GUIDE TO DETERMINING A FACILITY'S EPCRA COMPLIANCE
There will be times when a facility does not file Tier Two reports, or may have filed Tier Two reports of questionable accuracy. Some determination of these issues can be made via a fire inspection, but some relevant information is not visible during a routine fire inspection. There are steps that can be taken to further research a facility using other publicly available information and reports required under other environmental laws.
LOOKING OVER THE FACILITY--VISUAL INSPECTION
To start with, firefighters can look at the facility in question to determine if there are large tanks with chemical labels, fire diamonds, or other markings. Some large tanks may just contain water or other raw materials. Look for barrels of chemicals stored on pallets or metal racks. Black or blue plastic barrels may contain acids or caustics. A 55 gallon barrel of water weighs about 450 pounds. Acids (500 pound reporting quantity) or other chemicals will generally weigh more than water, so a full barrel or two may trigger EPCRA reporting requirements. Sometimes a facility will store gasoline or fuels that are not for resale and only for use at the facility. Be alert for fuel pumping stations. If the facility refrigerates foods, it may have an ammonia-based refrigeration system, which almost invariably will have more than the 500 pounds of Ammonia, which triggers EPCRA reporting requirements. If there are offensive chemical odors detectable in the air, a fire inspector should take note.
OTHER INFORMATION SOURCES
There is other information available through using other environmental laws and other forms of public information.
Ask yourself what the facility does and research what types of chemicals are used at similar facilities that DO report under EPCRA in your community. You will likely find some facilities that do not report even when their competitors do. Sometimes, EPCRA noncompliance within an industry sector is widespread. Industry sectors can be found in the Standard Identification Classification (SIC) code. The financial and business section of the library, such as the Dun and Bradstreet Directory or the Million Dollar Directory will often have specific information about what a company or facility does, including the SIC code. All you need is the name and address of the business. The library will also have a SIC code book available that will designate specific SIC codes. The yellow pages of the phone book can help in identifying unmarked buildings and facilities. The local Chamber of Commerce can also assist you in identifying facilities. Some Chambers of Commerce even publish their own directories.
Some types of facilities almost always have to report under EPCRA. For example, metal plating facilities are common throughout the country. Metal plating processes often use acids that will require EPCRA reporting, as Sulfuric Acid and Nitric Acid both have a 500 pound reporting threshold. Even small metal plating outfits can have large amounts of hazardous (EHS) chemicals on-site (Sodium Cyanide, Hydrofluoric Acid or Hydrogen Fluoride). Metal plating is sometimes a small part of what a larger facility does in a manufacturing process. Hydrochloric Acid is not considered an EHS, and has the 10,000 pound reporting threshold of an OSHA chemical. Manufacturing and chemicals often go hand in hand. If manufacturing is occurring, chemicals are likely to be stored or used.
Sometimes chemical usage in businesses can be surprising. Many businesses use acid to clean out their pipes, such as dairies or commercial linen facilities. Water and soft drink facilities also use acids. Many commercial food processors also clean with acids. Facilities that use forklifts have acids in their large batteries that require reporting.
Any facility that discharges wastewater into the sewer system usually will have to have an environmental (wastewater) permit. Often, the discharge goes to a municipal sewer system, which is called a Publicly-Owned Treatment Works (POTW). In this case, the municipality will have a wastewater permit for the facility, and the permit file is public information.
There will usually be inspection reports made by the wastewater agency with jurisdiction that will help identify chemicals in inventory and in process. These inspection reports may have helpful information. Something called the SLUG Control Plan will also be helpful. There may be chemicals in inventory at the facility noted during the inspection by the other agency that are not apparent during the fire inspection. A facility might get periodic large shipments of chemicals but that chemical may be short on inventory during the fire inspection.
Tanks have chemical mixtures in them, sometimes diluted to certain concentrations. The MSDS for the chemicals in storage must be used to determine the weight of the EHS or OSHA chemical. There is no need to actually sample the chemical in a container to make this determination.
DETERMINING THE WEIGHT OF A CHEMICAL IN A MIXTURE
The MSDS for a mixture will state its Specific Gravity, which is the ratio of its weight to water. Water has a Specific Gravity of 1.0. Anything with a higher Specific Gravity than 1.0 is heavier than water, and anything with a lower Specific Gravity than 1.0 is lighter than water. There are mixtures that are water-soluble (dissolves in water) that will still have a Specific Gravity listed on the MSDS. Mixtures of chemicals in water will generally be heavier than water. The weight of water is 8.34 pounds per gallon.
Looking at the same data and calculation a different way shows this calculation:
Some MSDS will show a figure for its Bulk Density for the whole product or chemical mixture, expressed as a weight of so many pounds per gallon. This is the weight of the whole solution or chemical mixture. Many chemical products are a conglomeration of different chemicals or have water added to them. Pure chemicals are actually rare. The weight of any particular chemical in the container is calculated by taking the percentage of the chemical in the container and multiplying it times the Bulk Density (weight per gallon) and then times the number of gallons the container holds.
55 gallons of a chemical mixture having a total bulk density of 10.6 pounds per gallon (according to MSDS). 5% is hydrofluoric acid (according to MSDS).
55 gallons times 10.6 pounds/gallon = 583 pounds of total mixture. 5% (0.05) times 583 pounds = 29.15 pounds of hydrofluoric acid.
What gets even more complicated is determining the weight of a chemical in a process. When the mixture containing the 5% Hydrofluoric Acid is added to a dip tank, calculating the weight of the Hydrofluoric Acid in the dip tank takes some work. The capacity of the dip tank, how full it is usually filled, the amount of the chemical that is mixed into this dip tank, if the tank is fully drained, and whether heavier chemicals are concentrating, are some of the variables that have to be reviewed.
