A 2021 Refresher on Tier IIs

Published On: November 19, 2020

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) guides August Mack through the Tier II reporting season at the beginning of each new year. EPCRA was passed by Congress in 1986 in response to environmental concerns about the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. President Reagan signed EPCRA into law, and it has since then played an active role in emergency response preparedness. EPCRA is meant to provide the public with access to important chemical information, improve chemical safety, and protect the environment.

EPRCA was the result of public concern triggered by two specific industrial accidents.

The first can be traced to Bhopal, India on the morning of December 3, 1984. Union Carbide, a pesticide plant in a small village south of Bhopal, failed to contain leaking gas, resulting in an irreversible and deadly accident. The plant leaked approximately 30 tons of a lethal gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), into the air. There were six safety systems in place at Union Carbide to prevent such an accident, but tragically, none of them were operational. Half a million people were exposed to the gas as the wind blew toward the populated city. It killed 25,000 people and injured more than 150,000, most of whom are still suffering from their injuries today.

The Union Carbide plant was not active in the early 1980s. The market for pesticides was on the decline so there was no production at the time. It was a grave mistake to assume there would be no risk of a chemical spill. An MIC tank exploded due to a sudden onslaught of water into the tank, a result of rusted pipe and ineffective stopcocks. There was a vent gas scrubber that was turned off, a water curtain that did not reach the leaking gas, a freon refrigeration system that was shut down, and a flare tower that was inoperable due to maintenance. If these operations had not been neglected, perhaps the catastrophe would have never occurred. To this day, the spill site has not been thoroughly cleaned. The groundwater has tested positive for high levels of toxic chemicals such as mercury and trichloroethene.

The second incident that sparked unease in the 1980s was the release of a chemical derived from MIC, aldicarb oxime. Union Carbide was the source of the release, but this time, the plant was in Institute, West Virginia. 130 people were hospitalized due to the release, complaining of symptoms such as vomiting and breathing problems. Union Carbide had safety features in place during the accident; however, just as in Bhopal, the measures failed when they were needed most.

After these two serious incidents, chemical safety became a great concern to the public. Thus, EPCRA was born. EPCRA is the reason August Mack dedicates so much time and effort to Tier II reports. They are crucial factors in the protection of human health and wellbeing. August Mack has a dedicated team of environmental and safety professionals that will ensure all clients are up to date on their chemical safety.

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