EPA's Region 6 Office
Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations
First, report oil and hazardous substance releases by calling the:
National Response Center
Second, contact the nearest Coast Guard or EPA Regional Office spill line, and
Third report spills to the state, tribal land, territory, or commonwealth where the spill occurred. Contact information by region is provided in this guide.
When an oil spill enters into or threatens any navigable waters in the United States, coordinated teams of local, state, and national personnel are called upon to help contain the spill, clean it up, and assure that damage to human health and the environment is minimized. Without careful planning and clear organization, efforts to deal with large oil spills could be slow, ineffective, and potentially harmful to response personnel and the environment.
The U.S. EPA has established requirements for reporting spills in navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. Specifically, 40 CFR §110.10 requires facilities to report discharges of oil in quantities that may be harmful to public health or welfare or the environment. EPA has determined that discharges of oil in quantities that may be harmful include those that:
Violate applicable water quality standards;
Cause a film or "sheen" upon or discoloration of the surface of the water or adjoining shorelines; or
Cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shorelines.
Any person in charge of a vessel or onshore or offshore facility should notify the National Response Center (NRC) at (800) 424-8802 as soon as he or she has knowledge of a discharge from a vessel or facility. Spills or releases of oil which reach navigable waters or adjoining shorelines (including storm drains) or land areas which may threaten waterways must always be reported to the NRC.
For example, during a routine facility inspection, maintenance personnel at a facility discover that a drainage valve in a containment area has been left open and gasoline has leaked from a faulty fuel pump into the containment area. In this scenario, it is possible that gasoline has been released from the containment area and discharged into a nearby storm drain, creek, or dry ditch. If the facility has received any precipitation, then the probability of a discharge is high. In both cases, the NRC should be notified immediately.
Facilities should also be aware of state, tribal and local requirements for spill reporting. For example, there may be a requirement to report all spills meeting certain quantity thresholds even if the spill does not leave a contained area.
Reporting to the National Response Center
When you contact the National Response Center, the staff person will ask you for the following information:
- Your name, location, organization, and telephone number.
- Name and address of the party responsible for the incident.
- Date and time of the incident.
- Location of the incident.
- Source and cause of the release or spill.
- Types of material(s) released or spilled.
- Quantity of materials released or spilled.
- Danger or threat posed by the release or spill.
- Number and types of injuries (if any).
- Weather conditions at the incident location.
- Any other information that may help emergency personnel respond to the incident.
The first and most immediate response is that of the facility. For this reason, the facility's equipment and the quantity, operation, and location of its response equipment and supplies are all critical to effective oil recovery.
SPCC/FRP Regulated Facilities (or Substantial
Within the SPCC-regulated community, facilities that may cause substantial harm to the environment or exclusive economic zone based on the quantity and location of their oil storage are required to prepare Facility Response Plans (FRPs) in accordance with 40 CFR 112.20 and 112.21 to ensure that these facilities have the capability to respond to worst case scenario discharges. FRPs greatly assist the facility and response agencies to expedite and coordinate cleanup efforts.
Other SPCC Regulated Facilities
It is recommended that all other facilities in the SPCC-regulated community be prepared to respond to a spill by identifying control and response measures in their SPCC Plans. Every facility should have appropriate spill response equipment available and easily accessible. The best place to keep spill kits is in a cabinet or locker near the tanker car and truck loading/ unloading racks and the storage tanks. Absorbent pads and booms, disposal containers or bags, shovels, an emergency response guidebook, and a fire extinguisher are essential components of a spill kit. Portable pumps are also a good investment. It is also recommended that facilities coordinate with local responders, other nearby facilities, and contractors before a spill occurs so that response is accomplished most efficiently.
Facility personnel, including seasonal employees, must be educated and trained in spill response, notification, and oil recovery. By being prepared to respond, the impact of a discharge on human health or the environment may be minimized and cleanup costs and fines resulting from improper notification or response reduced.
In the event of an oil spill, the facility response plan is immediately activated. Depending on the nature of the spill, local, area, regional, or national plans may also be activated. The OSC will activate these plans if the facility is not equipped or capable of handling the response.
OSCs from the U.S. EPA or U.S. Coast Guard are responsible for determining the human and equipment resources required to respond to a spill based on his or her assessment of the magnitude of the spill. The OSC is responsible for coordinating federal efforts with local, state, and regional response communities. Small spills may be cleaned up by the facility (or responsible party) or local response agencies while larger spills may require regional response efforts. In either case, the OSC is required to oversee and monitor the spill response to make sure that all appropriate actions to prevent threats to human health or the environment are taken. If chemical agents are being considered, OSC and RRT approval for their use may be necessary. However, if a facility is handling a smaller spill adequately, the OSC may not go to the site.
The OSC, response teams, and a network of experienced agencies will decide on the most effective method of cleanup. These agencies must coordinate cleanup efforts carefully and efficiently to protect response personnel, recreational areas, drinking water reservoirs, and wildlife from the potentially catastrophic effects of an oil spill.
