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Section 4: Oil and Hazardous Material Spills

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Department personnel may only participate in containment, clean up, or neutralization of material that has been determined to be non-hazardous to their health or safety.

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Conditions for Use of TxDOT Personnel, Equipment, or Materials

Texas Water Code requires that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and TxDOT develop a contractual agreement whereby TxDOT may be used for spill and discharge clean up throughout the state. The following conditions must be met:

  • The TCEQ and TxDOT execute an Interagency Contract (IAC) each biennium that incorporates requirements of the Texas Water Code. A copy of this IAC is provided to each district.
  • Clean-up activities performed under this contract generally are at locations off the right of way and at sites that TCEQ has assumed responsibility for clean-up actions. Department personnel should comply with the requirements contained in the Occupational Safety Manual when requested to handle oil and hazardous materials.
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Recommended Initial Response Actions

Only trained personnel should ever approach a fire or a spill. Containment, cleanup, or neutralization of the hazardous material should be accomplished by individuals or organizations familiar with or trained in such activities. The following steps should be considered general guidelines and may not apply for all circumstances:

  1. Notify law enforcement and fire department of roadway accident.
  2. Survey the scene from a safe distance and determine the responsible person. Consult the USDOT Emergency Response Guidebook for specific hazardous material information. From a safe distance, determine the integrity of the container(s), determine the existence or possibility of runoff, determine if any dead animals are near, evaluate the distressed nature of surrounding vegetation. Evaluate any markings on containers. Assess the physical characteristics of the material (color, solid, liquid, powder, or granules).
  3. Using guidelines in the Emergency Response Guidebook, restrict access to the spill site. Keep the public away from the hazard. Provide traffic control, as needed.
  4. Notify supervisor by radio or telephone.
  5. Supervisor should notify local fire department, Department of Public Safety, and district hazardous materials coordinator. Supervisor should ensure that field personnel only conduct traffic control from a safe distance from the spill.
  6. Determine if a reportable discharge or spill has occurred and if so, the district hazardous materials coordinator should ensure TCEQ has been notified of the spill or release as soon as possible but not later than 24 hours after the discovery of the spill or discharge. Provide the following information, if possible:
    • the name, address, and phone number of the person making the report
    • the date, time, and location of the spill or discharge
    • a specific description of the hazardous substance discharged or spilled
    • an estimate of the quantity discharged or spilled
    • the duration of the incident
    • the name of the surface water affected or threatened by the discharge or spill
    • the source of the discharge or spill
    • a description of the extent of actual or potential harmful impact to the environment and an identification of any environmentally sensitive areas or natural resources at risk
    • the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the responsible person and the contact person at the location of the discharge or spill
    • a description of any actions that have been taken, are being taken, and will be taken to contain and respond to the discharge or spill
    • any known or anticipated health risks
    • the identity of any governmental representatives, including local authorities or third parties, responding to the discharge or spill
    • any other information that may be significant to the response action.

Abandoned Hazardous Materials

If hazardous materials are abandoned on TxDOT's right of way, and the responsible party cannot be identified, it becomes TxDOT's responsibility to ensure proper disposal. It is recommended that a blanket purchase order for containment, material identification, and material disposal be developed. A blanket purchase order could also be used in non-emergency situations.

Responsibility: TxDOT personnel should follow standard safety procedures and report pertinent information to their supervisor immediately. TxDOT supervisors should contact the district hazardous materials coordinator and local law enforcement officials if needed. hazardous materials coordinators should oversee removal and disposal when the responsible party cannot be identified. TxDOT personnel likely to encounter abandoned hazardous materials require Hazardous Materials Awareness Training.


  • Waste is discovered by TxDOT personnel or is reported to TxDOT.
  • Restrict access to material. Keep the public away from any hazard, and provide traffic control.
  • Survey the scene from a safe distance. Access the integrity of the container(s);
    • the existence or possibility of runoff
    • if any dead animals are near the distressed nature of surrounding vegetation
    • evaluate any markings on containers
    • assess the physical characteristics of material
  • If determined an emergency, due to location, material characteristics, etc., proceed directly to contract for containment, material identification and material disposal.
  • Determine responsible party.
    • evaluate labeling on container(s) from a safe distance to determine whether a potential responsible party can be identified
    • contact party to pick up container(s)
    • if responsible party cannot be identified, contact TCEQ regional office for possible assistance in identifying the responsible party
    • if material is assumed to be hazardous, contact for material identification (and disposal, if appropriate).


Texas Transportation Code, §§224.031 and 224.032

State of Texas Emergency Management Plan

Contracting: Contracting for cleanup, testing, and disposal is to be handled by:

  • third party—trucking company or manufacturer
  • TCEQ—should they assume responsibility for the clean-up
  • district—purchasing personnel with the assistance of the General Services Division Purchasing Section, if the responsible party is not taking appropriate actions or if TCEQ has not assumed responsibility for the clean-up.
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Hazardous Substance Spill Contingency Plan

The TCEQ is the lead agency in hazardous material spill response. Emergencies involving spillage, release, and/or abandonment of known or suspected toxic/hazardous materials are the prime responsibility of the TCEQ. (Ref. Texas Water Code) It is important for department employees to remember that only trained personnel should ever approach a fire or spill. Department personnel are specifically prohibited from handling, cleaning up, or otherwise coming in contact with toxic/hazardous materials at accident scenes or abandonment sites on the department's right of way. Doing so may adversely affect the health and/or safety of department personnel.

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