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Spills onto concrete floors inside a building

A facility has a spill of an extremely hazardous substance (EHS) in an amount greater than its reportable quantity (RQ).  The spill occurs on a concrete floor that is inside a facility building.  Before the spill can be cleaned up, a portion (less than RQ) of the EHS enters the outside atmosphere through the window.  Persons in off-site buildings report smelling the chemical.  Does the facility owner/operator have a reporting requirement under EPCRA, section 304?

No. The reporting requirements codified at 40 CFR §355.30 apply when there is a "... release of a reportable quantity of any extremely hazardous substance or CERCLA hazardous substance."  The definition of release further stipulates that the release must occur "...into the environment..." [40 CFR §355.61].  In this case, reporting is not required even though persons off-site are being affected by the spill because an RQ of material was not released "into the environment."

To determine if reporting is required under EPCRA section 304 for a spill of an EHS or CERCLA hazardous substance, first determine if an RQ of material has entered "into the environment" (as the phrase is understood under CERCLA).  If an RQ has entered "into the environment", then there has been a release.  A release must be reported unless a specific exemption from reporting applies [such as the exemption for releases affecting"....persons solely within the boundaries of the facility." 40 CFR §355.31].