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Chemical Spill

What is required should there be a chemical spill?

The response to a chemical spill depends on whether the chemical spill is a violation or an emergency. EPA defines these as:

Chemical Spill - Environmental Violation

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:

  • smoke or other emissions from local industrial facilities.
  • tampering with emission control or air conditioning systems in automobiles.
  • improper treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous wastes.
  • exceedances of pollutant limits at publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants.
  • unpermitted dredging or filling of waters and wetlands.
  • any unpermitted industrial activity.
  • late-night dumping or any criminal activity including falsifying reports or other documents.
Chemical Spill

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.

Chemical Spill - Emergency

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:

  • oil and chemical spills.
  • radiological and biological discharges.
  • accidents causing releases of pollutants.

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:

  • Name, address, and telephone number of the person reporting and the contact information for the responsible party.
  • Specific location of the incident,
  • Date and time the incident occurred or was discovered.
  • Name of the chemical or material that was released.
  • Source and cause of the release.
  • Total quantity of the chemical spill.
  • Medium into which the hazardous material was discharged.
  • Amount spilled into water.
  • Weather conditions.
  • Name of the carrier or vessel, the railcar/truck number, or other identifying information.
  • Number and type of injuries or fatalities.
  • Whether an evacuation has occurred.
  • Estimation of the dollar amount of property damage.
  • Description of current and future cleanup actions.
  • Other agencies notified or about to be notified.

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.

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