Many people often use the terms “spill” and “release” interchangeably. However, there is a regulatory difference between the two terms that can change whether you perform a simple spill cleanup or are required to report a release to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM’s 24-Hour Emergency Spill Line is toll free at (888) 233-7745 or (317) 233-7745).
A simple way to think about a spill is if a puddle of a substance collects on the floor of your facility after leaking from a container, pipe or hose. As long as this puddle does not leave the facility and enter the ground, enter water such as a creek or drainage ditch or go down a floor drain or large floor crack, then it remains a simple spill that you can clean up appropriately with your spill kit according to your facility spill plan.
BUT – if that spill ends up on bare ground, in a creek or ditch or goes down a floor drain or floor cracks, it would be considered a release. Such a release is required to be reported to IDEM if the volume of the product that was released exceeds the reportable quantity. The reportable quantity is specific to the chemical – for example, the reportable quantity for oil is 55 gallons. Which means if 55 gallons or more of oil was released to soil, water or down a floor drain, then a report must be made to IDEM. Additionally, if chemicals at your facility do escape down a floor drain, be sure to call your water utility to notify them of this.
IDEM’s 24-Hour Emergency Spill Line: Toll free at (888) 233-7745 or (317) 233-7745
Prepare for Spills to Prevent Release
Regulatory agencies (such as the Marion County Public Health Department) require facilities to be prepared for spills. In most cases, the facility needs to have a spill plan and spill kit equipment available to handle the worst-case spill scenario for their specific facility. Facilities that are well prepared to prevent spills and handle the spills that do occur are less likely to have a regulatory level release, because their spill plans and spill kit supplies can contain and control a spill before it becomes a release.