Hazardous items can pop up at any cleanup. These items have the potential to be toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive. We know to leave these items alone and to report them to the MoDNR Environmental Emergency Response team (EER), but then we leave.
So, what happens if someone else comes along before EER arrives and doesn’t recognize the object as hazardous? They may move it. It may end up breaking apart, spilling, or worse.
This is a real scenario. After hearing about a found item going missing at a recent
cleanup, a new system emerged through collaboration with Stream Teams 168 and
211 and Skip Ricketts with EER to identify these hazardous items, and we hope this
method will spread and become widely adopted throughout the state.
We realized it is often hard to tell people not to move certain items because
not everyone knows what things like propane tanks or transformers look like.
A simple misunderstanding may be a big reason items may be accidentally moved,
even after they are deemed hazardous. So, on a recent scouting trip, we took a photo of each hazardous item we encountered, reported it to EER with GPS coordinates (in decimal degrees), marked the hazardous object with neon pink and yellow, and snapped another photo. We simply spray-painted a small mark of both pink and yellow on each item, making sure not to cover any existing labels on the container. We also tied flagging tape, in the same two colors, in trees and other structures around the found objects.
Once an object is marked, it is simpler for others to recognize it as something to leave alone. “Do not touch objects with pink and yellow markings.” This simple statement can be told to anyone before a cleanup during a safety briefing. The unique combination of pink and yellow will help distinguish the possibly hazardous item from other markings
or flags that may be in the area, and should be discernible by most or all spectrums of color-blindness. Then when the EER team is on site, this system will help them more easily find the item in the often remote areas we clean.
Hopefully this new method will help highlight potentially dangerous
objects, keeping all the volunteers safe, and helping the proper
authorities find and deal with the items.
-Brian Waldrop & Sarah Wright