Frequently Asked Questions

Emergency Response

1. What do I use to remove oil (any hydrocarbon) stains from the concrete or asphalt surfaces?

Degreaser solutions are bountiful in compositions available in the form of water based as well as hydrocarbon based solutions. Equally, the results will also vary tremendously. Always test a small area first before full usage of any degreaser.

Lets take a look at the two different surfaces we are most commonly accustomed to experiencing spills on, concrete and asphalt. To understand how degreaser work on hydrocarbon stains, we must first have a basic understanding of the surfaces’ compositions.

Concrete – is made up of four basic components: water, aggregate (sand, or gravel) air and Portland cement. Portland cement is primarily 60-70% Lime, with the balance comprised of other mineral elements. It is usually supplied in powder form which acts as a binding agent when mixed with water and aggregates to form a solid. Most people do not realize that concrete if not coated/treated is porous – very porous! The pores constitute 12 – 18% or more of the concrete but they are invisible, much smaller than the diameter of human hair.

Asphalt – pavement mixes are typically composed of 5% asphalt cement and 95% aggregates (sand and gravel). Asphalt is a black or brown petroleum-like material that is obtained either as a residue from the distillation of petroleum or from natural deposits. Asphalt may be less porous than non-treated concrete due to the (petroleum base) binding agent.

Hydrocarbon Stain Removal:

1. Apply a light mist of water on the concrete surface to create an activation base
2. Apply the degreaser directly onto the surface and allow the degreaser to remain on the surface for a few minutes (do not allow the degreaser to evaporate completely or you will have to reapply)
3. Scrub/agitate the surface with a course broom or brush until you can see discoloration in the solution, verifying contamination is being removed.
4. At this point use a pressure washer or mop and bucket water solution to remove the residual. In either case, DO NOT PERMIT THE SOLUTION TO EXIT YOUR PROPERTY or you may be subject to municipal, provincial and/or federal fines.
5. Repeat the process until the stain is removed.


You will experience more positive results if the oil stains are recent. The older the stain, the more difficult it will be to remove.


Some degreasers are more aggressive than others. In addition with repetitive application with any degreaser coupled with aggressive agitation, the asphalt may degrade and breakdown, causing failure in the asphalt surface.

Asphalt Stains Remain:

With vigorous agitation, hydrocarbon spills can be removed from asphalt surfaces, but the stain will most likely remain. The reason for this outcome is that the asphalt and hydrocarbon stain are comprised of the same base chemical, petroleum.

Stain Alternatives:

1. Long term – with constant exposure to the sun, the stain will eventually blend into the remaining asphalt surface.
2. Short term – Purchase an asphalt driveway sealer to coat the driveway and cover the stain.

For more specific details on degreasers, stain removal from different surfaces, contaminates, or site services, please contact Enviro Hazmat during normal working hours.

1. Are ALL spills reportable to the Government?

Pending within what province the incident occurs, it is not always clear on what is reportable release. In most cases, reference is made to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods to assess whether the volume meets reportable requirements. As a rule of thumb, Report All Spills if unsure. There is no harm in reporting. However, if you miss judging the reporting requirement, there may be severe penalties instituted to you and your corporation.

2. How do you assess a spill in progress?

• What type of release is it? Hydrocarbon or Water Based?
• What is the release volume?
• What is the estimated original source volume?
• What direction is it progressing and in what form? Free Phase? Atmospheric?
• What are the target receptors? Public? Waterways? Property?
• What is the specific location of the release?
• Is the release-static or contained within an area?
• Is it a small incidental or major release?

3. What is the best resource to identify a chemical and it’s hazards, safety/protective measures, storage, transportation, and handling during a spill/release?

Your best initial chemical assessment will be by referencing your Safety Data Sheet (SDS). If that is not available or the release is beyond your capabilities, it is recommended that you call 911 and/or your emergency response service provider.

4. Is there a difference between ABsorbent and ADsorbent?

First of all, due to the general confusion in the industry, Enviro Hazmat has provided a generic categorization to these terms as “Sorbents”. So, what is an Absorbent? On a molecular level, it is a sorbent material that has the natural ability to encapsulate the target liquid, with minimum to no risk of re-release prior to full saturation. An Adsorbent is a material in which the target liquid temporarily attaches on to the surface of the sorbent material with the eventual risk of re-releasing back into the environment. Both sorbents are actively utilized in varying capacities with specific purposes relative to chemical compatibility, topography, and expediency purposes. Due to the unlimited variety of sorbents in the industry, Enviro Hazmat provides educational platforms independently and within current spill response courses to assist in clarifying this inmulti-layered group of product lines.

5. How do we choose the right sorbent for a potential spill?

Sorbents should be chosen based on a number of factors, (not in any specific order of priority)

• Chemical composition
• Reactive compatibility
• Combustible risks
• Topographical terrain
• Responder training
• Specific purpose of using the chosen sorbent(s) {ie. Containment, capturing free
phase liquid, remediation etc.
• Accessibility & availability of sorbents

6. How do we choose the right spill kit for our facility

Choosing the appropriate spill kit has not always been a thoroughly understood action plan prior to purchase. Some spill kits purchases are based on;

a. Economic reasons
b. The physical size of spill kit
c. Spill kit that is assumed to clean up everything on site
d. Meeting corporate checklist requirements
e. Knee jerk reactions to perhaps a recent incident
f. Industry driven

Choosing the correct spill kit purchase has always been a challenge for purchasers as the choices are more confusing than necessary. Let’s simplify by applying some rudimentary site-specific investigative methods,

a. What is the chemical(s) the spill kit(s) will be used for in a potential release?
    i. Hydrocarbon or Water Based?
b. What is the volume of the chemical(s) the spill kit(s) will be used for in a potential
c. Our secondary containment vessels integral components of your facility?
d. Do you or your company possess training spill response personnel? (beyond the
standard WHMIS and TDG training)
e. Is there a re-charge program that can be administered effectively internally or

There are far more factors to include when choosing the correct spill kit(s) and can be administered by external sources that specialize in understanding specific industry, company specific and regulatory requirements.

1. Can an Emergency Response Plan (ERP or ESRP) be a generic document that applies to all companies in a particular industry?

The best way to answer this question is to review your industry (ERP &/or ESRP) and compare to your own operations to implement the Best Management Practices (BMP). In general, (ERP &/or ESRP)’s should be developed specific to your operations. Similar to individual personalities, each company may fit within a specific industry but is extremely specific in operational methods and idiosyncrasies. If you wish to use a similar (ERP &/or ESRP) by referencing your industry, we suggest that you start with the existing skeleton of an ERP and build upon that structure, specific to your operations. This can be an onerous venture due to the many avenues you must enter to gather ALL the information to compile a proper (ERP &/or ESRP). Regardless, we recommend taking that extra step to retain an outside source who specializes in this field. Considering the true economics and efficiency of this major task, it is your most reasonable option.

Even though Enviro Hazmat currently provides development/updates and training service for Emergency Spill Response Plans (ESRPs) for the transportation industry, Enviro Hazmat’s alliance with the following resource may be of benefit as well:

The Response Team Inc.
703 – 6 Avenue S.W. Suite 650,
Calgary, Ab., T2P-0T9
Michael Curtis, ABCP
Office – 587-600-3951
Toll Free – 844-714-1158