Department of Health Seal

TGM for the Implementation of the Hawai'i State Contingency Plan
Section 2.3
EMERGENCY RESPONSE

2.3 EMERGENCY RESPONSE

The HEER Office EP&R is responsible for planning, preparing for, and responding to hazardous substance releases that may cause immediate and substantial threats to human health or the environment. The EP&R Section has authority given in the Environmental Response Law (HRS 128D) and the State Contingency Plan (HAR 11-451) to provide for or coordinate timely and effective hazardous substance release response. Emergency preparedness training exercises for emergency response actions are also a primary focus of the HEER Office EP&R Section. The EP&R Section works closely with individual county hazmat, fire, and police personnel as well as other federal, state, and county agencies to help strengthen the state's ability to respond to hazardous substance release emergencies.

The EP&R staff cover calls related to hazardous substance releases 24 hours a day, and initiate actions to provide appropriate state resources for emergency response actions. The EP&R staff can be contacted at the numbers below:

Telephone (Business Hours): (808) 586-4249
Telephone (After Hours): (808) 247-2191
Facsimile: ((808) 586-7537

This may involve referrals and support to county, state and federal agencies involved in emergency response actions, as well as assignments to a private contractor to assist in emergency response cleanups.

An emergency situation exists if there is a release, or threat of a release, of a hazardous substance that may pose an imminent and substantial danger to human health and the environment. Most commonly, the HEER Office and/or County Hazmat/Fire Department will determine if an emergency situation exists; however, in some cases, such as sites under federal jurisdiction, other agencies (e.g., U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Defense) will make the determination that an emergency exists.

County first responders may transfer a site to the HEER Office EP&R Section after the emergency situation is stabilized, if necessary for further evaluation and action.

Due to the nature of emergency responses and importance of expedient actions, procedures for handling these releases are quite different from procedures used for non-emergency environmental cleanups (see Section 2.4). Emergency response implies immediate evaluation and appropriate action (including Removal Action); sufficient time is typically not available to allow for detailed site assessment activities, multiple site reports, and public participation activities generally conducted for non-emergency environmental cleanups.

EP&R staff may issue responsible parties (or potentially responsible parties) for hazardous substance releases one or more of several types of letters as part of the response process to help ensure appropriate cleanup is accomplished, necessary reports are provided, and/or to establish responsibility for cost recovery of state resources expended in the cleanup. These letters include:

  • Failure to Notify - for a reportable quantity release
  • Notice of Interest in a Release or Threatened Release - used to request follow-up information or action on a specific site.
  • Notice of Improper Response Action in a Release or Threatened Release - used to inform responsible party that appropriate action has not yet been completed, and to request action be completed.
  • Notice of Undertaking in a Release or Threatened Release - used to inform the responsible party the state is conducting or involved in the response action due to the urgency of the situation or lack of previous appropriate response, and as applicable, cost recovery for the state's actions will be sought.

In some cases, the potentially responsible party may already be conducting an emergency response at the time of release notification. In some cases the emergency response cleanup is performed without delay, perhaps at state expense, and details of responsibility and cost reimbursement are worked out after the incident has been appropriately handled or stabilized.

A "Removal Action Report" (RAR) is typically required to document the emergency response cleanup at a site. The RAR may require confirmation sampling to demonstrate that the actions taken were responsive to the emergency condition(s) and there is no longer an immediate danger to human health or the environment (see Sections 14 and 18 for more information on Removal Actions and report contents, respectively).

If the emergency response can be shown to have addressed all threats posed by the hazardous substance release, then EP&R may make a "No Further Action" determination for the entire release. However, if the emergency response has addressed only the immediate threats posed by the release and significant long-term threats may remain at the site, EP&R would make an "emergency response resolved" determination and transfer oversight of the release to the Site Discovery, Assessment, and Remediation Section (SDAR) Section for a non-emergency environmental cleanup (see Section 2.4 below). This includes identifying and transferring all documentation and reports generated by the release, and providing rationale for the transfer of oversight.

2.3.1 Emergency Response Actions

Specific actions that must be taken during an emergency response are outlined in this section. Emergency response is activated when there is a release or threat of release that may pose an immediate threat of exposure to hazardous substances. These are generally recent spills/releases of hazardous substances, or the discovery of abandoned containers of suspected hazardous substances that may have leaked or have the potential to leak into the environment. The EP&R Section staff has oversight for emergency response actions.

The following are examples of hazardous substance releases or threats of release requiring emergency response

  • Release notification
  • Discovery and report of abandoned drums of suspected hazardous materials
  • A potential public health threat, such as a report of people being sickened or affected by exposure to noxious fumes or contaminants, whether or not the source has been identified
  • A hazardous substance reported to be spilled/released as a result of operator error during transfer (e.g., oil product)
  • Hazardous substances observed being improperly disposed into the soil
  • A report of a hazardous substance release to the environment due to an equipment malfunction at an industrial or commercial facility
  • Abandoned gas cylinder (unlabelled) washing ashore

Hazardous substance release notification requirements mandated under the Hawai`i Environmental Response Law (HRS 128D) and the Hawai`i SCP are intended to ensure discovery of recent hazardous substance releases into the environment, and to initiate emergency responses, as appropriate, to prevent exposures to hazardous substances that could be harmful.

2.3.1.1 Release Notification

Immediate notification to the HEER Office, your County Fire Department, your local County Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and the National Response Center (NRC) is required by the Hawai`i SCP if spills or releases of hazardous substances exceed a threshold quantity referred to as the "reportable quantity" (see Appendix 2A, Appendix 2B, Appendix 2C, and Appendix 2D).

