Hazardous chemical reporting helps communities be informed and prepared

Hazardous chemical reporting helps communities be informed and prepared

Cameron, LA, 2006 - A worker for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sorting and organizing barrels of hazardous waste materials collected (Photo by: FEMA, Robert Kaufmann)

The Whole Community partners work toward the goal of emergency preparedness in a variety of ways-- families put together emergency supply kits and write communication plans; businesses develop continuity of operations plans; and governments create and exercise emergency plans and partnerships.


Many people don’t realize that governments and businesses also plan for emergencies involving hazardous substances.


Hazardous chemical emergency planning and reporting is required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The EPCRA was created to help communities plan for emergencies involving hazardous substances. The EPCRA requires federal, state and local governments, tribes, and industry to have chemical emergency plans. It also requires industries to report on the storage, use, and release of hazardous chemicals to federal, state, and local governments.


Arizona is required by law to oversee and coordinate local planning effort, as well as to implement the EPCRA provisions. The State Emergency Response Commission (AZSERC) is located within the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM). 


AZSERC’s duties include reviewing emergency plans created by local governments and industry. AZSERC also designates local emergency planning districts, appoints Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) for each district, and supervises the activities of the LEPCs.


Members of the LEPC include local officials, civil defense, public health, transportation, and environmental personnel, as well as representatives from facilities that are subject to emergency planning requirements.


The LEPC is required to create an emergency response plan that is available for public review. The plan, in part, identifies locations and transportation routes of extremely hazardous substances, and explains evacuation plans and emergency response procedures.


AZSERC maintains the electronic Tier II Chemical Reporting System, a repository for the receipt and coordination of emergency notifications of chemical releases, and collection and dissemination of chemical inventory information.


Industries are required to report to AZSERC what hazardous chemicals they store that are above threshold quantities established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


AZSERC’s reporting program allows its stakeholders to easily log in and make their report.


“Arizona has its own program, unique from any other,” said Mark Howard, AZSERC Director. “It was less expensive to design a program, rather than buy one. And this program is one of the best ones out there.”


While certain cities have ordinances that state industry must report to AZSERC, others do it because of the convenience and cost savings. Arizona charges a small filing fee to help support the cost of the program.


Arizona tribes are part of the Tribal Emergency Response Commission, meaning they can report directly to the EPA. The Gila River Indian Community has chosen to report to Arizona’s SERC. They are one of the only tribes in the nation to report to a SERC.


“Arizona has no authority over the tribes,” Howard said. “However, they (Gila River Indian Community) chose to file with us for a number of reasons. It is an easy, convenient system. Also, we are able to provide them with control of their data. If they were to file directly with the EPA, anyone could see it.”


Howard is working to get the other tribes in Arizona to report through the state.


“It would be great to have a central location where all the data is,” said Howard. “It’s easier, it costs less, and you can control the information easier on a local level.”


Howard works hard to ensure all industry makes their Tier II reporting to AZSERC. “It’s kind of an all or nothing thing with the EPA,” he said. “What’s more, if we let them report wherever, it would be a nightmare to get information if somebody in the community wanted it. Right now, we can quickly look in our database and get the requested information.”


Arizonans can find out what chemicals are at a specific facility in their neighborhood. Information on the chemical’s uses and releases into the environment is publically available to improve chemical safety and to protect public health and the environment. To find out information about a specific facility, email [email protected].