Image via Chemtech

If your facility is handling hazardous liquids, spill protection needs to be high on the agenda. Take a look at our guide to spill protection equipment as we examine what an oil spill berm is and how it can help your business. Learn more about how to choose the right solution for your facility.

What is a berm?

What is a berm exactly? A berm is rather like a dam — a structure designed to prevent the escape of a liquid. Businesses deploy these berms to limit or prevent the contamination and damage associated with oil or chemical spills. Solutions are built with highly durable materials that effectively contain spilled substances, protecting public health as well as preserving the local environment.

Choosing your oil spill protection

There are a number of different factors to consider when you select the right spill protection for your facility:

  • Dimensions

What area do you need your spill berm to cover? How much volume of spill containment do you need?

  • Spill composition

Which substances do you need to contain? Make sure that the berm you choose is rated to handle these substances — for example, is the berm rated for oil or corrosive substances?

  • Regulatory requirements

Does the berm meet federal and local regulations in your area? All of Chemtech’s containment products are designed to meet federal containment regulations.

  • Applications

Do you need a spill containment berm simply for the loading and offloading of relatively lightweight drums, or do you need a more heavy-duty solution that a vehicle can drive onto and off of?

  • Deployment

Do you want a berm that team members can deploy swiftly with minimal prior training? Are your teams comfortable with using a more complex solution?

  • Other features

Are there any other features you need for your spill containment berm? For example, custom valve assemblies or automatically-raising walls that respond immediately to spill incidents.

Different types of spill protection berms and associated products

There are many different types of spill protection berms available for your facility, as well as other associated products that support similar aims. Take a look at some of these different options.

  • Wall berms

Wall berms have rigid walls on the left and right sides, which rise automatically in the event of a spillage. These sides are connected via a flexible front and back end. This means vehicles can be driven onto and off of the berm — via the front and back end — without damage to the berm itself. Different sizes are available, designed to support various applications onsite. If you regularly need to protect your tanker vehicles from spills, this option may be suitable for you.

  • Foam berms

Foam berms feature flexible berm walls on all four sides. These walls can be driven over by vehicles from any angle without damage. While foam berms are available with the same area as the larger wall berm models, the walls are not as high — this means they can contain only around a quarter of the spill volume.

  • Snap-up berms

Snap-up berms feature rigid, 12-inch-high walls on all four sides. Once erected, these walls cannot be driven over by vehicles without damage. Teams need to assemble the snap-up berm utilizing grommets that are found at six-inch intervals along the berm’s skirting. Be aware that the walls need to be manually erected and disassembled, and so will not rise automatically like those of the wall berm discussed above.

  • Throw ‘n’ go berms

Throw ‘n’ go berms are so named because they are easy to deploy, empty, and remove. They feature none of the rigid parts associated with other types of berms — such as wall berms and snap-up berms — and so they can be driven onto or over at any angle with no damage to the berm itself. Walls extend as high as 12 inches from the surface upon which the berm is mounted, providing extra spill containment volume compared to foam berms and other solutions. Track mats can be added to the berm to offer further reinforcement when used with trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles.

  • Spill pans

Spill pans are among the easiest and most convenient spill protection berms to deploy. Unlike snap-up berms and other solutions, this type of product requires no setup. Various sizes are available, covering a broad range of areas — from 25 square feet up to 750 square feet. However, Chemtech’s spill pans all feature the same three-inch foam logs along each side, which means they do not offer the same containment volume as a wall berm or snap-up berm can, even at larger configurations. These foam logs can be driven over from any angle with no damage to the berm itself.

  • Onion tanks

Onion tanks work a little differently than standard spill berms. They are not designed for direct spill containment and instead operate as soft, self-supporting water receptacles. These tanks are so named because of their bulbous shape and feature roll top, zipper top, and open top designs depending on your needs. Different sizes are available up to 5,000 gallons. Other sizes are provided up to a made-to-measure basis, giving up to 15,000 gallons of storage, although the solution is not suitable for corrosive or hazardous forms of waste.

  • Pillow tanks

Like the onion tank, pillow tanks are not traditional spill containment berms and are instead intended as flexible fabric water storage tanks. These solutions are built to handle both potable and non-potable water but are not suitable for other types of liquid storage. Pillow tanks represent a more versatile option than onion tanks, as they are available in sizes as small as 100 gallons up to larger 20,000-gallon solutions. Chemtech can also provide custom valve assemblies according to your specific requirements.

With plenty of options out there, it pays to take your time over your decision

Regardless of the specific needs of your business and your facility, you are sure to find a piece of spill protection that meets these needs or even goes above and beyond them. Just remember to take your time and to choose carefully. Different industrial applications call for radically different types of spill berm, and you may even find that another solution is more suited to your needs. Use the criteria listed above to better understand your requirements before you make your selection.