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CERCLA Section 103 - Release Notification


The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) provides for the cleanup of uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous-waste sites as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of hazardous substances.

CERCLA Section 101

Section 101 (8 pp, 1644 K, About PDF) Exitdefines terms used throughout CERCLA. Specifically, CERCLA section 101(14), as amended, defines "hazardous substance" by referencing other environmental statutes, including:

  • CWA sections 311 and 307(a);
  • CAA section 112;
  • RCRA section 3001; and
  • TSCA section 7.

Section 101(22) defines "release" as any "...spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, or disposing into the environment (including the abandonment or discarding of barrels, containers, and other closed receptacles containing any hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant) ..."

CERCLA Section 103 - Notification Requirements 

Section 103(a) (3 pp, 139 K, About PDF) Exit"as amended" requires that the person in charge of a vessel or an offshore or an onshore facility immediately notify the National Response Center Exit whenever a reportable quantity (RQ) or more of a CERCLA hazardous substance is released in any 24-hour period, unless the release is federally permitted. The purpose of this requirement is to notify officials of potentially dangerous releases so that they can evaluate the need for a response action. 

The list of hazardous substances and their reportable quantities are codified in 40 CFR part 302, Table 302.4Exit

The National Response Center can be reached at: 1-800-424-8802; in Washington, D.C.: 202-267-2675.

CERCLA Section 103(e) - FARM Act Amendments to CERCLA

The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act amended CERCLA section 103 to exempt reporting air emissions from animal waste (including decomposing animal waste) at farms. 

CERCLA Section 103(f) - Continuous Release Reporting Requirments 

Section 103(f)(2) of CERCLA modifies the general notification requirements of section 103(a) for certain releases.  Releases may be reported less frequently, if they are “continuous” and “stable in quantity and rate”.   For more information, see 40 CFR 302.8Exit

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In addition to release reporting requirements established under CERCLA, section 304 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requires the owner or operator of certain facilities to report releases of extremely hazardous substances and CERCLA hazardous substances to state and local entities.

Relevant Federal Register Notices 

  • April 4, 1985 (50 FR 13456) –  Notification Requirements; Reportable Quantity Adjustments; Final Rule.
  • September 29, 1986 (51 FR 34534) – Reportable Quantity Adjustments; Final Rule. 
  • May 24, 1989 (54 FR 22524) – Reportable Quantity Adjustments for Radionuclides; Final Rule.
  • May 24, 1989 (54 FR 22543) – Reportable Quantity Adjustments; Technical Amendment.
  • July 24, 1990 (55 FR 30166) – Reporting Continuous Releases of Hazardous Substances; Final Rule.
  • March 19, 1998 (63 FR 13460) – Administrative Reporting Exemptions for Certain Radionuclide Releases; Final Rule.
  • October 4, 2006 (71 FR 58525) – Administrative Reporting Exemption for Certain Air Releases of Nox (NO and NO2); Final Rule.
  • August 1, 2018 (83 FR 37444) - FARM Act Amendments to CERCLA Release Notification Requirements; Final Rule.

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