10/05/09 — Group will watch businesses' reporting of their use of dangerous chemicals

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Group will watch businesses' reporting of their use of dangerous chemicals

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 5, 2009 2:05 PM

Rebuilding a group that helps businesses report dangerous chemicals to emergency workers should make Goldsboro safer, its proponents say.

The Local Emergency Plan-ning Commission had been dormant since 1991, said Eric Lancaster, Goldsboro Fire Department assistant fire chief.

That made it more difficult for affected businesses to submit "Tier II" reporting -- required by the Environmental Protection Agency since the Superfund Amendment and Re-authorization Act by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Basically, the law requires businesses who possess more than 55 gallons or 500 pounds of certain chemicals to report that fact to the Tier II program.

"What the committee does, is we make sure that businesses are reporting chemical quantities," the assistant fire chief said.

Another law -- the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act -- also has played a role in the reporting requirements.

Chemical reporting has probably taken a downward swing since the Local Emergency Planning Commission last operated in the early 1990s, Lancaster said.

Then, in May 2008, county emergency management coordinator Mel Powers sent an e-mail to former participants, asking them to consider reforming the body.

In North Carolina, recent law changes require submissions by "E-plan," an Internet-driven reporting system, said Tasha Tingen Lane, the owner of West Logistics Inc. on Industry Court.

West Logistics got into the chemical distribution business gradually, Mrs. Lane said, and she began learning more and more about Tier II reporting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she said.

Mrs. Lane now serves as the chairperson for the Local Emergency Planning Com-mission.

In that role, she is advising other local businesses and institutions, including Cherry Hospital, on the changes that have been made to Tier II laws.

Mrs. Lane said she is not paid for her job as chairperson of the committee, she said she enjoys helping others understand the sometimes complex EPA rules.

"We're working real hard to try to contact all business with chemicals, to investigate what their reporting status should be," Mrs. Lane said.

Even for those businesses well-versed in the Tier II reporting, changes in the laws have made the job more challenging, she said.

"We've learned a lot of new things that have occurred since 1991," the chairwoman said.