Know Your Spill Reporting Duties

The key to staying out of trouble with environmental regulatory authorities is in knowing which reports you owe to whom after accidental releases of fuel, spent solvents, cleaning materials, toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials. Never try to cover up an environmental incident. Stiff fines for failure to report make that an unwise decision, advises Tom Moses, president of Spill Center, which he founded in 1990 as a 24/7 nationwide resource for companies at risk from hazardous materials releases.

It’s better to report a spill even if you do not believe it involves a reportable quantity. If someone in authority says it isn’t reportable, that is the best legal defense against third-party claims related to the spill. Just make sure you get the name, position and phone number of the person who said you didn’t need to report it, says Tom, who holds a Juris Doctorate degree and is a former U.S. EPA toxicologist.

He recommends that you get to know your local and state environmental authorities and the reporting requirements of each jurisdiction in which you maintain and operate equipment. Laws vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Some jurisdictions require environmental or ground water testing after a spill. In a maintenance facility that handles and manages a broad variety of chemicals and wastes, pollution prevention and proper disposal of regulated materials are primary considerations. Check with environmental authorities to ensure that you are in compliance with all regulations regarding water runoff, underground and above ground storage tanks, and spill prevention/containment.

Thorough documentation of every environmental release is the best way to maintain a legally defensible position and avoid being included as a responsible party to a pre-existing contamination problem, notes Tom. A detailed log should be kept of all actions taken after a spill to document that your release was separate in time, separate in nature and was the subject of a separate and complete response and remediation.

A driver involved in a fuel spill should record the quantity spilled (based on last fueling and miles driven), times and phone numbers of calls he made to report the incident, actions he took to contain the leak, actions taken by emergency responders at the scene, number of responders, time on scene, and equipment used.

Some jurisdictions have extremely tight reporting deadlines. In Louisiana, for example, the hazmat incident notification regulations are among the most stringent in the nation. Because of the high volume of hazardous materials that move within Louisiana’s boundaries, the law places the burden of immediate telephone notification on the responsible party, requiring timely reports – within one hour of discovery – to local and state government in order to ensure the public safety.

Non-compliance can draw a fine of up to $25,000 per incident per day. So the need for swift action cannot be over emphasized in Louisiana. Spill Center automatically reports Louisiana incidents involving its clients without regard to their claim-handling instructions, Tom relates. Spill Center reports any incident involving a hazardous or potentially hazardous material during the course of transportation in Louisiana, regardless of the amount released without delay.

The best advice Tom can offer spill generators? When in doubt, report! Nobody can get in trouble by reporting an incident that doesn’t need to be reported. But the fines can be substantial when a spill of a reportable quantity is not reported to the proper authorities within the required time period. That goes double in Louisiana, he emphasizes.

This information is provided by Spill Center®, a leading nationwide spill-support specialist and environmental claims management company. With more than 20 years experience assessing and managing environmental spills, Spill Center offers expertise in emergency response, investigation and remediation of accidental releases of hazmat and other regulated materials.

A comprehensive program, which includes assistance with spill reporting, is available to help clients deal with environmental releases swiftly and thoroughly to avoid trouble with the authorities.

To learn more about Spill Center spill support and environmental claims management services, visit; call Tom Moses directly at 978-568-1922, X222; or e-mail him at

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