Started to Store Chemicals? Don't Overlook EPCRA Reporting

Have you begun to store or use hazardous chemicals in your facility? If so, you may have some crucial official paperwork to fill out to help protect your community from danger and your organization from noncompliance penalties.

All facilities that have stored or handled hazardous chemicals within the last year must submit an emergency and hazardous chemical inventory form to the appropriate oversight bodies by March 1, 2023. The information in these forms keeps local community officials aware of chemical inventories—enabling successful emergency planning, compliance, and mitigation. This process falls under the reporting guidelines of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA), an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) law.

EPCRA Prevents Chemical Disaster

The EPA has required organizations to comply with EPCRA for decades. The United States Congress implemented this legislation in 1987 to prevent disasters arising from the improper storage or use of toxic chemicals—such as the one that occurred in Bopal, India, in 1984 that claimed 2,000 victims.

EPCRA enables communities and organizations to prepare for potential chemical emergencies. Prompt and thorough reporting prevents injuries and damage from unaccounted for chemicals and allows for mitigation strategies to be successfully implemented. If legislative bodies are aware of the location and composition of chemicals within the community, chemical events, such as spills or leaks, can be quickly identified and dealt with before injury, explosion, or other catastrophe.

Facilities that use or store hazardous chemicals are required to report yearly. Organizations that fail to file timely reports face hefty fines. Fortunately, there are clear guidelines in place to help ensure compliance—this blog will share some tips to help you prepare to report.

EPCRA Chemical Reporting Requirements 

Hazardous chemical quantities that require reporting vary depending on the type of chemical. Generally, the process demands that managers and operators submit an emergency and hazardous chemical inventory form, as well as relevant safety data sheets (SDSs), to a variety of overseeing bodies for the chemicals that meet these certain prespecified quantities.

Overseeing bodies include your State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and relevant Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). Informing them about the chemicals stored and handled within your facility, as well as relevant facility activities, allows them to support appropriate emergency planning and ensure that hazardous chemical events are handled safely and efficiently.

You are also required to notify your local fire department about chemicals that have been or are currently stored within your facility. In the case of a chemical event, these first responders will be better prepared to address and mitigate any potential chemical dangers—as well as protect safety personnel, your employees, and the community.

EPCRA Compliance Steps

With a submission deadline of March 1, 2023, you should start preparing to report as soon as possible. An early start will assist with comprehensive reporting and allow for modifications or corrections during the process. Reporting requirements fall under three broad categories:

1. What to Report

The first step in being compliant is to determine if you must file. You are required to report if certain chemicals onsite at any point during 2022 meet certain specific cumulative reporting thresholds and if the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires an SDS for the chemical.

Thresholds differ for Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) and Non-EHS Hazardous Chemicals, and are as follows:

EHSs: Report on amounts greater than or equal to 500 pounds or above a specific Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), whichever is lower. The TPQ is typically 10,000 pounds, but exceptions exist for solids that meet other criteria.

Non-EHS Hazardous Chemicals: Report on amounts greater than or equal to 10,000 pounds.

EHS Mixtures: There are special considerations for EHS mixtures. You must report any hazardous substance at or above certain quantities—the EPA provides steps for calculating the components these mixtures to help you determine if the quantities are reportable.

Don’t confuse these thresholds with Reportable Quantities (RQs). RQs do not represent EPCRA reporting requirements and are instead used only to determine if you need to report a chemical spill.

2. Reporting Strategy

Next, you must create a reporting strategy based on the specific attributes of your facility. Multiple submission types exist and there are a few key things to consider when creating your reporting plan.

Type of Report: Both Tier I and Tier II reports exist.

  • Tier I reports offer the minimum amount of information required, such as general location and average daily overall chemical quantities. These reports are required by federal law.
  • Tier II reports provide more detailed information, such as specific location and storage details of reportable chemicals. Most states require submittal of Tier II forms—submitting this form satisfies both federal and state reporting requirements.

Submission Type: Submissions are required per facility, not per individual company. If multiple independent spaces exist within one facility (co-working lab space, university laboratories, engineering department), you must review all inventories and perform cumulative calculations.

Location: Your facility’s location can affect your reporting strategy as well. Most states allow online submissions but some still require paper forms. On top of this, local facilities may be subject to different obligations. If your facility resides within a city, for example, you may be exempt from submitting your inventory and SDSs to the state. New York City is an example of this—facilities within any of the five boroughs are only required to submit their documents to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and local fire department.

Keep in mind that your local SERC or LEPC may have additional reporting requirements—it’s best practice to check with them while determining reporting protocols. For example, Oregon requires reporting to the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) but Washington state only requires reporting to the SERC, LEPC, and local fire departments.

3. Due Diligence

As the deadline nears, it’s key to proactively prepare. Before submission, review all documents and double-check threshold quantities. Even if the amount of chemicals you have on-site do not qualify for reporting, your SERC or LEPC may still dictate specific threshold reporting quantities for these chemicals.

Don’t neglect to also review SDSs. Outdated documents must be replaced and updated before an EPCRA report is submitted. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), for example, are an outdated version of SDSs that should only be used if the chemical manufacturer has not provided an SDS.

On top of this, you will need extra time if multiple independent spaces exist within one facility. Since reporting is required per facility, you will likely need to request a deadline of inventory submittal and chemical purchase from each independent space well before the submission deadline in order to allow for enough time to compile all information from all spaces.

Ultimately, the more time and effort you spend to generate a thorough and accurate submission, the greater the likelihood you will stay compliant. An efficient report will also mean that your community and organization is safer—preventing harm to your employees, your operations, and your bottom line.

Prepare for EPCRA Success 

Compliance with EPCRA is complex and varies from location to location. It takes resources, diligence, time, and money to create a thorough, complete, and timely report. Do you need a partner to help support you in the reporting and submission process? With highly experienced experts and the latest tools, Triumvirate Environmental can help you report by the March 1, 2023 deadline—contact us today.

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