The orange cloud in this scene is a release of Nitric Acid in progress. It
came from tanks at an "agricultural" operation that did not understand it
had to report the Nitric Acid under EPCRA Section 302, and the "release"
under EPCRA Section 304 and CERCLA Section 103. The firefighters did not
know what this colored plume was because of the failure to report.
FORTUNATELY, the cloud was colored and visible. Not all spills are colored.
Not all spills are during daylight hours either. The neighbors called the
fire department, not the facility.
Note the firefighters suiting up in protective gear. Other hazardous chemicals were stored at this facility, and the Nitric Acid ate into the other tanks. This was something the facility owner/operator never considered could happen. Over 200 people reported adverse health effects from exposure to the Nitric Acid fumes in a follow-up health survey.
No one could tell just by looking at these containers what chemicals are in them because they are not labled. But some of these containers have strong acids in them. Putting water on acids can cause an explosion. A well-written Tier Two Report would be helpful here to a firefighter, but more detailed information would even be better. The BOLDER Project has the answer to this.
These enormous tanks of Hydrogen and Oxygen were not reported until citizens brought suit to make the facility file Tier Two Reports and comply with EPCRA. There had also been problems with these tanks leaking! This potential bomb was in an industrial park. Imagine the firefighters trying to respond to such a catastrophe! The names of the chemicals are on the tanks, but not easy to discern. The facility also had reportable quantities of Hydrofluoric Acid.
This well-labeled tank of Hydrogen does not have 10,000 pounds of Hydrogen, so a Tier Two Report is not required if this is all the Hydrogen on-site at the facility. Of course, it would be a good idea to report it anyway. There is still enough Hydrogen to cause a problem.
The largest tank has a type of freon in it, enough to be reported on a Tier Two Report. Imagine a firefighter rolling up on this scene in the middle of the night while trying to respond to a chemical spill or fire. No labels visible, view partially obscured. All the firefighters would know is that there is a large tank of something, and other tanks. Unless the firefighters had the Tier Two Reports with them, an efficient response would be difficult. The BOLDER Project helps to solve this problem by putting real-time site information in the hands of firefighters at the scene, complete with site-maps, photo attachments, and more.