In January 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Cingular Wireless (NCW) reached an administrative settlement requiring the company to pay a civil penalty of $750,000 regarding alleged reporting, planning and permitting violations at 332 legacy AT&T Wireless (AWS) sites now owned by NCW. The basis of the case was NCW’s failure to comply with the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA) reporting requirements related to the presence of sulfuric acid and diesel.
In addition, NCW agreed to spend $625,000 on supplemental environmental projects (SEP) to resolve the alleged violations. The SEP projects will include providing hazardous materials awareness and health and safety training to building inspectors and firefighters. In addition, it includes procuring emergency response equipment, such as firefighting equipment, gas meters, HazMat identification equipment, satellite phones and other emergency communications equipment.
During a recent environmental field survey of five equipment dealers, SES, Inc. (SES) — consultant for Southwestern Association (SWA)—found that two of five facilities visited were subject to the same EPCRA requirements cited by EPA in the NCW case, based on the amount of sulfuric acid and/or diesel on-site.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 was enacted to help communities plan for emergencies involving hazardous substances. The act establishes requirements for federal, state and local governments, Indian tribes and industry, regarding emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know: reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals.
The Community Right-to-Know provisions help increase the public’s knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.
The regulations require that an initial submittal be made to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and the local fire department for any hazardous material stored on-site, exceeding the reporting threshold. Threshold quantities for diesel and sulfuric acid are 10,000 pounds and 500 pounds, respectively.
EPA considers sulfuric acid to be an extremely hazardous substance (EHS). It is important to understand that the amount of sulfuric acid contained in batteries must be counted in addition to any amount stored in containers used to charge the batteries. This initial submittal must include a material safety data sheet and a list of all hazardous chemicals grouped by hazard classifications specified in the regulations.
For any chemical stored at any time during a calendar year, and above the threshold quantity, dealers must annually submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to the LEPC, the SERC and the local fire department before March 1 (for the previous year). Facilities provide either a Tier I or Tier II form. Most states require the Tier II Form. Some states have specific requirements in addition to the federal Tier II requirements.
An additional requirement is in place for extremely hazardous substances (sulfuric acid) stored above its threshold planning quantity (TPQ) of 1,000 pounds. A full 55-gallon drum of sulfuric acid weighs about 550 pounds. Remember, that you must also count the amount contained in all batteries.
If the TPQ is exceeded, the facility must provide notice to the LEPC and SERC. In addition, the facility must provide the name and contact information of the facility emergency coordinator who will participate in the emergency planning for the EHS.
We all remember the recent explosion in the Texas town of West. Numerous first responders were killed in the explosion. EPCRA regulations are designed to prevent these disasters.
This article is provided for your information, to remind you of these rules and to encourage you to review your operations in order that you will not only be in compliance with regulations, but more importantly, that you ensure your employees and neighbors stay safe.
FRANK BRYANT is president of SES, Inc., and consultant for NAEDA and Southwestern Association (SWA), in Merriam, Kan. He can be contacted at 913-307-1146.