Picture this scenario.
You’re in your office, and you hear a large bang and yelling coming from out in your manufacturing facility. Immediately, you know something is wrong and you come out to investigate.
As you enter the facility, you see that several drums of hazardous chemical waste that you use in your manufacturing process have toppled over. They had been temporarily stored just outside of your storage area. The drums in question were clipped by a forklift working near your storage area and NOW chemical is spilling out all over the floor.
Workplace accidents like this can happen at any time, the question is, DO YOU KNOW your responsibilities in the event of chemical spill?
Mandatory Spill Reporting
If your facility has an accident like this, you have a legal responsibility to report this to the appropriate governmental agencies. All significant releases or threatened releases of a hazardous material, including oil and radioactive materials, require emergency notification to government agencies.
This post will provide you detailed information on the who, what, where, when and why on your responsibilities.
Who Must Notify
Federal law mandates that the following individuals have reporting responsibilities for immediate notification of all significant spills or threatened releases including:
- Persons in charge
Notification is required regarding significant releases from:
When and Where to Notify
In the event of a significant spill or threatened release of hazardous materials, immediate reporting is required. Notification to the proper authorities should be made immediately by telephone.
Notification must be given to the following agencies:
- The Local Emergency Response Agency - 9-1-1 or the local Fire Department
- The Local Unified Program Agency (UPA) - if different from local fire
- The California Highway Patrol (if appropriate) – must be notified for spills occurring on highways in the State of California
Notification must also be made to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, California State Warning Center for the following:
- Discharges or threatened discharges of oil in marine waters
- Any spill or other release of one barrel (42 gallons) or more of petroleum products at a tank facility
- Discharges of any hazardous substances or sewage, into or on any waters of the state
- Discharges that may threaten or impact water quality
- Any found or lost radioactive materials
- Discharges of oil or petroleum products, into or on any waters of the state
- Hazardous Liquid Pipeline releases and every rupture, explosion or fire involving a pipeline
Notification to the National Response Center is required for all releases that equal or exceed federal reporting quantities.
Additionally, written Follow-Up Reports (Section 304) are required within 7 days if the release equals or exceeds the Federal Reportable Quantities.
What Information Is Required?
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, the federal government has designated several hundred substances as "extremely hazardous substances" based on their acute lethal toxicity.
You can view the list of extremely hazardous substances on the EPA website.
Under the law, releases of these extremely hazardous substances trigger reporting requirements to state and local authorities, as well as the federal authorities. The owner or operator of a facility that releases an extremely hazardous substance in an amount greater than its established reportable quantities (RQ) must follow requirements on how to report to the appropriate authorities (in many cases, the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for the location where the incident occurs.
State notification requirements for a spill or threatened release include (as a minimum):
- Identity of caller
- Exact location, date and time of spill, release or threatened release
- Location of threatened or involved waterway or stormdrains
- Substance, quantity involved, and isotope if necessary
- Chemical name (if known, it should be reported if the chemical is extremely hazardous)
Federal reporting requirements include:
- Description of what happened
- Medium or media impacted by the release
- Time and duration of the release
- Proper precautions to take
- Known or anticipated health risks
- Name and phone number for more information
The bottom line, in the event of an accidental spill of toxic substances, hazardous waste spill reporting is required and you must be prepared to notify the appropriate authorities. Failure to provide adequate and timely notification of a hazardous waste spill can lead to big fines.
Federal and state laws provide for administrative penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each violation of emergency notification requirements. Criminal penalties may also apply depending on the circumstances of your accident.
A properly licensed hazardous waste disposal company can help you develop a contingency plan in the event of this type of emergency.