Don't Waste Arizona, Inc.

A non-profit environmental organization created for the protection, conservation, and preservation of the human and natural environment in and around Phoenix, and the state of Arizona.



Chemical Spill Emergency Plan

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Don't Waste Arizona Enforcing EPCRA Against Hickman's Egg Ranch


On September 29, 2016, Don’t Waste Arizona, on behalf of its affected members in Tonopah and Arlington, AZ, filed suit in federal district court against Hickman’s Family Farms for failure to provide a written follow up report required under EPCRA, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, for the massive daily ammonia releases at the Hickman’s facilities in Arlington and Tonopah. People in those affected communities are complaining of adverse health effects from Hickman’s emissions and pollution. Don’t Waste Arizona has conducted extensive EPCRA enforcement, and this is it’s first enforcement action in almost twenty years. It is a serious situation in western Maricopa County.

What is the Written Follow Up Report Required by EPCRA?

EPCRA, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986, is designed to put critical information to the public and emergency response agencies about releases of dangerous amounts of certain extremely hazardous substances.

Emergency Release Notification (Section 304, 42 U.S.C. § 11004)

The RQ (Reportable Quantity) is the critical number that determines if a release of certain dangerous chemicals designated as Extremely Hazardous Substances under EPCRA must be reported. (For ammonia, the amount is 100 pounds.) If the amount of a chemical released to the environment exceeds the reportable quantity in a 24-hour period, the facility having the release must immediately report the release to the appropriate local emergency planning committee (LEPC) and state emergency response commission (SERC), and then must provide a written follow-up as soon as practicable. Immediate notification must include the following:

  • The name of the chemical;
  • The location of the release;
  • Whether the chemical is on the "extremely hazardous" list;
  • How much of the substance has been released;
  • The time and duration of the incident;
  • Whether the chemical was released into the air, water, or soil, or some combination of the three;
  • Known or anticipated health risks and necessary medical attention;
  • Proper precautions, such as evacuation; and
  • A contact person at the facility.

In addition to immediate notification, facilities are required to provide a follow-up report, in writing, "update(ing) the original notification, provid(ing) additional information on response actions taken, known or anticipated health risks, and, if appropriate, advice regarding any medical care needed by exposure victims." Failure to notify the proper authorities may result in civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each day of noncompliance and criminal penalties of up to $37,500 in fines and prison sentences of up to two years. The public has a right to know this information, and when an LEPC or SERC (state emergency response commission) has a written follow up report from a facility, the report must be immediately provided to the public upon request.

The citizen suit provision of EPCRA allows for a civil action against a facility for failing to provide a written follow up notice for releases. This lawsuit is such a suit. The lawsuit alleges Hickman’s facilities release thousands of pounds of ammonia every day. The notification and written follow up report are parts of the emergency response notification process when a release of extremely hazardous substances has occurred, in short, when a chemical spill emergency has happened.

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