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Train derailment in Jefferson County, Ky. Photo from ERT

Environmental Emergencies

The Environmental Response Team (ERT) is trained to respond immediately to environmental emergencies such as accidents where hazardous materials may have been spilled.  This team is comprised of the Department for Environmental Protection staff.

When should ERT be contacted?
When an actual spill or release of a hazardous material occurs or when there appears to be a threat of a severe environmental harm.  Environmental damage can sometimes be reduced by a quick response and application of appropriate cleanup techniques.

Who should report hazardous material spills and when?
Anyone who possesses or controls:

  • Hazardous Substances
    -  as listed under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, as amended.
    -  those extremely hazardous substances designated under Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986.
    -  nerve and blister agents designated under state law.
  • Pollutants or contaminants - materials that when released into the environment in a quantity, may present an imminent or substantial danger to the public health or welfare. (KRS 224.01-400)
  • Release of petroleum or petroleum products - other than a permitted release or application of a pesticide in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions or release subject to the authority of the Underground Storage Tank (UST) Branch.  Reportable quantities are 25 gallons or more of a petroleum product within a 24-hour period and 75 gallons or more of diesel fuel in a 24-hour period or any amount that creates a visible sheen on surface waters. (KRS 224 01-400)

Who should report spills or a release of a pollutant, contaminants or hazardous materials to ERT?

It's the responsibility of the responsible party to report the spill immediately.  Anyone who witnesses a "spill" or "release" of any of the materials mentioned should immediately call ERT to ensure that the spill is remediated properly. For information on substances other than petroleum products, see this EPA document (PDF file), Consolidated List of Chemicals. Download Adobe Reader to view it.

State law mandates under KRS 224 01-400 (6):
Any person possessing or controlling a pollutant or contaminant for which are portable quantity has been established by administrative regulation promulgated pursuant to subsection (2) of this section shall immediately notify the cabinet's environmental response line, as soon as that person has knowledge of any release or threatened release, other than a permitted release or application of a pesticide in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, of a pollutant or contaminant to the environment in a quantity equal to or exceeding the reportable quantity.  In the notice to be made to the cabinet, the person shall state, at a minimum, the location of the release or threatened release, the material released or threatened to be released, and the approximate quantity and concentration of the release or threatened release.

Who else should call to report a spill?
First, you should always call 911 to report a spill, after that you should notify ERT, Kentucky Emergency Management and the National Response Center if applicable.

Does calling 911 fulfill my reporting requirement?
No, ERT does not have a memorandum of agreement with any city or county governments. You should never expect a call to 911 to fulfill your reporting requirements to the state or federal government.

Does a release into secondary containment constitute a reportable release?
Yes, any release from the primary containment vessel into a secondary containment area is considered a release or a threatened release to the environment. If the release is from a UST facility regulated by the Underground Storage Tank Branch, refer to the UST Release Reporting Requirements. Otherwise, 25 gallons of petroleum or 75 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into a secondary containment area is reportable to ERT.

What happens if I don't report a release?
Under Kentucky law a nonreported release could result in payment of fines up to $25,000 per day per violation.

Who pays for ERT services?
The party responsible for the release of a hazardous material, whether discharged by accident or through negligence, is liable for the cost of ERT services.

Does ERT respond to other emergencies?
ERT is part of the Kentucky Natural Disaster Plan, which was formed after the severe tornados of 1974.  ERT responds to natural disasters such as floods, tornados and other severe weather, earthquakes, forest fires, landslides and water shortages.  During natural disasters, ERT helps ensure the stability of hazardous materials and works to limit environmental damage.


Report an Environmental Emergency 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
1-800-928-2380 or 502-564-2380