(3/23/12) In today’s industry the use of hazardous chemicals is a routine part of the daily activities of local companies.
The safe use of these chemicals can be accomplished and in the vast majority of cases it is; but there is always a chance of an accidental release. Jackson County Emergency Management along with local partners is actively involved in the planning and preparation for such accidents. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was created in 1986 by Congress to initiate local emergency planning for accidental chemical releases. The EPCRA Program requires communities to prepare for hazardous chemical releases through emergency planning and by maintaining hazardous chemical information that is submitted to them by the facilities covered under the law. Facilities which store or use hazardous chemicals in certain quantities are required to report these quantities to the State of Wisconsin annually. The planning portion of the law requires local communities to develop preparedness plans for these potential accidental releases. These plans provide essential information for responders along with creating a database of stored chemicals. The community right to know portion increases the public’s awareness of chemical hazards in their community and assists in obtaining information about these hazards. Each Wisconsin county is designated as an emergency planning district and has a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) to administer the local program. LEPC membership includes local elected officials, members of emergency response agencies (fire, law enforcement, EMS, health, etc.), and representatives for transportation, public works, the media, community groups, environmental groups, and operators of affected facilities. LEPCs are responsible for receiving and maintaining filings of facility submissions. They also maintain a county-wide emergency response plan. The county-wide emergency response plan includes: the county hazard analysis summary, a list of facilities storing hazardous materials, identification of transportation routes for extremely hazardous substances (EHS), procedures for notification or releases, response to releases, procedures for sheltering and evacuation, and a schedule for training. LEPCs also develop and maintain facilities’ off-site emergency response plans and the county’s hazard analysis for both fixed facilities and transportation. LEPCs assess the county hazmat response resources and equipment, respond to public requests for information under “community right-to-know” law, and conduct hazmat training and exercises. Wisconsin has annual exercise requirements and the LEPC works to involve facilities, response agencies, and other local officials in the exercises.
There are more than 7,000 facilities in Wisconsin that plan and report use and/or storage of certain chemicals. Jackson County currently has 10 planning facilities along with 24 reporting facilities. Chemicals which may require planning and reporting include such things as Sulfuric Acid, Anhydrous Ammonia, and industrial cleaning agents among others. Depending on the quantity of the chemical on site the facility may also be required to have an off site emergency plan on file. These plans, which are reviewed and updated on a regular basis, are filed with the State of Wisconsin and a copy is also on file in the Emergency Management Office. These facilities are all in compliance with requirements and are continuing efforts to minimize the risk of a spill along with planning and preparedness measures in the event an accidental spill would occur. Those efforts along with the work of the LEPC and other emergency response personnel are vital parts of the process to keep the community informed and aware of potential hazards and of the safety measures in place.
Jackson County Emergency Management in cooperation with the LEPC continues efforts to make the public aware of the potential hazards around us along with the efforts of industry and emergency response agencies to minimize risks and prepare for accidents. This work requires both public and private sector involvement and has proven to be a success.