Under various state and federal laws, releases of petroleum, toxic chemicals, gases and other hazardous materials must be reported to certain governmental agencies by the party responsible for the release or in some cases, anyone with knowledge of the release. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) website, approximately ninety percent of reported spills involve petroleum products. Under Article 12 of the New York State Navigation Law, which applies to Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Compensation and is commonly referred to as the “Spill Act”, any person responsible for causing a petroleum “discharge” (i.e. “any intentional or unintentional action or omission resulting in the releasing, spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying or dumping of petroleum into the waters of the state or onto lands from which it might flow or drain into said waters, or into waters outside the jurisdiction of the state when damage may result to the lands, waters or natural resources within the jurisdiction of the state”) must immediately notify the NYSDEC within two hours of the discharge by calling the New York State Spill Hotline. Further, under the applicable regulations, the owner or operator of any facility from which petroleum has been discharged and any person who was in actual or constructive control of such petroleum immediately prior to such discharge is also required to notify NYSDEC. However, according to NYSDEC’s Spill Guidance Manual, which is published on NYSDEC’s website, petroleum discharges that meet all the following criteria do not have to be reported to NYSDEC:

  1. The quantity is known to be less than five (5) gallons; and 
  2. The spill is contained and under the control of the spiller; and 
  3. The spill has not and will not reach the State’s water or any land; and 
  4. The spill is cleaned up within 2 hours of discovery.    

There are several other regulations in New York State that require releases of petroleum, chemicals or other hazardous materials to be reported and some even expand the reporting requirements. For example, the New York State petroleum bulk storage regulations require any person with “knowledge” of a spill, leak or discharge of petroleum to report it to NYSDEC, not just those who are responsible for causing the spill.     

More information on notification and reporting requirements applicable to various spills in New York State can be found in NYSDEC’s Spill Guidance Manual published on NYSDEC’s website here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8692.html