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40 CFR 265.55 – Identifying the Emergency Coordinators of the RCRA Contingency Plan

40 CFR 265.55 – Identifying the Emergency Coordinators of the RCRA Contingency Plan

This article is the seventh in a series that takes a close look at the requirements of 40 CFR 265, Subpart D – Contingency Plan and Emergency Procedures.  This Subpart, along with the remainder of Part 265 is applicable to permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) and to large quantity generators of hazardous waste (LQGs).  A Contingency Plan and the emergency procedures outlined in Subpart D are critical for the safe operation of a hazardous waste facility and to ensure compliance with state and Federal regulations.  The purpose of this article is to read, review, and explain the requirements of 40 CFR 265.55 Emergency Coordinator.

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Read the previous article in this series: 40 CFR 265.54 Amendment of Contingency Plan or read on to learn about 40 CFR 265.55.

 

40 CFR 265.55 reads:

At all times, there must be at least one employee either on the facility premises or on call (i.e., available to respond to an emergency by reaching the facility within a short period of time) with the responsibility for coordinating all emergency response measures. This emergency coordinator must be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the facility’s contingency plan, all operations and activities at the facility, the location and characteristics of waste handled, the location of all records within the facility, and the facility layout. In addition, this person must have the authority to commit the resources needed to carry out the contingency plan.

[Comment: The emergency coordinator’s responsibilities are more fully spelled out in §265.56. Applicable responsibilities for the emergency coordinator vary, depending on factors such as type and variety of waste(s) handled by the facility, and type and complexity of the facility.]

As the comment indicates, the purpose of §265.55 is to identify those of your employees who can be an emergency coordinator whereas §265.56 will indicate their specific responsibilities in an emergency.  We will take a close look at §265.56 in a later article.

The requirements for an emergency coordinator identified in this section can be broken down into three conditions:  Applicability, Availability, and Familiarity.

Applicability:

First of all, your emergency coordinator(s) – while only one is required more may be necessary, more on that later – must be an employee of yours, “…at least one employee…” and not a consultant, contractor, or vendor even if they meet the requirements of Availability and Familiarity.  Secondly, this can’t be just any employee as they must have the authority to coordinate an emergency response and to control resources in order to implement the procedures in the Contingency Plan.  These responsibilities (detailed in §265.56 and addressed in a later article) include but are not limited to:

Fire fighting equipment

Your emergency coordinator must work with emergency response agencies

  • Activate internal alarms or communication systems.
  • Notify State or local emergency responders.
  • Identify the nature of the release, fire, or explosion.
  • Assess possible hazards to human health or the environment.
  • Notify local, State, and Federal authorities if necessary.
  • Monitor for hazards related to stoppage of operations, if it occurs.
  • Provide for treatment, storage, and/or disposal of all waste.
  • Restore all emergency equipment for use.
  • Note the details of the incident in the operating record.

Be sure the employee(s) you choose to be your facility’s emergency coordinators are able to complete all of the above on their own authority in an emergency.

Availability:

Your emergency coordinators don’t do you any good in an emergency if they are not on-site to perform their responsibility of “…coordinating all emergency response measures.”  Therefore, your emergency coordinator must be either…

  • On the facility premises,

Or…

  • On call and able to reach the facility within a short period of time.

AT ALL TIMES.

While “On the facility premises” is clear, “..within a short period of time.” is not.  Nothing I have found in the Federal regulations or interpretations indicates a specific time threshold to meet this requirement (Is 1 hour too long?  Is 15 minutes OK?).  You may wish to check with your state to see if they have specified a time.  My opinion is that any emergency coordinator who could not safely reach the facility within 30 minutes would not meet this requirement.  Note though, that this allows for a situation where no emergency coordinator is on-site (merely that they can get to the facility within a short time).  Also, this allows for a situation where an emergency coordinator could be responsible for multiple locations while not actually being on-site at any of them.

Also clear is the mandate from this section that an emergency coordinator be on-site or on-call, “…at all times…”.  This means 24/7 and not just when the facility is in operation or when hazardous waste is on-site.

Therefore, in practice you will likely have several emergency coordinators for your facility; possibly one or two for every shift of operations and others to fulfill the responsibility during non-production hours.  It is recommended that of all your emergency coordinators you designate one as the primary for the facility and list others as alternates in descending order of notification.

Familiarity:

In addition to meeting the requirements for applicability and availability, your environmental coordinators must also be “thoroughly familiar with”:

  • All aspects of the facility’s Contingency Plan.
  • All operations and activities at the facility.
  • The location and characteristics of waste handled.
  • The location of all records within the facility.
  • The layout of the facility.

Please read that list of requirements carefully, it is no small task.  It will require the careful selection of the appropriate employees and likely additional training to ensure they meet all of the requirements.

In sum:

  • Applicability:  choose an employee who has the authority to commit the necessary resources in an emergency.
  • Availability: choose enough employees to ensure you have an emergency coordinator on-site or a phone call away at all times.
  • Familiarity:  Ensure your emergency coordinators are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of your facility and its Contingency Plan.

Some common mistakes to avoid in selecting your emergency coordinators:

  • Don’t select a contractor, vendor, consultant, or anyone else who is not an employee.
  • Don’t select an employee who does not – or cannot – meet the Familiarity requirements.
  • Don’t select too many emergency coordinators.  Remember, per §265.52(d) emergency coordinators must be identified in the Contingency Plan by name with their home and work address and phone number.  Also, changes to the emergency coordinator list requires an amendment to the Plan [§265.54(d)] and submittal of the revised Plan to all local police and fire departments, hospitals, and State and local emergency response teams.  A tedious paperwork task!

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As a large quantity generator of hazardous waste you must provide training for all Facility Personnel that at a minimum addresses emergency response procedures and specific actions from your Contingency Plan.  Contact me for a free consultation on your RCRA training responsibilities.