Waste Solvent Explosion and Fire

Lesson Learning Points

  • List all contents on hazardous waste labels.
  • Do not mix incompatible chemicals.
At the University of X in the hazardous waste facility, a 55-gallon drum containing 30 gallons of mixed organic solvents exploded, launching upward into the ceiling. A significant fire ensured. Luckily no one was hurt. The mixed organic solvents in the drum had been consolidated from solvent waste containers from laboratories throughout the campus. A similar consolidation process is used at many institutions. Solvents are consolidated because there is significant cost savings in disposing of one large drum compared to disposing of many small containers. This instrument demonstrates why it is important for each lab to fully list the contents on each container on the hazardous waste label.