Oil products can be grouped by type: petroleum products, both crude and refined; vegetable oils and animal fats, edible and unrefined; and other nonpetroleum oils. Refined petroleum products differ in their physical and chemical characteristics and thus have different levels of persistence in the environment. The most common refined petroleum products and their characteristics are as follows:
Gasoline: a lightweight substance that flows easily, spreads quickly, and evaporates readily under temperate conditions. Gasoline is highly volatile and flammable so it poses a risk of fire and explosion. It is more toxic than crude oil.
Kerosene: a lightweight substance that flows easily, spreads rapidly, and evaporates quickly. Kerosene is easily dispersed, but is relatively persistent in the environment.
No. 2 Fuel Oil: a lightweight substance that flows easily, spreads rapidly, and is easily dispersed. It is neither volatile nor likely to form emulsions. This oil is relatively nonpersistent in the environment.
No. 4 Fuel Oil: a medium weight substance that flows easily and is readily dispersed if treated promptly. It has a low volatility and moderate flash point. This fuel oil is fairly persistent in the environment.
No. 5 Fuel Oil (Bunker B): a medium to heavyweight substance, having a low volatility and moderate flash point. Preheating may be required in cold climates. Dispersion is very difficult (maybe impossible).
No. 6 Fuel Oil (Bunker C): a heavyweight substance that is difficult to pump and requires preheating for use. This oil may be heavier than water; it is not likely to dissolve, and is likely to form tar balls, lumps, and emulsions. It is difficult or impossible to disperse. It has a low volatility and moderate flash point.
Lubricating Oil: a medium weight substance that flows easily and is easily dispersed if treated promptly. This oil has a low volatility and moderate flash point, but is fairly persistent in the environment.
Vegetable oil and animal fats have similar physical properties and fall within the general range of behaviors of petroleum oils in the environment. Vegetable oils and animal fats are generally solids in water at ambient temperatures. One difference is that most vegetable oils and animal fats have low volatility as compared to petroleum oil. This results in less product removed from a spill by evaporation and reduces the combustion and explosive potential of these oils. Other nonpetroleum oils also fall within the general behavior of petroleum oil when spilled into the environment.
Selecting the best method, or combination of methods, for recovering oil after a spill is based on several factors. The type and amount of oil spilled and the water body are the most important considerations. The mechanisms most frequently employed to control oil spills and minimize their impact on human health and the environment fall into four broad categories: (1) mechanical containment or recovery includes booms, barriers, skimmers, and sorbent materials; (2) chemical and biological methods include dispersants, gelling agents, and biological agents; (3) physical methods include wiping, pressure washing, raking, and bulldozing, also scare tactics, such as floating dummies, to keep birds away from a spill area; and (4) natural processes, which include evaporation, oxidation, and biodegradation.
In addition to causing threats to human health when an oil spill (petroleum,
vegetable oils, animal fats or nonpetroleum oil) occurs, significant environmental
harm can occur as a result of the following: physical effects such as
coating with oil, suffocation, contamination of eggs and destruction of
food and habitat, short and long term toxic effects, pollution and shutdown
of drinking water supplies, rancid smells, and fouling of beaches and
recreational areas. Without immediate human intervention, many distressed
birds and animals have no chance of survival, and only trained personnel
are capable of wildlife rehabilitation activities. Birds and marine mammals
affected by a spill are taken to treatment centers or temporary facilities
for medical treatment and cleaning. These measures are not always effective
and there are often losses due to an oil spill. The best approach to avoiding
oil spills is a strong prevention program that includes adequate training
of personnel in the operation of a facility, including equipment inspection
and health and safety training, and knowledge of what steps to take when
a spill occurs.
|EPA Spill Lines||State/Tribal Land/Territory/Commonwealth Notification Contacts|
|EPA Region 1
Department of Environmental Protection
Oil & Chemical Emergency Response (860)424-3338
|EPA Region 2
New Jersey Dept. Of Environmental Protection
U.S. Virgin Islands
|EPA Region 3
Emergency Management Agency
Business Hours (302) 834-4531
Nonbusiness Hours (302) 739-5851
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
Department of Environmental Services
|EPA Region 4
Department of Environmental Management
In State (800) 843-0699
Business Hours (334) 260-2700
|EPA Region 5
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
In State (800) 782-7860
Out of State (217) 782-7860
Wisconsin (800) 943-0003
|EPA Region 6
24 Hours (501) 730-9750
|EPA Region 7
Emergency Response Commission
|EPA Region 8
Department of Public Health and Environment
24 Hours (303) 756-4455
|EPA Region 9
San Francisco, California
American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency
Northern Mariana Islands
|EPA Region 10
Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Nonbusiness Hours (800) 478-9300
Anchorage (907) 269-7500
Fairbanks (907) 269-7500
Juneau (907) 465-5340