Citizens will be better informed and emergency personnel better prepared to respond with the launch of a new Web-based computer system that streamlines the submission and management of hazardous material inventory information.
Maryland's Online Tier II Reporting system (also known as the Tier II Manager) is a joint effort of the Maryland Department of the Environment's (MDE) Community Right-to-Know program and Intelligent Decisions Systems Inc. of Fort Lee, N.J., who developed the system.
"Until now, Maryland has kept this information in hard copy format, which meant the valuable chemical data was unavailable except during regular business hours," said MDE Acting Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. "The Tier II Manager will provide emergency response personnel with access to this information 24 hours a day in an easy-to-use geographic information system and nearly eliminate the paper glut associated with submitting this crucial information to authorities."
Since 1987, under federal guidelines, any facility that stores or uses above a certain quantity of a hazardous substance must submit a Tier II Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Report each March 1. The reports are submitted to the State Emergency Response Commissions (SERC), Local Emergency Planning Committees and local fire departments. In Maryland, MDE acts as the SERC.
"With the Tier II Manager, MDE looks forward to a more controlled, efficient approach to data submission, compliance monitoring, data sharing, and analysis," said Rich Eskin, director of MDE's Technical and Regulatory Services Administration. "The Tier II Manager provides regulated industries with an easy-to-use data input method while consolidating chemical inventory processing, invoicing, compliance monitoring, facility notifications and mapping capabilities into one computer application."
Implementation of the Tier II Manager means all Maryland businesses subject to the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act hazardous chemical inventory reporting provisions can use a simple Web-based form to submit their reports, along with any supplemental files such as site plans and digital photographs. All chemical data is stored securely on MDE's computer system behind an agency firewall. The data is protected so that only authorized facility personnel can access and alter chemical inventory data and only authorized MDE program staff can view the data. If there is a change in a facility's inventory, it is a simple matter for authorized facility personnel to make changes through the Tier II Manager. The system notifies MDE when a change has been made. The inventory data is stored electronically, and the facility user will only have to update the data stored from the prior year and submit it to MDE to maintain compliance.
For 2003's inventory reports (due March 1, 2004), facilities will need to print a hard copy of their Tier II Report to fulfill the signature and reporting requirements for MDE, the Local Emergency Planning Committee and fire department. Issues surrounding acceptance of electronic signatures must be resolved before the system can become truly paperless. And, federal law requires facilities to submit signed originals of the Tier II Report to the Local Emergency Planning Committee and the fire department.
Maryland's Community Right-To-Know Fund provided the revenue to develop and implement the innovative data management system. Enacted in 2002, the fund requires MDE to collect filing fees from the facilities covered by the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The fees are based on the quantity of the materials stored at a facility and the level of hazard it represents. Half of all fees collected are retained by MDE to support management of the reports. The other half is to be distributed among Maryland's Local Emergency Planning Committees.
For more information about Tier II reporting in general or Maryland's Online Tier II Reporting system, contact Patricia Williams toll free in Maryland at (800) 633-6101, ext. 3800 or visit MDE's Web site