Whether or not you enjoy the process, spring cleaning provides gratifying results. Finally, you can re-purpose that old tool shed, or see the floor in your spare room, or enjoy some long forgotten heirlooms that have been lurking in your attic. Some messes require a little more effort than your standard spring cleaning. While you may joke that it would take a HazMat Team to clean your teenager’s room, sometimes they are just the crew needed for hazardous jobs. This article will review three stories where spills and contamination have created such a threat to local communities that only a Hazardous Material (HazMat) Team could neutralize the risk and restore a safe and sanitary environment.Methamphetamine LabA recent event in the small town of Laurelville, Ohio tells a familiar story. Police received a tip concerning a suspected methamphetamine (meth) lab. They tracked the tip down to a quiet road and discovered what the Sheriff described as, “A very large methamphetamine manufacturing operation.” The three residents were arrested on felony charges and a HazMat Team was called in to clean up the residence.The details of the story are almost pedestrian – yet it is precisely the plainness of the scenario that is disconcerting. A meth lab could lurk across the street, next to your place of employment, or down the road where you children ride their bikes. Colorado’s Health Department says, “Meth labs have dramatically increased over the past several years because meth recipes are more readily available, [and] meth is relatively easy and cheap to make.” Addiction presents a substantial societal danger, and the fragile chemical environment present in meth labs creates the danger of explosions. The health risks are legion and the clean-ups are extensive.Any enclosed spaces associated with the meth lab are aired out. Even the ventilation and plumbing systems should be cleaned with filters being replaced. All absorbent materials are removed and disposed of as they will be contaminated. Hard surfaces such as counters, walls, ceilings or nonabsorbent flooring are rigorously wiped down with detergent solutions or high-grade cleaning alcohols. Following this treatment, these same surfaces need to be sealed with oil-based paint or epoxy. The HazMat Team themselves are outfitted with a HazMat suit capable of protecting them from contamination. In total, the cost of the clean-up can range from $10,000 to well over $100,000, leaving realtors, mortgage companies and municipalities exposed to extreme financial burdens.Highway Oil SpillThe freighters of the freeway often carry hazardous material. Due to equipment malfunctions or driving accidents, these materials can spill onto highways causing more troubles than traffic delays.On March 9th, 2013 a fuel tanker flipped on the highway near Charlotte, North Carolina. The wreckage created a mangled mess from which the driver had to be excised and transported to the hospital to be treated for serious injuries. Over 8,000 gallons of oil were spilled in the accident. The local HazMat Team was called in for clean-up. After seven hours, the lanes were re-opened.The clean-up process consisted of two basic strategies. First, the oil remaining in the tanker had to be removed. To do so, the HazMat Team drilled into the mangled tank and pumped the remaining oil into another truck for removal. Second, the spilled oil had to be absorbed with various materials and removed to containment areas. After these steps were taken, the Environmental Protection Agency examined the surrounding area to test for soil and water contamination.Train DerailmentCrisscrossing the American landscape runs a railway network nearly two hundred years old. These lines are routed through cities, across open countryside and through our back yards. Many industries rely on railroads to allocate resources and provide supplies. Rail cargo can often be innocuous, or it may consist of hazardous material. Train derailments are significant events in their own right, and can transform into a community disaster when biohazards are released into the environment.One such accident occurred in Jefferson County, Kentucky between Louisville and Fort Knox on October 29th, 2012. The train was carrying butadiene, which is a chemical employed in the production of synthetic rubber. A well known carcinogen, butadiene can also be highly flammable presenting peculiar challenges for HazMat Teams. Of the 57 cars in the train, 11 were derailed and only one was found to be leaking the toxic chemical. Once the air testing showed that the environment had been contaminated a series of safety measures were taken.A Level 3 HazMat situation was issued indicating, “significant risk to public health and the environment.” In additional to this, a reverse 911 call – also known as a Code Red – was sent out to nearby residents directing them to evacuate their homes until clean-up could be conducted. To ensure that the flammable gas did not ignite, local highways were closed diverting the regular commute from Louisville to Fort Knox. The Coast Guard also barred passage on the Ohio River just a stone’s throw from the crash site. Even flight restrictions were put in place until air testing provided safe readings.Along with these containment measures, the Louisville Metro HazMat Team was called in to begin clean-up procedures. It took over half of the day to pump the remaining chemicals out of the derailed cars into alternative tanks. Fortunately, the seasonally gusty winds dissipated much of the contaminated air. Soil testing and removal also took place. Three days after the derailment, an additional tragedy took place. A privately contracted company was hired to reconstruct the tracks and remove the displaced train cars. Some of these workers “were using cutting torches and ‘the arc flashed’ causing a spark.” This spark ignited the flammable chemicals, causing a fire that burned for several hours prior to containment. Three contractors working in the vicinity sustained serious burn injuries and were taken to local hospitals. Subsequent evacuations were ordered to local residents until the situation was stabilized. Clean-up efforts continued for well over a week after the date of the accident.HazMat Clean-UpWhile police and fire departments are an essential fixture of community safety, HazMat Teams perform an equally critical role in the maintenance of neighborhood health. After the headlines are made and the news cycle moves on, HazMat Teams do the tough behind-the-scenes work of restoring order out of chaos. The stories in this article are only a few samples drawn from the litany of cases in communities across America. The next time you hear a story involving hazardous material, remember that there is a HazMat Team coming to the rescue behind that headline to clean up the mess.