The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed in 1986 in response to the 1984 leak of methyl isocyanate gas at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, India that killed thousands of people. This horrible accident raised concerns in the United States about the chance of a similar accident happening to an unsuspecting community. The possibility of a “Bhopal”-scale accident is remote, but the risks of chemical releases in communities are real. According to the United States Public Interest Research Group and the National Environmental Law Center, a chemical accident is reported in the United States an average of 21 times a day and one in twenty of these mishaps resulted in immediate injuries, evacuations or deaths.
EPCRA was enacted to deal with this very real concern. In keeping with the philosophy that “forewarned is forearmed,” EPCRA is designed to inform communities about chemicals and chemical hazards present and transported in the community, and to involve the community in developing emergency planning and response to a potential leak of those chemicals.
EPCRA attempts to find that middle ground between increased safety and burdensome regulation. Only facilities with chemicals in quantities that equal or exceed the following thresholds must report:
- For Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) – either 500 pounds or the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), whichever is lower
- For gasoline (all grades combined) at a retail gas station – threshold level of 75,000 gallons
- For diesel fuel (all grades combined) at a retail gas station – threshold level of 100,000 gallons
Under EPCRA Section 311, these facilities must submit Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and the local fire department. Anyone interested in finding out what is present in their community can contact one of these organizations in their area.
In addition to community reporting requirements, facilities falling under the purview of EPCRA also have recordkeeping and employee training requirements.
Documents recommended for EPCRA recordkeeping compliance include:
- Hazardous chemical purchase/usage records
- Notification(s) to local agencies of accidental release of hazardous chemicals
- New chemical/MSDS updates
- Annual Tier II chemical inventory reports
- Tier II reporting justifications/calculations
- Spill reports
Facilities must train personnel to implement the facility’s response management system, including specific information necessary to guide or support the actions of each response management function (i.e., command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance) during a response.
HETI Compliance Services
Hydro-Environmental Technologies, Inc. (HETI) is a full-service environmental health and safety organization – offering a wide range of regulatory and compliance services. We can assist facilities with emergency planning, as well as the development, implementation and monitoring of EPCRA compliance programs.