown danger. Standardized chemical reactions confirm identity and prevent injury to your “guys” while eliminating decisions that may very well worsen your incident. This is a “huge” portion of what OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120 states as a “professional response.” This “idea” strengthens your skill sets, integrity, safety, efficiency, and identifies YOUR response organization as the appropriate choice where hazardous material incidents are concerned.

Monitoring Instruments become more and more expensive while adding more and more annual “costs” for maintenance than most response teams may be able to afford. The cost is not the overall operational issue. Rather, it becomes the “infrastructure” needed to maintain the device in deployable condition as far as personnel, shipping issues, time-out-of-service, electrochemical cell life, calibration updates, and many other problems that accompany the maintenance of the device.

The EPA mandates that the following four characteristic identities of hazardous materials are the governing format for the “identification” and shipment of hazardous waste.

A] Ignitability (I) Flashes at <140 degrees F or flammable solid / oxidizer

B] Corrosivity © Liquid with a pH <2 or >12.5 / liquid which corrodes steel @ 0.25” / year

C] Reactivity ® Unstable or violent reaction with water, cyanide, or sulfide

D] Toxicity (EP) Leach-ate/migrates when improperly disposed of in a sanitary landfill.

Except for the response to a WMD of Chemical or Biological nature becoming a law enforcement issue, the FBI “directorate-in-charge” will designate this “waste” as “evidence.” This of course eliminates the hazmat responders’ responsibility to ship the material as waste, due to the fact that law enforcement controls “evidence” by a “chain-of-custody” format rather than by TSDF shipment. In most cases the need for further analysis by responders is frequently unnecessary for the removal and shipment of this material from an emergency site. This concept eliminates any “need” for specificity at an emergency response site. As an example, fuel waste does not “need” to be traced to a specific refinery, only identified as “flammable.”

By using the copyrighted “ChemCat”system, a hazardous materials identification kit produced by Hawkins Environmental, the responder removes the large cost in manpower, maintenance, and training from his/her Teams’ financial concerns. The simple one-step replacement of expired “tests” or (Target Analytes) used in the “ChemCat” system is updated as frequency of use dictates. All target analytes (tests) are manually operated, so there are no battery issues or constant trickle charging concerns. The individual “tests” within the kit are generally 1-3 step procedures making refresher training minimal. Once the responder is trained in the use of the “ChemCat” system, procedural change is rare. This means that full training sessions for newly added devices are not required. The ChemCat kit currently contains 13 different identification target analytes. Since this system is dynamic, we are researching and adding more test analytes to increase diversity from WMD’s to food contamination. These evolve and become offered as we confirm the chemistry validity. The plan is to increase the number and diversity of “tests” as technology advances in manual testing using disposable units. As additional TA’s prove themselves in the field, they will be included in the replenishment upgrade as mandated by Hawkins Environmental to enhance your chemical analysis spectrum. All that is required for daily maintenance is to prevent the ChemCat system from exposure to intense heat or freezing.

Cost for initial out-lay is always a concern for most hazardous materials organization and for some, a major investment of scarce funds. Cost of the “ChemCat” is $900.00USD with a 12-18 month replenishment maintenance cost of $127.00USD. Most TA’s exceed 20 in number per box. This means that the responder has multiple materials tests per 18 month period. While some hazardous materials teams are busy, the opportunity to exceed these numbers of unknown incidents per 18 month period is rare. If this need should arise, individual TA’s specific to your need can be purchased within the 18 month replenishment and shipped directly to the location of choice to maintain your inventory reserve. Many TA’s do not expire. For an initial Team investment of $900.00USD your team can identify hazardous waste for 1.5 years. This is a substantial cost savings over most battery driven detection devices which may require expensive upgrades. With lesser maintenance, minimal training for proficiency, and lower personnel training time costs, The “ChemCat” system is hard to beat.

We are very excited about the “ChemCat system” as we believe in the three pyramidal concepts of this program;

1] Simplicity of use

2] Best Practices of applied “wet” chemistry by the responder

3] Responder chemical knowledge

For additional information on the “ChemCat” kit “system”, contact Hawkins Environmental via the PDF here, or from the side-bar Icon on the homepage.

The “ChemCat” kit is used as a standard unit of measurement for accepted chemical practices by the EPA and its Contractors for “Best Practices” concerning positive characterization for unknown hazardous materials.

                                                            Haz Mat Mike

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