Information on Hazardous Waste Spills and MGL21E
Mass Oil Spill Act
Hazardous and Toxic Waste Cleanup Laws in MassachusettsWithin the Buzzards Bay and its surrounding watershed, over the years there have been many spills of toxic and hazardous materials, both on land, and on water. Whenever there is a spill of toxic or hazardous material in Massachusetts, a "contingency plan" is developed that outlines how cleanup actions will proceed, and what cleanup "endpoints" will be reached. This cleanup process was established by the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act (MGL 21E, click "next section" to scroll through the law), and supporting regulations. (310 CMR 40). This Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP), enforced by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), compliments a comparable federal plan. The contractor hired by the Responsible Party to implement the MCP is called a Licensed Site Professional (LSP).
For larger spills of hazardous materials, because of the different levels of government jurisdiction, and the complex environmental impacts, these contingency plans are developed as a consensus between the federal government and the Massachusetts DEP, (in consultation with Natural Resource Trustees in the event of a large event), and the party responsible for the spill. In the case of an oil spill in coastal waters, the Coast Guard is the agent of the federal government, and the trustees would include the Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies.
While the Massachusetts "21E" regulations go into considerable detail about the cleanup process, for an oil spill along the coast, the public's greatest interest are the "Immediate Response Actions" required by the responsible party to clean up the spill. While everyone agrees that spilled oil must be cleaned up, to avoid confusion and conflicts on the level of cleanup required, the DEP, the Coast Guard, and the Responsible Party develop Immediate Response Action Completion (IRAC) guidelines. In plain English, these guidelines specify just how clean an area must be before it is considered "cleaned up." The IRAC is a pragmatic document, based cost and benefit experiences from other oil spills, and what is technically achievable. IRAC guidelines for oil spills identify different cleanup end points for different types of beaches and habitat areas.