Article Archive
Focus on Hazmat
Change, a consistent constant
Volume 24, No. 1

Mark Twain often told a story of an old frontier preacher who was asked about sin and responded that he was "mos' ginerly again it". This is quite often our view of change also, we are "mos' ginerly again it".? We resist change whether in our personal lives or within the scope of our professional activities. This is particularly true when the change in question involves compliance with governmental regulations. Yet change is essential if regulations are to keep up with technology. Since change is inevitable we should embrace it and utilize its innovations as opportunities to improve our efficiency and enable us to accomplish more meaningful work with less expenditure of time, labor or treasure.

On October 17, 2008, EPA finalized several changes to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) regulations1?. These changes were proposed on June 8, 19982.? Along with these changes, all sections of 40 CFR Parts 355 and 370 will now be in plain language, using a question and answer format" (a change long overdue). This will make it easier to understand the actual intent of the regulation and reduce the need for clarification. It is noteworthy that these changes were first proposed on June 8, 1998; the ten year plus lag between proposal and promulgation giving adequate time for evaluative study and public comment. This should indicate that these changes were not lightly undertaken. It should also indicate that those being effected by these changes should be prepared to implement them forthwith.

The first of these changes in the EPA regulations is in the form and content of the Tier II reporting forms. The revised Tier I and Tier II forms and their instructions have been removed from the code of federal regulations (CFR) and are now on EPA's website3.

Much of the Community Right-to-Know act (EPCRA), including the Tier I and Tier II report forms, has been in place since the late 1980's and early1990's and is therefore geared to the technology of those times. Thus we still have paper reporting forms which have to be entered and re-entered, copied and re-copied repeatedly at each and every level of governmental bureaucracy, local, state and federal, all by hand; the amount of labor involved is enormous as is the chance for an error. Various states have allowed different forms of fax, e-mail and/or "home grown" programs for use in submitting the requisite report forms and Tier II Win still exists but due to differences in format it has never become widely used. There has been a lack of standardization among the various programs and those of the various states and this impedes rather than expedites the flow of vital information.

The deployment and implementation of the Tier II Submit program in 2006 has brought about standardization and enabled rapid dissemination of information from the Tier II reports to emergency responders and others having need of this information and the program was revised in Nov. of 2008 to align it with the revisions to the revised Tier II reporting forms.

The Tier II Submit program operates as part of Cameo (Computer Assisted Management of Emergency Operations). This program, originally developed by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), is now available online at no charge.? Cameo has become the work horse of the emergency response field and it is hard to imagine how any response agency can operate effectively without it. When downloaded from the internet, Cameo is empty except for demonstration entries. Each local response agency has to input the data for the particular community. This used to be a very labor intensive and time consuming task requiring the drawing of maps and, in some cases, floor or site plans of facilities. A great deal of this has changed (there's that word again) with the advent of tiger maps and GIS mapping by local jurisdictions which can be downloaded directly into the Marplot and Aloha parts of CAMEO. It is a simple task to add the location of fire plugs, hospitals, main shut-off valves or any other information that is not already included on the maps. Now with the advent of Tier II Submit, information regarding the potentially dangerous materials inherent in the site contents can be added to the CAMEO armamentarium directly from the reports.??

Tier II Submit software may be downloaded from the EPA site (see footnote 1). In this program, at least in theory, an original Tier II form is generated by the reporting facility and transmitted to both governmental agencies and the appropriate emergency responders with one keystroke. Once this has been done all that is required for the next reporting cycle is to revise the original to reflect changes in inventory and processes, and transmit. Accessing a submitted Tier II form is also expedited; a computer can search through a huge collection of Tier forms many times faster than any human can hope to do so. As anyone who has ever worked with Tier forms knows, this in itself is a welcome improvement (change?).

Other changes in the revised Tier II reporting regulations require that submitting facilities now include their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code on the Tier I and Tier II forms.

NAICS is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. 1

Finally, the chemical or common name of the chemical as provided on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must now be provided on the Tier II form. This last item could be a tricky one so far as compliance is concerned, particularly when international trade is involved. The main thing is to make sure that what is on the MSDS matches what is on the Tier II report.

