By Elizabeth Dickinson,
J.D. BLR Legal Editor
What it IS
“Contingency plan” is the term used by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to describe a particular RCRA-required document that sets out how hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) and large quantity generators (LQGs) of hazardous waste will respond to an emergency at their facilities.
A RCRA contingency plan establishes the procedures that must be taken under the RCRA hazardous waste regulations to minimize hazards to human health and the environment caused by explosions, fires, or unplanned sudden or nonsudden releases of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to the air, soil, or surface water.
The plan must be in writing, and it must identify who will be in charge of implementation in the event of an emergency. Under the federal rules, the plan’s provisions must be carried out immediately whenever there is a fire, explosion, or release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents that could threaten human health or the environment. Some states are more stringent in that they require the contingency plan to be implemented if there is a release that, in addition to threatening air, soil, or surface water, threatens groundwater.
In addition to his or her other responsibilities, the facility’s emergency coordinator must implement the facility’s contingency plan and notify emergency response authorities of the emergency.
The written contingency plan must, at a minimum, describe:
- Specific actions that facility personnel must take in response to the emergency
- Arrangements for emergency response with local emergency response authorities (e.g., fire and police departments, hospitals, local hazmat response teams)
- Name, address, and home and office telephone numbers of the facility’s primary emergency coordinator
- Names, addresses, and home and office telephone numbers of all other personnel qualified to act as emergency coordinator, listed in the order that each will assume responsibility as the emergency coordinator
- Up-to-date list and location of all emergency response equipment at the facility, including a physical description of each item and an outline of its capabilities
- Personnel evacuation plan
The RCRA contingency plan regulations state that a facility may use an already prepared Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan, a National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Plan, or other emergency or contingency plan, as the RCRA contingency plan if it is amended to incorporate the RCRA contingency plan provisions set forth at 40 CFR 264, Subpart D or 40 CFR 265, Subpart D.
The facility owner or operator may develop one contingency plan that meets all regulatory requirements. EPA recommends that the plan be based on the National Response Team’s (NRT) Integrated Contingency Plan Guidance (known as “One Plan”). When modifications are made to non-RCRA provisions in an integrated contingency plan, the changes do not trigger the need for a RCRA permit modification.
Plan Amendments and Distribution of Copies
The contingency plan must be amended when:
- The TSDF permit is revised or, for LQGs and interim TSDFs, applicable regulations are revised.
- The plan fails in an emergency.
- The facility changes its design, construction, operation, or maintenance practices, and the change materially increases the chance of a fire, explosion, or release of hazardous waste.
- The facility changes the response necessary in the event of an emergency.
- The list of emergency coordinators changes.
- The list of emergency equipment changes.
A copy of the TSDF’s or LQG’s contingency plan must be kept on-site. TSDFs must also submit a copy to EPA and/or the applicable state environmental agency. The plan also must be sent to:
- Local fire and police departments
- Local hospitals
- Local emergency response team
- State emergency response team
- State environmental agency
Elizabeth M. Dickinson, J.D., is a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental publications, focusing primarily on hazardous waste related topics. Ms Dickinson has covered environmental developments since 1994. Before starting her career in publishing, she was a corporate and securities attorney at Cummings & Lockwood and at Aetna Life and Casualty, both in Hartford, Connecticut. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University and her Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where she was an Articles Editor of the Connecticut Law Review. Ms. Dickinson is licensed to practice law in Connecticut.