Wendy Buckley, a graduate of The University of Findlay, was asked by the federal government to help a U.S. company ship to Africa a potentially dangerous chemical deemed as vital in the battle against Ebola.
Buckley’s Pennsylvania-based company, Specialty Transportation and Regulatory Services, recently oversaw the safe loading and shipping of calcium hypochlorite powder onto a cargo ship bound for Liberia. But it’s no easy task, considering that the chemical, a concentrated bleach substance that is being combined with water for sanitizing to fight the disease’s spread, can turn volatile if not handled and stored properly.
“If it sits in direct sunlight, the product can violently decompose and cause a catastrophic fire on ship,” said Buckley. “Because it produces more oxygen when it combusts, that makes any fire even worse.”
Buckley said she initially balked when the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requested her expertise. The liability issues seemed too daunting, she said, and her firm doesn’t typically perform this type of work. Instead, her consulting company’s primary purpose is to “provide personalized service to help shippers and carriers comply with an increasingly complicated regulatory system (for hazardous waste management and transport) and avoid fines and penalties,” its website states. It helps businesses develop cost-effective ways to achieve voluntary compliance with federal hazardous materials regulations.
But Buckley said the humanitarian aspect of this task made her change her mind.
“How could I deny thousands of people something that could possibly prevent them from dying from this horrible disease?” she conjectured.
This represents the company’s first time being the “shipper of record” for a hazardous material, she said. The government called her in October, resulting in a flurry of phone calls and research due to time constraints.
Buckley’s training, however, prepared her well. In March she graduated from The University of Findlay with a master’s degree in environmental safety and health management. The program integrates business and analytical skills with technical knowledge to produce highly-qualified environmental safety managers.
Buckley said her epidemiology course that she completed in that program is proving to be particularly helpful now.
“I took that class about a year ago, and now here I am on the front lines of an epidemiological issue,” said Buckley. “It’s pretty cool how that worked out.”
Buckley travelled to Tennessee to inspect calcium hypochlorite packages, supervise their loading into the container and ensure their safe transportation to Savannah, Georgia’s port. There, they were carefully loaded onto a vessel for oceanic transport.
Gecco US is donating the sanitizing material to Liberia.
Buckley said she also worked with the cargo shipping company Cordstrap, which donated blocking and bracing equipment; and LabelMaster, which provided necessary hazardous material labeling.
The container left port on Nov. 20 and is expected to arrive in Monrovia, Liberia around Dec. 16.
“I’m not sure what the most amazing part of this is: either that the U.S. Government called me, out of the hundreds of people and companies that they could have called, to be a part of such an important and high-profile effort; or that just as my firm’s mission statement dictates, I get to make a difference, however small, in people’s lives.” Buckley wrote to her University professors. “I really love that hazardous materials have a chance to save lives in a major way and I’m a part of it,” she said.
For more information on Buckley’s company, visit http://starsconsulting.org/