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Highlights

Spills of oil and hazardous substances in the St. Clair-Detroit River corridor have degraded this border area between the United States and Canada and are a potential threat to local drinking water supplies. Within the United States such spills are reported to the National Response Center (NRC), and in Canada to the Ontario Spills Action Centre. This report discusses (1) how many oil and hazardous substance spills greater than 50 gallons (or of an unknown volume) were reported in the corridor from 1994 to 2004, and how accurately reported spills reflect the extent of actual spills; (2) what processes are used to notify parties of spills, and if they contain explicit requirements for reporting times and spill magnitude; and (3) the extent of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coast Guard's spill prevention efforts and enforcement activities in the corridor from 1994 to 2004.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Coast Guard To better ensure that spill data are available to target their inspection and enforcement efforts, and to improve the overall effectiveness of spill notification, the EPA Administrator should direct EPA Region 5; and that the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Commander of District 9 to maintain and update spill information to include the results of investigations and explore the feasibility of updating spill information maintained by the NRC.
Closed - Not Implemented
Unable to resolve status after repeated attempts.
Environmental Protection Agency To better ensure that spill data are available to target their inspection and enforcement efforts, and to improve the overall effectiveness of spill notification, the EPA Administrator should direct EPA Region 5; and that the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Commander of District 9 to maintain and update spill information to include the results of investigations and explore the feasibility of updating spill information maintained by the NRC.
Closed - Implemented
EPA agreed with the recommendation, noting that to improve the spill data issues cited in the report, Region 5 developed its Web Emergency Operation Center, which tracks and documents all spills reported to NRC and can query data for enforcement and compliance assistance purposes.
United States Coast Guard To better ensure that spill data are available to target their inspection and enforcement efforts, and to improve the overall effectiveness of spill notification, the EPA Administrator should direct EPA Region 5; and that the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Commander of District 9 to determine whether existing spill notification processes can be improved or modified to provide reduced and consistent notification time frames.
Closed - Not Implemented
Unable to resolve status after repeated attempts
Environmental Protection Agency To better ensure that spill data are available to target their inspection and enforcement efforts, and to improve the overall effectiveness of spill notification, the EPA Administrator should direct EPA Region 5; and that the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Commander of District 9 to determine whether existing spill notification processes can be improved or modified to provide reduced and consistent notification time frames.
Closed - Implemented
EPA agreed with the recommendation, noting that it has met with Coast Guard officials to discuss the best ways to update spill information in the National Response Center database, and on how best to ensure that accurate and timely information is available to users of the database.
Environmental Protection Agency To better utilize spill prevention resources, the EPA Administrator should consider gathering information on which facilities are regulated under its spill prevention program.
Closed - Implemented
EPA expressed agreement with the recommendation, and has responded by collecting information on the number and types of facilities that may be regulated under the spill prevention, control, and countermeasure program. They also initiated contacts with the Departments of Commerce and Energy and Small Business Administration to better understand the universe of regulated entities.
Environmental Protection Agency The EPA Administrator should direct Region 5 to develop goals for the frequency and extensiveness of its inspections.
Closed - Implemented
EPA agreed with the recommendation, indicating that Region 5 has reassessed the frequency and extensiveness of its inspections for FY 2007. It subsequently developed goals for an improved program for FY 2008.

Full Report