A Glimpse into the Environmental World: Reporting

Posted by Monica Mellinger on

By: Thomas Leusner

Following the end of the first two quarters of the year, some chemical engineers working in the environmental world in facilities across the United States have finished reports for state and federal regulatory agencies and are looking forward to the second half of the year as there is less reporting that happens in the fall and winter months.

Under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), regulatory requirements that will be discussed in this article are detailed in the SARA Title III section.  This section is also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  This act covers a number of important reporting requirements for businesses that store threshold quantities of chemicals listed in both EPCRA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s guidance.

Under section 311 of SARA, there is a notification requirement for new chemicals stored on-site, mandating that sites are required to submit the safety data sheets (SDSs) within three months of meeting the threshold quantity level to the State Environmental Regulatory Committee (SERC), Local Environmental Regulatory Committee (LERC), and the local fire department. Some states, such as California, require notification in a shorter time frame such as a one month period. It is therefore important to monitor chemical inventory levels throughout the year in order to ensure that any new chemicals used on site are submitted in a timely fashion.

In addition to monitoring the inventory levels of new chemicals on-site, any entity that meets the threshold quantity level for a chemical must submit a report of inventories as covered under section 312 of SARA. This report is due annually on March 1st. In California, for example, this report is called the Hazardous Materials Business Plan (HMBP) and has lower threshold quantities than those required under EPCRA. As a result if you are responsible for this report, make sure to check your state regulations. The report is based upon the average and maximum inventory level for those chemicals that meet the threshold.

There is a significant risk of not including chemicals or materials in your inventory listing that are not used as raw materials in the manufacturing processes at your site, for example, electric forklifts that utilize sulfuric acid in the battery cells or propane for LPG forklifts.  It is critical that you develop an understanding for manufacturing operations at your site so you don’t overlook reporting these chemicals or materials.

Given the hazards involved in chemical and other manufacturing sites, it is critical that the inventory listing and site location for any chemicals stored on your sites are updated as soon as any changes occur on-site if it is above the threshold quantity. Chemical manufacturing has become a high profile topic in many discussions for those who do not necessarily work in the industry. Therefore,it is important that we work directly with regulatory agencies, the emergency planning commissions, and any local emergency first responders to ensure that, should the worst happen, everyone involved is prepared and aware of the hazards that exist on our sites.

Another report that is due March 1st either biennially or annually, depending on the state, is the biennial hazardous waste report (or annual waste report, if your state requires annual hazardous waste reporting).  If your site is a large quantity generator as defined under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, then you will have to submit this report. The report covers the nature and quantity of hazardous waste generated at your site and the disposal of the hazardous waste for the prior year and is usually due every even-numbered year (except in states that require annual reporting). The report is submitted to the state and EPA usually through a state transmittal website. In addition to the waste report, you will also usually be required to complete a waste minimization report. 

The hazardous waste reports and waste minimization reports help state agencies and the EPA tailor their approach to industries to review opportunities for hazardous waste generation reduction and measure their performance. Both state agencies and the EPA offer programs to help businesses implement waste reduction, so I would recommend you start with the regulatory agency responsible for implementing hazardous waste regulations in your individual state to learn what programs are available.

Another report is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), also known as SARA 313. Chemicals processed in quantities above threshold quantities trigger the reporting requirements under this section. Under this regulation, the site will calculate the quantities emitted on-site in air emissions (fugitive and source), storm water discharges and/or waste water discharges, as well as any waste shipped off-site and other potential discharges. The reported information is analyzed to shape future regulatory requirements for manufacturers and provide the public with information of TRI-listed chemicals in their communities. As with hazardous waste, the EPA highlights best practices that businesses can implement to reduce toxic releases.

Incomplete or inaccurate reports for these regulatory requirements may not only impact the community in a negative way but can expose the business to regulatory actions and/or fines. If your site is inspected by a state or federal agency, the inspector may review the information on these reports for accuracy and whether or not a site may be required to report (and has not done so).

Although this is just a glimpse into the environmental world, some of the reports discussed in this article have a significant impact in the communities in which we live and do business in. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that the most up-to-date, accurate information is communicated to agencies and responders.