The response to a chemical spill depends on whether the chemical spill is a violation or an emergency. EPA defines these as:
An environmental violation occurs when a there is chemical spill, or other condition that does not comply with an environmental law or regulation. In addition to chemical spills the EPA defines environmental violations as including, but are not limited to:
A chemical spill or release is defined as any spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, or disposing into the environment. It includes the abandonment or discarding of barrels, containers, and other closed receptacles containing any hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant.
The EPA has established Reportable Quantities. Unless permitted or exempted, a chemical spill that releases a reportable quantity or greater of a hazardous substance must be reported, regardless of the concentration of the substance released. The EPA believes that such reports are essential to allow government personnel to decide whether a response action is necessary to protect public health or welfare or the environment.
The EPA defines an environmental emergency as "a sudden threat to the public health or the well-being of the environment, arising from the release or potential release of oil, radioactive materials, or hazardous chemicals into the air, land, or water."
Examples of an environmental emergencies would be:
An environmental emergencies may result from a transportation accident, an event at a facility that uses hazardous chemicals, or as a result of a natural disaster. If you are involved in, or if you witness an environmental emergency, call the the EPA's National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802.
When reporting a release, the person making the report should provide as much of the following information as possible:
You don't need to have all of the above information. What is important is reporting the incident so that a response can be started as quickly as possible.
The National Response System (NRS) routinely responds to a wide range of chemical spills, as well as oil and hazardous material releases. Responses involve teams from local, state, and federal agencies, as well as industry and other organizations that have the expertise and resources to help contain and clean up the chemical or oil spill.