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Why a Hazardous Materials Program?

In 1984, a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas, an extremely toxic chemical, escaped from a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India. More than 2,500 people lost their lives. Tens of thousands more were injured, some suffering permanent disabilities.

As a result, in 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA), also known as SARA Title III. This law was enacted to help increase the public's knowledge and access to information on the presence of hazardous substances in their community.

The Act required each state to appoint a State Emergency Response Commission (Michigan's SERC is the Michigan Citizen Community Emergency Response Coordinating Council). Each SERC, in turn, divided its state into local emergency planning districts and appointed a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for each district. Oakland County is one of the 97 emergency planning districts in Michigan.

EPCRA has two important provisions:

1. Provides for emergency response planning to cope with the accidental release of toxic substances into the air, land and water.
2. Will help to increase the public's knowledge and access to information on the presence of hazardous substances in their communities, as well as information concerning the release of these substances into the environment.

Why should I be concerned about hazardous substances? 

Many aspects of modern technology involve the use of hazardous substances. While many of these materials provide great benefits, their use also involves risks. You have a right to know which of these hazardous substances are present in your community and what the known risks are. In addition, the fire and police departments in your community need information so that they are prepared for any emergency involving these hazardous substances.

As an example, suppose a facility that uses a hazardous substance is located near a residential area or a school. If an accidental spill occurs, there may be a danger to people near the facility. The Community Right-To-Know legislation ensures that emergency response personnel (such as the fire and police departments) have been trained regarding the potential dangers of the spilled material and are prepared to handle this emergency. The public has a right to know what substances the facility is using and if spills have occurred.

What is an extremely hazardous substance? 

In general, any substance that could cause serious physical and/or health effects if it were accidentally released is considered a hazardous substance. However, to enable communities to focus on substances and facilities of immediate concern (for purposes of emergency planning and response), the EPA has compiled a specific list of approximately 370 commonly encountered "Extremely Hazardous Substances."

Many of these substances are everyday items that might not be widely recognized as "extremely hazardous." A few examples from the list are given below, including some commonly used acids, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, preservatives, photographic chemicals and solvents. Some of these chemicals are found in many households!

Selected Examples of Extremely Hazardous Substances:
  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine (pool chemical)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hydroquinone (photo developer)
  • Paraquat (weed killer)
  • Sodium Hydroxide (drain cleaner)
  • Sulfuric Acid (car batteries)
  • Warfarin (rat poison)
Who has to report?

By law, all regulated facilities that manufacture, use, store or transport hazardous substances are required to keep track of them. Using these records, they will file the reports required by EPCRA.

Many businesses ranging from large chemical plants to small businesses, such as retail stores, ice rinks, telephone offices and wastewater treatment plants, handle hazardous substances in amounts that subject them to the reporting requirements of EPCRA. The Oakland County LEPC estimates that about 800 businesses in the County are covered by EPCRA.

What is being done? 

The Oakland County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) has been organized since 1988 and is actively carrying out its responsibilities under EPCRA.

Our LEPC includes individuals from the community with a variety of backgrounds. The Committee includes representatives of local government, environmental organizations, transportation, agriculture, human services, education, facility operators, public safety, organized labor and more. 

What information is being gathered and why? 

The LEPC maintains records of facilities that are required to file annual reports. This information includes location and emergency contacts and the quantity and location of hazardous substances stored. Site-specific emergency response plans for facilities with EHSs are developed and updated. This information is included in a comprehensive emergency management plan for the County.

How can I obtain information? 

The LEPC is also responsible for handling the public's requests for information about hazardous substances. In addition to fulfilling Oakland County's Right-To-Know needs, the LEPC will provide specific information regarding hazardous substances and information about local area emergency response capabilities.

For information, send a written request to:

Oakland County LEPC
c/o Oakland County Homeland Security Division 
1200 North Telegraph Road, Bldg 47W 
Pontiac, Michigan, USA, 48341-0410

Will it cost me any money? 

The information is intended for public use and may be viewed during normal business hours. Call 248.858.5300 for an appointment. There is an established charge for duplicating copies.

Meeting the requirements mandated by EPCRA is a responsibility shared by local community groups, businesses and local jurisdictions. Together we can work to effectively address concerns, provide information and plan for a safe future.