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Definition of Immediate for EPCRA and CERCLA Release Notification

CERCLA release notification requirements state that any person in charge of a vessel or an offshore or an onshore facility shall, as soon as he has knowledge of the release of a hazardous substance in a quantity equal to or exceeding the reportable quantity, immediately notify the National Response Center of such release (40 CFR §302.6(a)). Similarly, EPCRA release notification requirements state that the owner or operator of a facility must provide immediate notification of the release of a reportable quantity of a CERCLA hazardous substance or an EPCRA extremely hazardous substance to the Local Emergency Planning Committee and to the State Emergency Response Commission (Part 355, Subpart C). How do CERLCA and EPCRA define “immediate” in the context of release notification?

There is no statutory or regulatory definition of the term “immediate” within CERCLA or EPCRA. If facilities are concerned about whether notification for a given release met the “immediate” standard, they may want to contact the Office of Enforcement Compliance and Assurance (OECA), which is available at the following URL:

https://www.epa.gov/enforcement

[Note: The "Legislative History of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986" (Volume 2, October 1990, pps. 600-01), states that ordinarily, delays in making the required notifications should not exceed 15 minutes after the person in charge has knowledge of the release. Immediate notification requires shorter delays whenever practicable.]