Enforcement and Assistance in New England
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) established requirements for federal, state and local governments and industry regarding emergency planning and the reporting of hazardous and toxic chemicals. EPCRA gives the public and every community the right-to-know about chemicals that are being stored, transported or released into the environment. The key provisions of EPCRA are Tier II data collection and Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting.
EPCRA Sections 311 and 312 require facilities to annually submit information to state and local officials for emergency planning purposes. These reports, known as Tier 2 reports, must be submitted annually on chemicals and material stored or used on site -- typically fuels, flammables, acids, paints, and refrigerants, among others. Tier 2 data is available to the public through local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) or state emergency response commissions (SERCs).
Toxic Release Inventory
EPCRA Section 313 requires facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use significant amounts of toxic chemicals to report annually on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities. EPA maintains this information in a national Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) database, which is available to the public over the internet. To help make completing the TRI reports easier for facilities, while at the same time improving the quality of the data, EPA-NE conducts extensive outreach and education for facilities on how to report their TRI data via the internet. The Toxics Release Inventory–Made Easy (TRI-ME) software allows for direct data entry. TRI-ME checks the data for common errors and then prepares the forms -- on paper, diskette or electronically over the internet -- for submission to EPA. Since 2003, TRI releases to air and water have decreased in Boston, New Haven and Providence by approximately 126,500 pounds. Across the region releases of PBTs have decreased by approximately 53,300 pounds since 2003.
Preventing Chemical Accidents & Releases
The Clean Air Act 112(r) program is designed to prevent chemical accidents and releases through a program of preparedness, prevention and response. The General Duty Clause provision imposes on owners and operators of facilities that produce, process and store extremely hazardous substances a general duty to:
- identify hazards associated with an accidental release;
- design and maintain a safe facility; and
- minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.
To help prevent chemical accidents, the program also requires certain facilities to develop Risk Management Plans (RMP). A RMP includes an executive summary, chemical registration information, off-site release analysis, five-year accident history, a prevention program and an emergency response plan.
Companies must also report any spills or other releases of hazardous substances that exceed certain thresholds. This reporting is required under Section 103 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Section 304 of EPCRA.
CAMEO, LandView & ALOHA
Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO) is a free and extremely valuable system of software applications used to plan for and respond to chemical releases. The EPCRA Team provides CAMEO training to federal, state and local emergency responders. Front-line emergency planners and responders use CAMEO to access, store and evaluate information critical for developing emergency response plans. LandView is software that provides federal environmental and census data on maps. The latest version of ALOHA (v5.4), which is part of the CAMEO suite, has added the ability to model hazards associated with fires and explosions. With this major update, users can now estimate the hazards associated with jet fires (flares), pool fires, vapor cloud explosions (VCE), BLEVEs (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosions) and flash fires, as well as toxic threats.
EPA New England’s Planning & Preparedness Team works with a myriad of federal, state and local emergency planners and responders to simulate chemical emergencies, public health threats and natural disasters. Expanding roles of numerous agencies has underscored the need for proactive coordination and planning. Exercises assist local communities to further develop their emergency response capabilities and enhance community awareness. The design and implementation of these exercises allows planners and responders to identify areas for improvement, such as safety, hazards assessment, communication, responder accountability, and resource management.