Anyone can become a spill generator. Being prepared for an environmental incident, on the road or at your facility, is the best way to limit your liability. Fuel spills and other accidental releases of hazardous or regulated materials, even in small quantities, can turn into expensive incidents for the spill generator who is not adequately prepared to deal with them.
Surveying your entire operation to identify every activity that has potential to produce an environmental release should be your first step toward spill preparedness. Mapping out a detailed spill contingency plan for each of those activities is next. The efforts you spendplanning a spill can help minimize your costs and limit the likelihood of liability claims in the event of an incident, on the road or on your home turf.
Spills of hazardous materials, diesel fuel and other regulated substances are subject to a maze of environmental regulations. Nearly 30,000 federal, state and local jurisdictions across the U.S. require incident reports from spill generators. Shippers and transporters who are unprepared to handle spill emergencies quickly and comply with all reporting requirements can end up with major expenses for cleanup and disposal services, liability issues, and steep penalties for failing to file incident reports on time.
Every spill generator should consider the filing of incident reports after an environmental release a top priority and complete all required telephone and written reports as quickly as possible. That’s because some regulatory agencies have established very short time frames for mandatory reporting – and can levy some hefty fines for non-compliance.
Louisiana, for example, requires telephone notification within one hour of a spill. Fines can go up to $25,000 per day. Massachusetts also has a tight reporting deadline (two hours). The penalty for a late-notification infraction carries a penalty of $11,500 there. And, remember, insurance companies do not cover fines for late spill reporting.
Spill preparedness includes compiling incident report requirements and contact information for every jurisdiction in which you operate equipment or facilities which are at risk from environmental spills. Reporting regulations get confusing when an incident occurs in a area where multiple agencies – each with separate reporting requirements – have jurisdiction.
A spill in one of the five boroughs of New York City requires reports be made to county, state and federal authorities, plus the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Failure to make the city report can cost $25,000 a day, with each day being a separate violation.
Nearly half of the serious hazardous materials spills in transportation go unreported to the government, leaving investigators without data to identify unsafe carriers and containers, according to the U.S. DOT. Motor carriers which have transported a leaking package of hazardous materials or experienced a loading or unloading hazmat-related leak or spill are required to report incidents in accordance with the regulations in 49 CFR 171.15 and 171.16.
Immediate telephonic notification is required is some cases, along with a written report. Most hazardous materials are dangerous when they are released, emphasizes the DOT, nothing that the scene of an incident can be chaotic, and the right actions may not always be obvious. The agency underscores the fact that reporting a hazardous materials leak or spill is required by law.
Driver training is an important aspect of spill preparedness. Drivers should know the location of fuel shutoff valves on their trucks and understand the importance of preventing leaking fuel from running into streams or storm drains. Even a minor spill can wreak environmental havoc if the fuel reaches water. Trucks should be equipped with spill kits containing plugs, trenching tools and absorbent materials that can be used to stop fuel leaks and limit damage to the environment. Drivers should be instructed in the use of items in the kits.
This information is provided by Tom Moses, president of Spill Center, a leader in spill and environmental claims management, offering a comprehensive spill support program, including assistance with spill reporting. A former U.S. EPA toxicologist, Tom received his law degree in 1986 and founded Spill Center in 1990. The Spill Center program is designed to help clients deal with environmental releases swiftly and thoroughly to avoid trouble with regulatory authorities. For more information, visit the website atwww.spillcenter.com or contact Tom by phone at 978-568-1922 x222 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org.