Environmental Emergencies

It is good business to be prepared for an emergency caused by a natural disaster or any other type of incident that may cause a disruption in your business and possibly result in a spill or release to the environment. 

Emergency Response Notification Requirements

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for implementing a number of Pennsylvania laws which have components relating to emergency response, including the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, the Air Pollution Control Act, the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act, the Explosives Act, the Radiation Protection Act, various mining laws, the Clean Streams Law, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Storage Tank Management and Spill Prevention Act. DEP's authorities relative to emergency response to hazardous materials are most clearly delineated in the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA).

Three major laws require DEP to be notified of a spill or release of material to the environment:

  • The Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law regulations require that when any pollutant is discharged into surface or groundwater, including sewers, drains and ditches, the person spilling the substance or the person owning the premises from which the substance is spilled must notify the Department immediately. Note that there is no reportable quantity, that the requirement includes groundwater, and practically all substances are reportable.
  • The Solid Waste Act requires the generator or the transporter to notify the Department immediately if there is a spill of a hazardous waste which affects surface water or groundwater regardless of amount. If there is no effect on water, quantities spilled in excess of a reportable quantity (RQ) must be reported. While the state RQs are fairly complex, it is a conservative assumption to say that all spills of hazardous wastes above five gallons must be reported.
  • The Pennsylvania Storage Tank Act requires releases from underground and aboveground storage tanks be reported to the Department by the owner/operator.

CLICK HERE for the Emergency Response Contact Numbers for DEP to Report an Environmental Incident.

CLICK HERE for EPCRA Requirements