Massachusetts Contingency Plan – Requirements for Chemical Releases to the Air Reply

As we are more than half-way through 2010, it is a good time to review requirements relating to chemical releases to the air from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) perspective.  As opposed to releases to soil or water, reporting of releases to air is often unclear or overlooked.  This is typically because, due to the nature of an air release, the highest priority becomes coordinating and conducting the necessary rapid remedial response. 

Most chemical releases to the air require MassDEP notification as soon as possible, but not more than 2 hours after obtaining knowledge that the release or threat of release meets one or more of the following:

  • A sudden, continuous or intermittent release or a threat of release to the environment of a hazardous material when:
    • the quantity of the release is or is likely to be equal to or greater than the applicable Reportable Quantity, and
    • it is likely that the release occurred within any period of 24 consecutive hours or less
  • A threat of release to the environment of a hazardous material when:
    • a release or threat of release of a hazardous material, in any quantity or concentration, that poses or could pose an Imminent Hazard
  • A release to the environment which results in the presence of hazardous material vapors within buildings, structures, or underground utility conduits at a concentration equal to or greater than 10% of the Lower Explosive Limit
  • A release to the environment of reactive or explosive hazardous material which threatens human health or safety
  • A release to a roadway that endangers public safety
  • A release to the environment that poses a significant risk to human health when present for even a short period of time
  • A release to the environment which produces readily apparent effects to human health, including respiratory distress or dermal irritation.

The MCP does allow for a delay in notification if one of the following extenuating circumstances can be established by a preponderance of evidence in which case notification must be made as soon as possible:

  • A lack of reasonably-available communication equipment at the site of the release or threat of release
  • A need to take actions prior to notification in order to mitigate or prevent an Imminent Hazard and/or threat to public safety, and/or
  • physical injury to the person responsible for notifying caused by or associated with the release or threat of release, when the injury reasonably prevents that person from notifying

In recent years, the MassDEP has been placing a priority on issuing penalties for violations for failure to notify in a timely manner.  The MassDEP does have a provision for retracting a release notification within 60 days if it is determined that the released amount is below the applicable MassDEP Reportable Quantity.  Therefore, in order to avoid a violation, it is better to report a release of unknown quantity than delay notification until the released quantity is confirmed.

For more information please call Dawn Horter (508) 970-0033 ext. 118 or email dhorter@capaccio.com.

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