How do I report chemical spills, emergencies, and accidents?

Reporting environmental emergencies only takes a few minutes. You are required to contact:

  1. Local emergency personnel by calling 911 immediately, if appropriate.
  2. The National Response Center (NRC) at 1-800-424-8802 or report your situation online. The NRC, which is staffed 24 hours a day by U.S. Coast Guard personnel, has federal jurisdiction of all chemical and oil spills. If an extremely hazardous substance is spilled or released, you must also contact the state emergency response commission (SERC) or the local emergency planning committee (LEPC). To identify the appropriate SERC or LERC, call the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Hotline at 1-800-535-0202. The NRC may also make this call for you. Approximately 360 substances are considered “extremely hazardous”, as listed in 40 CFR Part 355.
  3. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Emergency Response Program (ERP) by calling the statewide number at 1-800-541-2050 or the ERP Manager in your region. DEP prefers that the regional ERP Manager be notified if possible.

Spilled materials are generally cleaned up with absorbent materials and the absorbent materials are then disposed as hazardous waste. It is illegal to flush spilled materials into a storm sewer, roadside ditch, or other Commonwealth waters. While certain spilled materials can be neutralized (e.g., acids), because they may still contain other contaminants, DEP must be consulted prior to flushing any neutralized spilled materials.

How do I know if I should contact the National Response Center?

You are required to notify the National Response Center (NRC) if:

  • The quantity of spilled material is in excess of established reportable quantities (RQs). RQs range from 1 pound for some extremely hazardous substances to 5,000 pounds for less hazardous materials.
  • A sheen on water resulted from an oil spill.

For additional information on reporting requirements, contact the NRC. There are also a small number of exemptions from reporting.

How do I know if I should contact the Department of Environmental Protection?

You are required to notify the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) if:

  • The pollutant, no matter what quantity, is discharged to surface or groundwater.
  • The quantity of spilled material is in excess of established RQs. DEP indicates that a conservative assumption is to contact them if the spill of hazardous material is above 5 gallons.
  • The pollutant is released from an underground or aboveground storage tank.

DEP also encourages voluntary reporting in the following situations:

  • The spill of hazardous material or petroleum is in excess of 5 gallons.
  • The air pollution release may be toxic or the smoke may cause a public nuisance.
  • The incident involved illegal or improper disposal of any material.