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Continuous Release Reporting

Continuous releases are regulated under a different set of reporting requirements than other hazardous substance releases. EPA defines a continuous release as a release of a hazardous substance that is:

  1. Continuous
  2. Stable in quantity and rate

EPA interprets "continuous" to mean a release that occurs without interruption or abatement as that is routine, anticipated, and intermittent during normal operation or treatment process. The phrase "stable in quantity and rate" means predictable and regular in amount and rate of emission. A continuous release may be a release that occurs 24 hours a day, such as a radon release from a stock pile, or a release that occurs during a certain process, such as benzene released during the production of polymers, or a release of a hazardous substance from a tank vent each time the tank is filled.

Some releases resulting from malfunctions also may qualify for reduced reporting as continuous releases if they are incidental to normal plant operations or treatment processes, are stable in quantity and rate, and either:

  1. Occur without interruption or abatement, or
  2. Are routine, anticipated, and intermittent.

Releases from malfunctions that may qualify for reduced reporting include fugitive emissions from valves that occur at different rates over the course of a production cycle.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) section 103(f)(2) provides a reduced reporting requirement for continuous releases of hazardous substances that exceed the Reportable Quantity (RQ). Notification of continuous releases that equal or exceed the RQ need only be given once, with one follow-up report on the first anniversary of the initial report, following the continuous release reporting process. Thereafter only "statistically significant increases" need be reported. The purpose of the continuous release mechanism is to reduce unnecessary release notifications for releases of hazardous substances.

A statistically significant increase is defined as any release of a hazardous substance that exceeds the upper bound of the reported normal range of a continuous release. The normal range is defined to include all the releases (in pounds, kilograms, or curies) of a hazardous substance reported or occurring over any 24-hour period under normal operating conditions (that is, normal conditions that prevail during the period establishing the continuity, quantity, and regularity of the release) during the preceding year.

The definition, therefore, does not include releases within the reported normal range of the release. The Agency considers any release that exceeds the reported normal range to be statistically significant because the normal range is established based on a set of historical data representing all releases reported or occurring during normal operations over the previous year.

When the quantity released exceeds the upper-bound of the established normal range, this release must be reported to the National Response Center (NRC) as a statistically significant increase. If several releases exceed the upper-bound of the range, the person in charge may modify the normal range by informing the NRC of the change in the range at that time. The person in charge must then submit, within 30 days, a written notification to the EPA Regional Office (see Superfund Regions) describing the new normal range and reasons for the change. If there is a change in other reported information, the person in charge must submit written notification to the EPA Regional Office within 30 days of determining that the information submitted previously is no longer valid.

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