Failure to report a hazardous substance release exceeding the applicable reportable quantity to the HEER Office immediately upon knowledge of the release may result in a civil penalty in an amount up to $10,000 for each day of failure to report (HRS 128D-3c).

The purpose of the notification (and penalty for not reporting) is to ensure quick evaluation of the release by local, state, or federal government personnel, and to determine appropriate response actions. Evaluating these releases often involves the collaboration of local and state government emergency response personnel, with the federal government providing support as requested. Releases discovered through notification are typically recent hazardous substance releases. All notifications are evaluated by the EP&R of the HEER Office to determine if response action is warranted.

2.3.1.2 When and How to Notify on Releases of Hazardous Substances

Any person in charge of a facility or vessel is required to phone the HEER Office, their local Fire Department, their County Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the National Response Center (NRC) immediately to notify them regarding a hazardous substance release that is equal to or exceeds the reportable quantity criteria (see section 2.3.1.3) in any 24-hour period. However, notification to NRC is not required for releases of oil or for releases of trichloropropane, which are not Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substances. For releases of oil and trichloropropane, only the Hawai`i state/county reporting requirements apply. Phone and addresses for the agency contacts are provided in Appendix 2A.

When you provide initial notice of a hazardous substance release, specific information is requested to help those evaluating the release identify:

  • Chemical information
  • Incident information
  • Contact informatioHealth information

A list of the information requested in the initial (immediate) phone notices of hazardous substance releases is provided in Appendix 2B.

A written follow-up notice regarding the release is also required to be sent to the state/county contacts noted above, postmarked no later than 30 days after initial discovery of the release. A written follow-up report is not required to be sent to the NRC. The information request form in Appendix 2B can be used to provide the written follow-up notice.

2.3.1.3 Reportable Quantities of Hazardous Substances

Sources that list many hazardous substances and their corresponding reportable quantities are provided in the Hawai`i SCP. Most of these sources were last updated in July 1993. The reportable quantities list [numerical order by Chemical Abstract Number (CAS)] can be found in Appendix 2C, while Appendix 2D presents an alphabetical list by chemical name).

Oil is considered a hazardous substance in the Hawai`i rules, but has some more specific criteria for notification:

  • Any amount of oil causing a sheen to appear on surface water or any navigable water of the State (sheens resulting from discharge of oil from a properly functioning vessel engine are exempt)
  • Any free product that appears on groundwater
  • Any amount of oil greater than 25 gallons released to the environment
  • Any amount of oil less than 25 gallons released to the environment and not contained and remediated within 72 hours.

Note: Incidental drips of oil/fuel from properly maintained vehicles and oil-containing equipment would not require release notification. Also see exemptions listed in Subsection 2.3.1.6.

2.3.1.4 Releases of Mixtures or Solutions of Hazardous Substances

Notification for releases of mixtures or solutions containing a hazardous substance or substances are required only when a component hazardous substance of the mixture or solution is released in a quantity equal to or greater than its reportable quantity. However, if the exact concentration of all the hazardous substance components in the mixture or solution is not known, notification is required if the entire amount of the mixture or solution released equals or exceeds the reportable quantity of any of the hazardous substances it contains.

2.3.1.5 Releases of Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste may also be considered a hazardous substance if it exhibits any of the characteristics of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity (include these terms in definitions). Notification for hazardous waste release is required as follows:

  • Hazardous waste does not exhibit toxicity characteristics when tested with the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) test, but exhibits ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity characteristics: reportable quantity is 100 pounds.
  • Hazardous waste does exhibit toxicity characteristics in the TCLP test: reportable quantities are listed in Appendices 2-C or 2-D.
  • Hazardous waste exhibits toxicity characteristics of more than one hazardous substance in the TCLP test: reportable quantity is the lowest quantity listed in Appendices 2-C or 2-D, for those hazardous substances on which the toxicity characteristic is based.
  • Hazardous waste exhibits toxicity characteristics and the waste has one or more of the other hazard characteristics (ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity): reportable quantity will be the lowest of the applicable reportable quantities (the reportable quantity for hazardous waste exhibiting ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity characteristics is 100 pounds)..

Note: The reportable quantities for hazardous waste described above apply to the weight of the entire amount of waste material released, not just to the hazardous substance component of the waste.

The EPA has determined that some specific wastes are hazardous by definition. These wastes are incorporated into lists published by the EPA. Listed hazardous wastes are organized into three categories:

  • The F-list (non-specific source wastes). This list identifies wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes, such as solvents that have been used in cleaning or degreasing operations.
  • The K-list (source-specific wastes). This list includes certain wastes from specific industries, such as petroleum refining or pesticide manufacturing.
  • The P-list and the U-list (discarded commercial chemical products). These lists include specific commercial chemical products in an unused form.

All listed wastes (codes F, K, U, and P) are considered hazardous wastes.

2.3.1.6 Exemptions for Release Notification

The following types of releases are exempt from notification:

  • Releases of hazardous substances from bituminous pavement, landscaping materials, or building materials that are in good repair and serving their original intended use
  • Releases of gasoline or diesel fuel that result from the rupture of the fuel tank of a passenger vehicle as a result of an accident
  • Sheens resulting from discharges of oil from a properly functioning vessel engine
  • Releases of radionuclides regulated by United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA))
  • Releases of hazardous substances that are discharged or emitted from an outfall, stack, or other point source, or as fugitive emissions, if regulated under a valid permit, license, or approval, and/or operating under a valid registration, order, or guideline issued under a federal or state statute or regulation (unless the release exceeds the permitted/allowed amount or may pose a substantial endangerment to public health or the environment).