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Oil Spill Reporting Requirements

EPA has established requirements to report spills to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. Specifically, EPA requires persons in charge of vessels or facilities that discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful to public health or welfare, or to the environment, to report the spill to the federal government. EPA has determined that discharges of oil in quantities that may be harmful include those that:
  • Violate applicable water quality standards;
  • Cause a film or sheen upon, or discoloration of the surface of the water or adjoining shorelines; or
  • Cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shorelines.
The requirement for reporting oil spills stems from EPA's Discharge of Oil regulation, which has come to be known as the sheen rule. Under this regulation, reporting oil spills to the federal government does not depend on the specific amount of oil spilled, but instead relies on the presence of a visible sheen created by the spilled oil. EPA provides several exemptions from the oil spill reporting requirements

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