In the early morning of December 3, 1984, a Union Carbide plant near Bhopal, India released approximately forty tons of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) into the air. The gas quickly diffused over the ground and, in the end, killed, by some estimates, upwards to 5,000 people and injured 50,000 more. The only other place in the world that Union Carbide manufactured MIC was at its Institute plant in West Virginia. Following the Bhopal release Union Carbide elected to shut down production of the deadly chemical at its West Virginia location until it could make $500 million worth of safety improvements.
New Safety Programs
Approximately four months after completion of the safety improvement program, 500 gallons of highly toxic aldchiloxin (and MIC) leaked from the plant. Although no one was killed, 134 people living around the plant were treated at local hospitals.
Both the Bhopal and West Virginia incidents highlighted the serious nature of modern-day chemical production -- no matter what safety precautions are taken and no matter how prepared a plant may be to handle an emergency situation, accidents can still occur.
With thousands of chemical accidents occurring in the United States within a short five year period in the mid-1980s, Congress finally passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986. EPCRA ushered in a new wave of regulations and reporting requirements designed to alert the surrounding communities of the dangers posed at chemical facilities in the U.S.
To implement EPCRA, Congress required each state to appoint a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). The SERCs are required to divide their states into Emergency Planning Districts and to name a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for each district.
The facilities covered by EPCRA requirements are now required to submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to their LEPC, as well as their SERC, and their local fire department annually by March 1st.
The reports known as “Tier II Reports,” require basic facility identification information, employee contact information for both emergencies and non-emergencies, and information about chemicals stored or used at the facility.
Under the EPCRA, SERCs and LEPCs are charged with four primary responsibilities:
- Write emergency plans to protect the public from chemical accidents;
- Establish procedures to warn and, if necessary, evacuate the public in case of an emergency;
- Provide citizens and local governments with information about hazardous chemicals and accidental releases of chemicals in their communities; and
- Assist in the preparation of public reports on annual release of toxic chemicals into the air, water, and soil.
Tier II Reporting Information
What facilities are covered?
- Any facility required under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to maintain material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous chemicals stored or used in the work place. 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, the threshold level is 75,000 gallons (or approximately 283,900 liters), if the tank(s) was stored entirely underground and was in compliance at all times during the preceding calendar year with all applicable Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements at 40 CFR part 280 or requirements of the State UST program approved by the Agency under 40 CFR part 281.
- For diesel fuel (all grades combined) at a retail gas station, the threshold level is 100,000 gallons (or approximately 378,500 liters), if the tank(s) was stored entirely underground and the tank(s) was in compliance at all times during the preceding calendar year with all applicable Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements at 40 CFR part 280 or requirements of the State UST program approved by the Agency under 40 CFR part 281.
- For all other hazardous chemicals, 10,000 pounds.
Tier2 Submit Software
- EPA has recently developed ‘Tier2 Submit,’ an online software program designed to help facilities prepare an electronic chemical inventory report. Although many states accept Tier2 Submit, some states such as Missouri do not.
- The owner or operator or the officially designated representative of the owner or operator must certify that all information included in the Tier Two submission is true, accurate, and complete.
- Any owner or operator who violates any Tier II reporting requirements shall be liable to the United States for civil penalty of up to $27,500 per day for each such violation.
- Although each day a violation continues shall constitute a separate violation it has been EPA’s policy not to enforce the daily penalty on those companies making a good faith effort to come into compliance with the reporting requirements.
For more information on EPA Tier II reporting requirements visit their website. Specific state requirements links can also be found there.