If it is a spill and not a ghost then there is one number you should know…1-800-424-8802…the National Response Center (NRC). The NRC is the federal point of contact for reporting all oil and chemical spills and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When the NRC receives a call regarding oil or chemical releases it contacts EPA Federal On-Scene Coordinators. (Interesting side note…the Image on Wikipedia is of Region 7 OSC John Frey!)
Each year, thousands of emergencies involving oil spills or the release (or threatened release) of hazardous substances are reported in the United States, potentially affecting both communities and the surrounding natural environment. Emergencies range from small scale spills to large events requiring prompt action and evacuation of nearby populations. EPA coordinates and implements a wide range of activities to ensure that adequate and timely response measures are taken in communities affected by hazardous substances releases and oil spills where state and local first responder capabilities have been exceeded or where additional support is needed. Below is a video of Region 7 On Scene Coordinators conducting a decontamination exercise.
For the geospatial enthusiasts amongst you, it is possible to access the data regarding spills around the country all the way back to 1982. You can download it here, although the NRC also provides for more specific queries by state and by county. The address matching might be tough, especially for those older years where addresses like ‘5 miles south on County Road WW’ were more prevalent. I whipped up the following map of my county in just a couple minutes using ArcGIS Explorer and an Online Geocoder. I admit, I dropped about 30 or so that I could have included if I spent a bit more time cleaning up the data.
Hopefully I can get one or two of our OSCs to write a blog entry in the future since they have some really interesting stories to tell. That is if they aren’t too busy answering the phone.
Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division, and also serves as one of the Region’s two Scientific Support Coordinator whose role is to serve as a science adviser to the Federal On-Scence Coordinators if requested to obtain consensus on scientific issues, communicate differing opinions and resolve conflicting scientific information.