November: Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are chemical substances that, if released or misused, can pose a threat to the environment or human health. Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons, and radioactive materials. These substances are often released as a result of chemical accidents at plant sites, from structure fires, or transportation accidents. (Definition from 2014 City of Tulsa Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.)

Hazardous materials, for regulatory purposes, are divided into two general categories: fixed sites, and transportation.

Fixed sites (Tier II) include buildings or property where hazardous materials are manufactured or stored, and are regulated nationally under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and in Oklahoma by the Department of Environmental Quality. The federal government has established detailed systems for keeping track of Tier II hazardous materials sites. The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 defines a Tier II site as any location that has, for any 24 hour period, either 1) specified threshold amounts of defined Extremely Hazardous Substances, or 2) any other substance requiring a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for amounts greater than 10,000 pounds.

Those who live near these hazardous materials sites are vulnerable, but specifically those with mobility or severe health issues that would limit their ability to evacuate quickly, those who speak a language other than English, limiting their ability to receive warning messages, and the homeless who may not receive warnings in a timely fashion.

Transportation of hazardous materials includes the use of aviation, highway, railroad, pipeline, and marine systems to convey movement of objects and people. When in transport, hazardous materials are characterized by nine separate classes of hazards: 1) explosives, 2) gases, 3) flammable liquids, 4) flammable solids, 5) oxidizers and organic peroxides, 6) toxics, 7) radioactive materials, 8) corrosive materials, and 9) miscellaneous dangerous goods. By far the greatest percentage of any hazard shipment (72%) falls under the flammable liquids category. (Definition from 2014 City of Tulsa Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.) Transportation of hazardous materials is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, 49 CFR 119 for natural and other gases transported by pipeline, and 49 CFR 195 for liquids transported by pipeline. For intrastate commerce, the transportation of hazardous materials is regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Anyone who lives near one of these transportation corridors is vulnerable.

Resources: There is a local emergency planning committee in each county whose role is to work together to develop plans to educate, communicate, and protect our local community in case of a chemical release. The Tulsa County Local Emergency Planning Committee (TCLEPC) is composed of police and fire emergency response personnel, industry and environmental representatives, news media, and interested citizens of Tulsa County. For more information, visit their website at this link. You can also call their 24 hour message line at 918-596-2033 or email them at taema@tulsacounty.org.

To report a spill, first call 911. Other numbers to contact would be Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality Hotline: 1-800-522-0206, and the Environmental Protection Agency National Reporting Center: 1-800-424-8802.

The Disaster Resilience Network is providing these hazards of the month in conjunction with the City of Tulsa’s Storm Water Drainage and Hazard Mitigation Advisory Board. These hazards are identified in the 2014 City of Tulsa Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

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