Chemicals in Washington
In December of 1984, a deadly cloud of methyl isocyanate was accidentally released from a pesticide manufacturer in Bhopal, India. Tragically, thousands of people were killed and many thousands more were seriously injured. In August 1985, there was another accidental release at a facility in Institute, West Virginia. These events raised public concerns about lack of planning and preparation for responding to chemical accidents. It also led to public demand for information about toxic chemicals released "beyond the fence line" of a facility, that could endanger surrounding communities.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (Exit Ecology), also known as SARA Title III, was created as part of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, but it is more commonly referred to as the Community Right-to-Know law or simply EPCRA. EPCRA facilitates emergency planning and preparedness, helps to minimize the effects of potential chemical accidents, and provides the public with information about potentially dangerous chemicals in their communities.
While EPCRA helps communities deal safely and effectively with hazardous chemicals, the law also establishes a number of requirements for businesses and government. EPCRA's primary objective is to help improve emergency planning for hazardous chemicals at the local level by:
In 1987, Washington State Governor Booth Gardner appointed the members of the Washington State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), which then established Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) statewide, as directed under federal law. Chapter 118-40 of the Washington Administrative Code (Exit Ecology) (WAC) was established in 1987. This state rule adopted the federal Community Right-to-Know reporting thresholds and requirements in accordance with federal Public Law 99-499. The SERC is responsible for the establishment of a state hazardous materials emergency preparedness, response, and Community Right-to-Know program.
Every state has a SERC or an equivalent entity that carries out these duties. In Washington, the Military Department (Exit Ecology), State Patrol (Exit Ecology), and Department of Ecology share the core implementation of EPCRA. As required under Chapter 118-40 WAC (Exit Ecology), Ecology coordinates the development, implementation, and maintenance of a state EPCRA program. Ecology receives reports, manages data, and distributes information on storage and releases of toxic chemicals under these regulations on behalf of the SERC. Ecology staff also track facility compliance and provide technical and regulatory guidance to businesses, local emergency planning committees, tribal nations, and the public.
This report summarizes information about chemicals stored on site or released into the air, land, and water by some Washington State businesses. It focuses on the two annual EPCRA reporting requirements:
Some of the terms used on this site are defined here.
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