Overview of Spill Regulations in the state of Texas

No matter what companies try to do to avoid chemical spills, unforeseen factors will lead to accidental releases of chemicals or materials into the environment.  The Federal and state governments have many rules regarding how spills of hazardous and non-hazardous materials should be handled.  In the state of Texas, the regulations for spills and required actions are described in 30 TAC Chapter 327 and 30 TAC Chapter 327.5 respectively.

These laws require that areas impacted by a spill must be restored to prerelease conditions, meaning the spilled material must be completely removed by methods that can include excavating impacted soil and bringing in clean soil and grass to replace it.  If a spill cleanup will take more than 180 days, the project must follow the requirements specified by the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP) in 30 TAC Chapter 350.

The person or company responsible for the required cleanup of spills include but are not limited to the owner or operator of the facility, truck, train or vessel that released the material into the environment.  If the responsible party of a spill is deemed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to be unwilling or unable to adequately respond, the TCEQ will utilize state funds to take over the cleanup operation and ensure completion.  Although the state pays for the cleanup in these cases, the Texas Water Code 26.266 gives the TCEQ the mandate to seek reimbursement from the responsible party as well as administrative and legal fees.  The TCEQ may also file criminal charges against the responsible party for lack of responsive action or unsatisfactory cleanup.

Along with being financially liable for a spill cleanup, the responsible party must complete the proper reporting regarding the corrective actions taken.  The TCEQ has established reportable quantities of various chemicals and materials for spills onto land or water and if the material spilled meets or exceeds these quantities, the responsible party must notify the TCEQ.  Although reporting spills under the reportable quantity may not be required, it’s a good idea for the responsible party to notify the TCEQ anyway in case the impacted area is contaminated from a previous spill that wasn’t reported. Regardless of the quantity of spilled material it still must be cleaned up to the state or property owner’s satisfaction.

If a spill is large enough to require reporting, the responsible party has thirty days to send a follow-up report to the TCEQ.  This report must explain in detail the response actions taken including the extent of contamination, the response chronology, any injuries or fatalities, weather conditions and what wastes were generated and how and where the wastes were  disposed of.  If work on the spill is still ongoing by the thirty day mark, the responsible party may request an extension for up to six months from the date of the spill to complete cleanup activities.  The request must include reasons for the request and the projected work schedule.  Once the request is submitted, the responsible party must follow the work schedule unless instructed otherwise by the TCEQ Regional Director with authority over the area where the spill occurred.

There are many other actions that need to be taken when an accidental discharge into the environment occurs.  That’s why Protect Environmental has the trained staff and equipment needed to help a responsible party follow complicated state and federal regulations and ensure they don’t face potentially severe civil and criminal penalties. Protect’s experience allows the customer to know the rules will be followed and the costs will as low as possible.

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