Hazardous materials may be considered generally as those substances in a quantity and form which, if released, can be harmful to life, property or the environment. The range of materials encompassed by this definition includes explosives, flammable and combustible liquids and solids, poisons, oxidizing or corrosive materials and compressed gases. Of particular concern is the potential harm to life posed by hazardous chemicals.
In recent years, hazardous material spills have caused or threatened to cause serious problems to the environment of Louisville and Jefferson County. New hazardous substances are continuously being developed and each year larger volumes are produced and transported through the community. In response to this, Louisville and Jefferson County have adopted an ordinance to prevent serious harm to the environment and reduce the likelihood of a problem from a hazardous material spill.
The ordinance requires that businesses which have hazardous materials on site must submit a plan for each business site as to how they will respond in the event of a spill of that hazardous material. A Hazardous Material Spill Prevention Control (HMPC) Plan must be submitted by any business which manufactures, uses or stores hazardous materials in minimum designated quantities at their business location. Hazardous materials shall include those contained in the most recent version of 40 CFR 302.4. Hazardous materials shall not include household wastes and other materials excluded by 40 CFR 261.4.
For businesses which have certain minimum quantities of hazardous materials on their business site, an HMPC Plan must be submitted to MSD. Businesses which must submit plans are generally defined by a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code in the ordinance.
Examples of businesses which are expected to submit plans include gas stations, manufacturing facilities, hospitals and medical laboratories, cleaning establishments, pest exterminators and state and local government offices that handle hazardous materials.
Businesses that fall into the designated SIC groups which do not have a hazardous material on site may request an exemption from the submission of an HMPC Plan by completing an exemption form. The ordinance specifically exempts residents who have hazardous materials on site for their own personal use, consumer product and food stuff manufacturers who are covered under food and drug act, agriculture operations which are handling chemicals only for purposes of their application on a farm and instances where hazardous materials do not exceed reportable quantities and the administrating agency sees no danger to public health.
For those businesses that do have to submit a HMPC Plan, they will be contacted by letter by MSD concerning the schedule for submission. Businesses which believe they should be exempt from a submission will need to submit an exemption form as described in the letter they will be receiving. Nearly 5,000 businesses in the community have received a letter to date.
The HMPC Plan is to be submitted on forms which will be provided by MSD. Once submission has occurred, a joint review will be conducted by MSD and the Fire Department that has jurisdiction in the area of the business. Plans that are considered to be deficient will be returned to the business for correction and resubmission.
Once approved, businesses will be responsible for implementing their plan including initiation of a training program for employees within their business. If there are any changes in the plan that occur, businesses must give prompt notice of these changes to the administering agency. Businesses which have confidential information will be able to follow special procedures in submitting their HMPC Plan to guarantee that confidentiality will be retained.
A major emphasis of the ordinance is that spills that occur by businesses be promptly reported to the "911" emergency number. In the event of a failure to provide such notification, a fine of up to $5,000 may be levied. The ordinance also provides for penalties of up to $1,000 which may be levied in the event of a spill occurring due to negligence or because of previous spill occurrences by the same business. The purpose of these fines is to emphasize again the importance of protecting the environment and surrounding residents from potential harm from hazardous material spills.
An Appeals Board has been created to allow businesses to appeal if they disagree with either the agency interpretation of the adequacy of an HMPC Plan submission or want to challenge a fine or penalty which has been levied. The Appeals Board will be made up of representatives from industry, regulatory agencies and the general public. The Appeals Board will hear cases and make recommendations to MSD for final action. Each year MSD produces the Hazardous Materials Ordinance Appeals and Overseers Board Annual Report which is a written account of the year's activities.
Hazardous chemical incidents can range in magnitude from very minor spills causing no adverse health affects to major incidents with the potential to affect hundreds of people. The purpose of this ordinance is to emphasize the responsibilities of those businesses which handle hazardous materials in protecting the environment from adverse damage. The ordinance is a continuing effort by local government to improve the environment of Louisville and Jefferson County.