Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 8, 2016 12:32 p.m.
The State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) has approved the appointment of Fernandina Beach resident Medardo Monzon to the Northeast Florida Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).
Upon learning of his appointment, Monzon wrote to Fernandina Beach City Commissioners, “I decided to volunteer to serve on the LEPC based on my concerns regarding the storage and handling of hazardous chemicals in Amelia Island. As a chemist with graduate degrees and formal experience with reactive chemical programs, I believe I can bring useful, independent and objective perspectives to our community and act as a resource to city and county governments, as well as the public.” Monzon plans to join the Hazard Analysis subcommittee.
According to Eric Anderson, Senior Regional Planner and Northeast Florida LEPC Coordinator, the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and Florida’s 10 Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) are the result of Federal and State Legislation adopted in the 1980s. This legislation is commonly referred to as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act or EPCRA.
EPCRA establishes authorities for emergency planning and preparedness, emergency release notification, and community right-to-know reporting of hazardous and toxic chemicals. EPCRA imposes requirements on federal, state, and local governments, Indian Tribes, and industry regarding emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know” reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals.
EPCRA is intended to encourage and support state and local planning and preparedness for releases of Extremely Hazardous Substances, as well as to provide the public, local governments and emergency response officials with information concerning chemical releases and the potential chemical risks in their communities.
To achieve these goals, EPCRA:
- Encourages and requires coordination of efforts between all parts of the community, local officials, industry, and the public, including creating a local emergency plan
- Requires that detailed information about the nature of the hazardous substances in or near communities be made available to the public
- Authorizes penalties against companies that do not comply with the Act’s requirements
- Empowers private citizens or citizen groups to file enforcement lawsuits against regulated facilities for failure to comply with EPCRA reporting provisions
LEPCs are meant to be a preparedness and planning organization, not a response agency. The Northeast Florida LEPC is composed of ~30 members from various backgrounds and interests. There is representation from private facility owners/operators, response agencies such as fire and police, environmental groups, transportation, hospitals, emergency management, and interested citizens who want to get involved. There are representatives from all 7 counties within the Northeast Florida District (Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, & St. Johns).
There are 3 subcommittees that revolve around hazards analysis, public outreach, and HazMat training. Once LEPC has determined chemical hazards, the organization can work on public outreach activities to protect and educate citizens, and train/exercise responders to mitigate the potential impacts associated to a chemical spill or release.
The LEPC meets on a quarterly basis to discuss HazMat related issues. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 10, at 10:00 a.m.
For more information on LEPC, contact Eric Anderson, Senior Regional Planner and Northeast Florida LEPC Coordinator at the Northeast Florida Regional Council, email@example.com or (904) 279-0880.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.