This item can be a "tricky wicket" when one considers the definition of a "common name". This is especially true when dealing with shipments originating outside the country. So, If, for example, one lists "bluestone" as a common name for copper sulfate (CuSO4) or Epsom Salts for magnesium sulfate (MgSO4?7H2O) on an MSDS then the material must be listed in the same manner on the Tier II report. Many common industrial chemicals may have a number of "trade" names which are somewhat specific to a particular use; hence, Engraver's Acid, the common name for nitric acid (HNO3) in metal etching shops but one which would most likely be unheard of in the explosives industry. In the interests of safety, it is always prudent to include chemical formulas on MSDS sheets. Whether it is "oil of vitriol, hydrogen sulfate, pickling acid or sulfuric acid (spelled with either a "ph" or an "f") the formula is H2SO4?and a trained emergency responder looking at an MSDS in the middle of the night twenty miles from nowhere knows very well what he is confronted with.????

Reporting of chemical inventories included in mixtures has, to some extent been simplified by giving the reporting facility an option. When determining whether the threshold quantity of an extremely hazardous substance (EHS) has been met, facilities must include the total quantity of that EHS present in the pure form as well as in any mixture, even if a mixture including the EHS is also being reported as a hazardous chemical. One should take care in filling out the Tier II form to make certain that nothing gets counted twice since an EHS would be reported as part of the mixture and then the mixture itself could be reported as a hazardous chemical.

For hazardous chemicals that are mixtures and do not contain any extremely hazardous substance, facilities have an option when determining whether the threshold quantity is present: (1) add together the quantity present in its pure form and as a component in all mixtures (even if the mixture is also being reported as a hazardous chemical), or (2) consider the total quantity of each mixture separately.

Those needing further and/or more detailed information should refer to The Federal Register Part II for Monday, Nov 3, 20082.

Now that we have assimilated these changes the question arises: what are we going to do about them?

This has always been a question; far too many tier forms have been just another hurdle imposed by the government to plague the businessman. It is another government form to be filled out and when that has been done there is that sigh of relief before starting on the next report. The completed form arrives at the state emergency management agency where it is logged in and added to the pile. In some cases the forms are submitted to the local (City or County) emergency management office where the forms are copied and then forwarded to the state. All too often all that this accomplishes is the taking up space and consumption of paper. This is not what was intended. So, just who does get the tier form and what do they do with it? The original intent of the law was that the local citizens could know what was being brought in to their community. This "community right to know' was, of course, the genesis of the Local Emergency Planning Committees" (LEPC) as well as the State Emergency Commissions (SERC).

The plan was that bodies would use the information contained in the Tier I and Tier II submissions to pre-plan for emergencies involving materials that were actually present in the various communities. Response equipment could be purchased and appropriate training provided.

The tier submissions would be a very useful tool indeed for local fire departments and other emergency response organizations if they were readily available, but all too often, in the past, they were not. In the event of a fire or other emergency occurrence at "Plant A" the tier submission would provide a complete listing of the hazardous materials which might be involved. This looks great on paper but in reality it all too often fails to work out that way. Tier submissions once received tend to be filed away never to see the light of day and retrieving the one that is needed at a particular moment would probably require a minor miracle. With the advent of Tier II Submit, the computerization and standardization of the Tier II reporting process offers a unique opportunity to convert this once time consuming and labor intensive system of filing reports which rarely see the light of day thereafter into a viable and valuable tool for emergency responders to use at the site of an incident involving hazardous materials. The opportunity is there, it will be up to the responders and the response organizations to take advantage of it.

New Years is the time when we all make resolutions, with the best of intentions to be sure, and while in reality most, if not all, of them are broken by the first of February. There are occasional exceptions. The review and updating of the Tier I and Tier reporting and distribution protocol in each local jurisdiction should be one of these.

?Since change is inevitable anyway, and in this case mandatory, why not take this opportunity to upgrade the handling of our Tier I and Tier II reports to the point where they actually become a functional tool for local responders and not merely a statistical data base for SERCs, LEPCs and the "feds"?

40 CFR Parts 355 and 370
263 FR 31268
3www.epa.gov/emergencies
4?NAICS was developed under the auspices of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and adopted in 1997 to replace the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. It was developed jointly by the U.S. Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC), Statistics Canada and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Geografia e Informatica , to allow for a high level of comparability in business statistics among the North American countries. The official 2007 U.S. NAICS Manual includes definitions for each industry, background information, tables showing changes between 2002 and 2007, and a comprehensive index. The official 2007 U.S. NAICS Manual is available in print and on CD_ROM from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at (800) 553-6847 or (703) 605-6000, or through the NTIS Web site. Previous versions of the NAICS Manual are available in print and on CD_ROM from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at (800) 553-6847 or (703) 605-6000, or through the NTIS Web site. Previous versions of the NAICS Manual are available.
540 CFR 355 and 370 for the complete text of the final rule.

 
 

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