An environmental emergency is a sudden threat to the public health or the well-being of the environment, arising from the release of oil, hazardous chemicals, biological agents or radioactive materials into the air, land, or water. Examples of environmental emergencies include:
- oil and chemical spills,
- radiological and biological discharges, and
- accidents causing releases of pollutants
The Emergency Response Program is delegated by the Department of Energy and Environment to respond to environmental emergencies as well as to investigate and mitigate chemical releases on public or private property. The ERP receives incident reports from State and Federal agencies, DOEE programs, and the general public. If you are involved in or witness an environmental emergency that presents a sudden threat to public health, call 911 and/or the National Response Center for assistance.
Reporting an Emergency:
Dial 911 for any incident that threatens life safety. DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) is the District’s first response agency for hazardous materials releases.
Call the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802. Types of events that require NRC reporting include but are not limited to:
- Chemical spills
- Petroleum-based spills on land greater than 25 gallons (or potential > 25 gallons)
- Spills into a waterway or storm drain (any amount)
- Spills that are uncontrolled, still leaking, or require assistance
- Spills requiring any state/federal notifications
- All SARA/EHS/CERCLA releases
- All spills requiring evacuation
- Radiation releases
- Biological discharges
NRC reporting is available to anyone, businesses or residents, 24 hours a day. The NRC alerts relevant response agencies, including DOEE, from the jurisdiction where the spill occurred. For regulated businesses, your operating permit may require you to notify another DOEE program as well.
After the spill is under control, contact District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency at 202-727-6161, DOEE’s Hazardous Waste Branch at 202-671-3308, and/or any other entity required by permit.
Report Illegal Dumping to DPW: Call 311 or visit 311.dc.gov to report illegal dumping on District lands. If possible, include the following information:
- Location of the dump site (street, alley, vacant lot, etc. with address if possible)
- Place and time of dumping
- Description of the materials
- Make, model, and license tag of vehicle used to transport the material
For more information on illegal dumping and the SWEEP program, visit the DPW website.
What is an environmental emergency versus an environmental violation?
An environmental violation occurs when an activity or an existing condition does not comply with an environmental law or regulation. Residents and businesses should use non-emergency communications listed in the next section to report environmental violations. Environmental violations can include (but are not limited to):
- smoke or other emissions from local industrial facilities;
- tampering with emission control or air conditioning systems in automobiles;
- illegal dumping into storm drains;
- improper treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous wastes;
- exceedances of pollutant limits at wastewater treatment plants;
- unpermitted dredging or filling of waters and wetlands;
- any unpermitted industrial activity; or
- late-night dumping or any criminal activity including falsifying reports or other documents.
An environmental violation may become an emergency if a sudden release presents a threat to public health. These emergencies may occur from transportation accidents, events at facilities using or manufacturing chemicals, or as a result of natural or man-made disaster events. If you are involved in or witness an environmental emergency that presents a sudden threat to public health, you must call the National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802.
Non-Emergency Environmental Concerns:
For general environmental concerns, or to report violations, you can notify DOEE through 311, calling DOEE main office line during business hours (202) 535-2600, or email DOEE at [email protected].