The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), passed in 1986, concerns the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. Triggering these concerns was an accidental release of methylisocyanate in Bhopal, India in 1984 that killed or severely injured more than 2,000 people.

That particular release was from a large chemical plant; however, the resulting EPCRA reporting requirements apply to a wide variety of facilities that store and use materials of just about any kind in the United States. There are two types of reports commonly required: Tier II and Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting. Facility managers and EHS personnel sometimes confuse applicability requirements between these two types of reporting regarding what triggers the need to report. Tier II reporting is triggered by maximum mass of the material stored on-site at any given time; whereas, TRI reporting is triggered by annual mass of the material used.

Tier II Reporting
Section 312(a) of EPCRA requires owners/operators of facilities who store hazardous chemicals above Threshold Planning Quantities (TPQs) to submit Tier II reports to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and local fire department by March 1st of each year. For certain Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs), the TPQ is typically 500 pounds (or other quantity listed in Appendices A and B of 40 CFR Part 355). For other hazardous materials that require a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), the TPQ is 10,000 pounds. Tier II reporting is typically completed using either the E-Plan web-based reporting system or the Tier2 Submit software available for download from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), depending on what State the facility is in. Some states also have unique reporting requirements and websites to upload to and/or pay fees.Common materials present at smaller to mid-size facilities that require Tier II reporting include fuels (e.g., gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, propane), bulk compressed gasses/cryogenic liquids (e.g., nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide), and bulk liquid or solid raw materials (bags, totes, tanks, boxes). Large lead-acid batteries used in electric powered industrial fork trucks/lifts contain lead (a hazardous material) and sulfuric acid (an EHS with a TPQ of 1,000 pounds) and can easily trigger the need to report and are often missed.

TRI Reporting
Section 313 of EPCRA requires owners/operators of facilities with 10 or more full-time equivalent employees with covered operations (meeting certain NAICS codes) to submit a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Form A or Form R for each TRI-listed chemical manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in quantities above reporting thresholds by July 1 each year. 

Reporting thresholds are as follows:

  • Manufactured in excess of 25,000 pounds over the calendar year;
  • Processed in excess of 25,000 pounds over the calendar year;
  • Otherwise used in excess of 10,000 pounds over the calendar year;
  • Lower reporting thresholds are listed for specifically listed Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) chemicals.

“Manufactured”, “Processed”, and “Otherwise Used” are defined for purposes of TRI reporting in the EPA instructions, and these definitions are not entirely straightforward.

Form A is more simplistic and can be used in place of Form R if each of the following criteria is met:

  • The chemical is not a PBT chemical;
  • The chemical was not manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in excess of 1,000,000 pounds per year; and
  • The total annual reportable amount of the chemical did not exceed 500 pounds (releases, recycling, energy recovery, and chemical treatment).

Deciphering TRI reporting instructions and material composition information can be complex.  Mixtures and categories of reportable compounds (e.g., metal compounds, cyanide compounds, glycol ethers, nitrate compounds, nonylphenol ethoxylates) can require a high level of chemical knowledge and savvy to correctly interpret. Errors in interpretation of these chemical categories and how to calculate the appropriate mass for comparison to the reporting thresholds to determine if reporting is required, and then what to report for releases are common within industry. Misinterpretation of what is and what is not a TRI chemical are sometimes seen on SDSs produced by material manufacturers.

Where to Turn
EI’s team of Professional Engineers can determine if reporting is required and what to report. We have substantial experience working with industrial customers to compile material inventories, calculate stored and used quantities for reportable chemicals, and compile the information into the required reporting formats.

If you have questions regarding EPCRA or other environmental concerns, please contact Mark Cramer, PE at (919) 459-5229 or [email protected].