Right To Know Law A Factor In 2015

By Frank Fortino

Nearly three decades ago in 1988, Local Law 26 the community “Right to Know” law was enacted. The purpose of the law was straightforward – to protect the public from the dangers of hazardous and toxic substances. Over the years, the  Law went through some modifications, first in 1998 and then most recently in 2003. In simplest terms, the Law provided that existence of Hazardous materials be reported, and that risk management plans be filed for any facility holding them.

The latest iteration of Right to Know was installed by the DEP in 2014, with the goal of implementing stricter guidelines pertaining to the Law. Under the newest version, a larger group of owners and building managers are required to report and file. The facilities required are:

  • Utilities, industrial, and commercial facilities
  • Commercial buildings, hotels, nursing homes, and businesses
  • Auto body shops and automobile service stations
  • Material supply stores
  • Dry cleaners
  • Funeral homes

The Law starts with a clear definition of responsibility for compliance. A “Responsible” party is either an owner or the owner’s designated operator, manager or corporate officer of a given Facility.  In the event that the Facility is leased, the “Responsible” party is the same, but under the lessee of the property. The registering, reporting, and filing for the law falls squarely on the shoulders of this owner or lessee.

The law very specifically defines “Facility” as all buildings, equipment, structures and other stationary items that are located on a single site or on a contiguous or adjacent sites that are owned, leased, or operated by the same person. The language and the message are clear – if you bring hazardous materials onto a site in your name, you are responsible for both declaring their existence, and in dealing with any issues these materials they cause.

The law requires these reports to be filed between January 1st and March 1st for the previous year.

The team at ALC Environmental is extremely familiar with the process and standards, and we’ve partnered with them in order to help with the registration/preparing of reports and filings. If you are interested and need assistance with filing the required reports for each of your locations you can either contact me, or ALC Environmental directly at 212-675-5544.

This is very important to keep a close watch here, as penalties can range from $500 to $20,000 depending on the type of violation issued.  Enforcement is strict – during 2014, DEP issued 449 violations and we expect that they will be much more aggressive for 2015.

As always, it’s best to be preemptive and take care of issues before they materialize. A little attention and the right help can save you a lot of aggressive, embarrassment and undue expenses.