Sewage spill vs. hazardous substance release

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, April 5, 2007 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Assemblymembers Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank) have introduced AB 800, Discharge Notification of Hazardous Substances, Sewage, or Other Waste.  This change in law would put a sewage spill in the same class as a hazardous substance release.   

Current law only requires that the person responsible for a discharge immediately notify one agency.   The trained professional(s) in that agency (generally the Office of Emergency Services) makes the determination if the spill is a significant risk and contacts the other appropriate agencies.  In this bill, the person responsible for the spill makes that determination and must contact all of the designated agencies within two hours of knowing of the discharge.   

Notification deadlines in emergency situations can be a problem.  Spills occurring at 3 a.m. are as likely as during daylight hours.  Companies may need to deal first with the safety of employees and neighbors or environmental containment issues.  After the company’s initially and immediate notification to the local responding agency, additional calls should be made on a priority basis, depending on additional resources needed.  

Presently, the responding agency (usually the Office of Emergency Services) has a trained professional qualified to determine the public risk making the decision on who needs to be involved. If AB 800 is enacted, agencies will be burdened with far more calls than they get at the present time and many of those may be needless as companies err on the side of caution.  

In addition, AB 800, would significantly increase penalties from a maximum of $1,000 to $20,000 for failing to notify specified agencies.  This penalty is excessive, given that no company wants to have a spill or release of any kind.

AB 800 will also require that the State Water Resources Control Board to establish reportable quantities for substances listed as hazardous waste or hazardous material and for quantities of sewage.  Reportable quantities have been established for some compounds but not all of them.
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