LEPC Background and Responsibilities
In 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act commonly known as the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, Title III (SARA Title III). It required each governor to appoint a state emergency response commission (SERC). It also charged the SERCs with the responsibility of dividing the states into planning districts and appointing local emergency planning committees (LEPCs). In 1987, the Massachusetts State Emergency Response Commission, designated sub-areas as planning districts and appointed a Local Emergency Planning Committee for each city and town within them. The legislation required that the committees have representation from a specified number of interest groups such as elected and local officials, law enforcement, emergency management, firefighting, emergency medical services, health, local environmental and transportation agencies, hospitals, broadcast and print media, community groups, and representatives of facilities subject to the emergency planning and community right-to-know requirements.
The Westborough LEPC's initial task was to develop an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies. The plan needs to be reviewed annually, tested, and updated. Because the Westborough LEPC's members represent the community, they are familiar with factors that affect public safety, the environment, and the economy of the Town. That expertise was essential as the LEPC developed a plan tailored to the needs of Westborough.
The Westborough LEPC also receives emergency releases and hazardous chemical inventory information submitted by local facilities and must make this information available to the public upon request. It must establish and publicize procedures for handling these requests. ~In light of the 9-11 attack on this country, a heightened sense of awareness has been requested by many citizens including what actions can be taken by our emergency resources.
The Westborough LEPC has the authority to request additional information from facilities for planning purposes. It may visit facilities in the community to determine what they are doing to reduce hazards, prepare for accidents, and reduce hazardous inventories and releases. The Westborough LEPC also provides the community with information about hazardous substances, emergency planning, and environmental risks. It must anticipate questions about the extent, health, and environmental effects of routine chemical releases.
Finally, the Westborough LEPC can most effectively carry out its responsibilities as a community forum by taking steps to educate the public about chemical risks and working with facilities to minimize those risks. The Westborough LEPC's ability to improve the safety and health of the Town will be enhanced by the support of informed citizens.
The certification process was created by the Massachusetts SERC to be a management tool and a standard by which all LEPCs in the Commonwealth are judged equally and was designed to ensure all LEPCs are meeting the goals and missions of SARA Title III.
There are three levels of certification for LEPCs: full, provisional, and start-up. The Westborough LEPC has achieved the full level of certification. This has many benefits including compliance and eligibility for EPA reimbursement grants for emergency response to hazardous substance releases and limited funding available through grants related to planning, training, exercising, etc.