The Hazards of Forklift Battery Wash Water And What To Do About Them

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By Jennifer Taylor June 27, 2016

Manufacturers recommend washing forklift batteries regularly. That's good advice. Clean batteries run better and last longer — up to 50 percent longer, by some estimates.

But when you finish washing a battery, the job isn't really done. There's one more step, and if you're not equipped to handle it yourself, you'll have to hire a 3rd party contractor 

Environmental regulations classify water that's been used to wash batteries as hazardous waste. That means if you get caught pouring it down the drain, you'll be in big trouble. Every facility that washes forklift batteries needs a plan in place to either store wash water for third-party disposal, or, even better, to treat the water on-site.

So what's so dangerous about forklift battery wash water? Well, it’s a slurry of toxic substances that could create disastrous consequences if they end up in the water supply.  All of these unsafe materials are found in water from battery washes: 

    Lead

    Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act limits the concentration of lead in waste to less than 5 milligrams per liter, and battery wash water is almost certain to contain more than that.

    As few as 10 micrograms per decilitre of lead in a child's bloodstream is enough to cause serious problems with learning and behavior. Higher levels wreak havoc on human bodies, damaging kidneys and the nervous system. Lead in the bloodstream can also cause high blood pressure and anemia.

    Copper

    The effects of copper poisoning range from jaundice to anemia to far worse. You definitely don't want particles of this stuff in the water supply. Along with lead, copper is listed as a "priority pollutant" under the Clean Water Act, which means that the EPA can and does test for copper levels in water.

    Sulfuric acid

    Large volumes of sulfuric acid can actually change the pH level of a body of water, harming or destroying sensitive ecosystems. That's why all battery wash water must be thoroughly neutralized prior to disposal.

    Dirt and debris

    When you spray down a battery, tiny particulates pool up in your containment tank. These can include fragments of rust, shards of metal, and ordinary oily dirt. These materials contribute to water pollution unless they're filtered out before you dump your wash water.

WRSThat all sounds pretty bad, but actually, there’s an easy way to clean wastewater. The Wastewater Recycling System (WRS) from Solus Group injects a separating agent into a tank of dirty water, encapsulating pollutants and sealing them away in bentonite clay. Meanwhile, neutralizers restore the water's natural pH level of 8.

The WRS purifies two gallons of water per minute, resulting in clean water that's safe and legal for conventional disposal. Flocculent dries into a non-leachable tablet that's safe for any landfill. It's an all-in-one solution for battery wastewater management.

Every year, industries in the United States dispose of 7.6 billion tons of waste, and 97 percent of that is wastewater. If even a tiny fraction of that waste reaches the water supply, we'll have big problems. A Wastewater Recycling System will empower your operation to safely and efficiently get rid of polluted water — without calling an expensive hazardous waste disposal company. 

References:

Are Forklift Batteries Reportable for SARA 313 Reports?ERCWeb. Environmental Resource Center, 1 Sept. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

EPA Priority Pollutant List.” EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Dec. 2014. PDF. 29 Apr. 2016.

Hughes, Mark. “New Battery Wash Station Saves Money, Equipment.” Army.  Army Environmental Command, Fall 2007. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

"RCRA Orientation Manual 2014." EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014. PDF. 29 Apr. 2016.

"Water Sanitation Health."WHO. World Health Organization, 2016. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

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