What is Section 304?
Section 304 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) specifically covers emergency release notification requirements for facilities that accidentally release an Extremely Hazardous Substance (EHS) at or above its applicable reportable quantity. Federal requirements mandate that the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC) are to be notified in the event of a spill. If a hazardous substance listed under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) is released, federal requirements mandate that the National Response Commission is notified.
Two main categories of chemicals are required to be reported if they're released:
- EHS Chemicals: EHS chemicals are required to be reported if they're released at or above their applicable reportable quantity. The EHS chemicals are listed in EPCRA Section 302 and the full list can be found in Appendix A and Appendix B.
- Hazardous Chemicals under CERCLA: Listed chemicals under CERCLA can be found in this table here. Generally, reportable quantities for CERCLA chemicals range from 1kg to 5,000 kg or 2.2 lbs. to 11,023 lbs.
Spill Reporting Requirements
Initial and Follow-Up Reports
When you find a spill that's reportable, call your SERC and LEPC IMMEDIATELY. If its a CERCLA chemical, you'll need to notify the NRC as well. Federal regulations require that you have the following information ready when you report your release:
|1. The chemical name|
2. An indication of whether the substance is extremely hazardous
|3. An Estimate of the quantity release into the environment|
|4. The time and duration of the release|
|5. Whether the release occurred into air, water, and/or land|
|6. Any known or anticipated acute or chronic health risks associated with the emergency, and where necessary, advice regarding medical attention for exposed individuals|
|7. Proper precautions, such as evacuation or sheltering in place|
|8. Name and telephone number of contact person|
Facilities are required to update their SERC and LEPC with a follow-up report as soon as practicable following the release. The federal requirements do not specify a format for the report but, depending on the state, this could be an online form, an email, or a written report updating the agencies on the initial release report information and information on the actual response actions taken. Additionally, if any medical attention was necessary due to the release, that information should be provided as well.
Federal vs. State requirements
The Federal requirements for Section 304 are that initial release reports should be made ASAP, and follow-up reports should be submitted as soon as practicable. The EPA allows states to be more strict with their release reporting requirements. Some states, like Alaska, requires a follow-up report to be submitted within 15 days of the release. Others, like Wyoming, follow the federal regulations and require a follow-up report as soon as practicable. Check with your state SERC or LEPC to ensure that you're following your state's guidelines. This list from the EPA contains state contacts for initial and follow-up reports.
Examples of state requirements:
- Lower Chemical Reporting Threshold- In Rhode Island, any release is reportable to the SERC and LEPC.
- Shorter Follow-up Report Times- In Kansas, a written follow-up report is due within 7 days of the spill.
- Longer Initial Response Times: In Alaska, if a spill is made to the ground and does not come into contact with a water source, spills are required to be reported as soon as possible but no later than 24 hours.
- Requested Information- In Maine, the follow-up report must also include:
- Actions taken to respond to and contain the release;
- The cause of the release and the events leading to it;
- The known or anticipated health risks of the release and any medical attention needs of exposed persons; and
- The measures taken or to be taken to avoid recurrence.
- Notified Authorities- In Texas, initial spill reports are to be directed to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality
Exempt from 304 Reporting
- Releases that occur within the boundaries of your facility
- Federally-permitted releases that are regulated under other environmental programs, such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System of the Clean Water Act; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; and the Underground Injection Control program of the Safe Drinking Water Act, among others.
- Release of a pesticide product*
- Chemicals that are not EHS or hazardous chemicals under CERCLA
- Radionuclide releases*
(*still reportable, just not under EPCRA 304)
If the EHS substance is in a mixture, how do I calculate the EHS amount?
Here's an example calculation:
You have 150 pounds of a mixture that contains 20 weight percent of a certain EHS. The quantity of EHS present in the mixture is:
(20 percent) x (150 pound mixture)= EHS (in pounds)
(0.20) x (150 lbs) = 30 lbs
*State and federal laws and regulations noted in this article are current as of July 21, 2021 and are subject to change. Please check back for updates or consult additional resources to ensure you’re in compliance.
Last Modified: 7/21/21