A 300 gallon tank is filled to 80% capacity with tap water (85%) and the 5% Hydrofluoric Acid mixture used in the examples above (15%).
Metal plating facilities usually will have a number of tanks, and not all will have the same chemical mixed into them. The weights of a chemical in each tank, in another process, and in containers in a chemical storage area all need to be added up. Firefighters may ask to see the facility's calculations if there are any questions.
Knowing the concentrations of an EHS in a tank is vital information to a firefighter. For example, if a 5 square inch area of a firefighter's skin is splashed with a 2% solution of Hydrofluoric Acid, the firefighter will die without timely treatment. Dilute solutions of Hydrofluoric Acid pose a hazard that may not be apparent even upon contact. This is true of some of the other EHS chemicals. A harmful exposure may not be initially noticed or have immediate effects. Information about these types of hazards is best made available to firefighters through use of the BOLDER Project software. Knowing when to don protective clothing before responding removes some of the guesswork.
One of the shortcomings of EPCRA is that hazards may exist at a facility with chemical inventories that fall below EPCRA reporting thresholds. A facility with a 200 gallon dip tank with a 2% Hydrofluoric Acid mixture still presents an extreme hazard to firefighters, but the Hydrofluoric Acid in the tank is below the 100 pound reporting threshold for Hydrofluoric Acid under EPCRA. When a facility uses the BOLDER Project software, these types of hazards are reported to responders.
The information regarding the tanks and chemical mixtures in these tanks should be on file with the agency that regulates wastewater discharges, and usually will also be on file with the agency that issues local air pollution permits. In many cases, these are not the same agency. The fire inspector can ask the facility what agency issues/issued these permits to speed up the review of the facility. Sometimes, the information at the two agencies will not match up. If there is a large discrepancy, the fire inspector may want to contact the inspectors from the agencies. There will be times when one agency's inspection reports will have additional, helpful information for the fire inspector that the other agency's reports are silent on. There will be times when the facility doesn't have permits that it should have. Noncompliance with other environmental laws and requirements can be an early indicator of other facility problems, including EPCRA noncompliance.
AIR POLLUTION PERMITS
In some areas, the county or state will handle the air pollution permits. The top or lead state environmental agency will usually know what entity controls the permitting if there are any questions. The Governor's Office should also be able to handle public inquiries and refer the call to the appropriate environmental agency. Reviewing the file of the facility will generally explain what processes go on at the facility, and often will show what chemicals are used and stored at the facility. There may be chemicals in inventory at the facility noted during the inspection by the air pollution agency that are not apparent during the fire inspection. A facility might get periodic large shipments of chemicals but that chemical may be short on inventory during the fire inspection.
A facility that emits pollution into the air will usually have to get an air pollution permit. The county or state agency may be the regulatory agency that issued the permit. Request to see this file, which is also public information. There is often a description or discussion in this file about what a facility does, including the types of chemicals being emitted into the air. The air permitting agency will often record the total amounts of chemicals used by a facility annually. This data can give the fire inspector a perspective about what types of chemicals might be on-site and be of concern during an emergency response.
If a facility has Underground Storage Tanks (UST), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) will require the facility have a permit. This permit includes checking to make sure the tank is not leaking and having the proper automatic leak detection equipment installed. The state environmental agency likely regulates the facility's USTs, and this file is also available publicly. Usually, what is in the USTs will be listed. Any tank of over 1,600 gallons of new chemicals will likely require EPCRA reporting.
A facility's Hazardous Waste Manifests, usually available at the state environmental agency, can provide some clues about the volume of chemicals moving through its processes. A facility that is shipping tons of acidic wastes off-site likely has reportable quantities of the unused acids on-site at least once during a calendar year.
In many states, there are even annual waste summaries that show what hazardous wastes are being shipped off-site by facilities. The fire inspector can compare amounts of hazardous wastes different facilities doing similar business ship off-site to what is provided under EPCRA reporting. Discrepancies may be detected. Particular attention should be paid to Large Quantity Generators but Small Quantity Generators should not be overlooked.
FORM R and TRI
The Form R Report is required of certain facilities under EPCRA. The compilation of this Form R data is called the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI tracks the releases (generally the permitted releases) of certain chemicals into the environment. The Form R Reports for a facility show the weights of these chemicals in hazardous wastes shipped off-site, wastewater discharges of these chemicals to POTWs (Publicly-Owned Treatment Works), and releases of these chemicals into the air. The facility's Form R Report also reports on-site recycling or disposal of these chemicals. The facility's Form R Reports are reported by July 1st of the following calendar year to the SERC. The SERC should have them available to the fire department, as this is public information. The CAMEO software also has a place for this data to be entered and sees it as important. The EPA has posted this information on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/tris/tris_query.html. Once the Form R reports are filed in July, it usually takes some time to post the data, but what is there at the EPA's site is compiled nicely and easy to read and use. Not all facilities are required to report, and only about 600 chemicals and chemical compounds are tracked by the TRI.
The Form R also lists the maximum amount of the chemical stored on-site during a calendar year. This figure on the facility's Form R Report should match the figure on the facility's Tier Two report. If a facility files a Form R Report but does not file a Tier Two Report, the inspector should investigate what chemical is being filed for on the Form R and what the quantities are. It is not uncommon for a facility to be aware of EPCRA Form R requirements and yet be unaware of Tier Two requirements.