Farm Hazardous Materials Frequently Asked Questions

How did this program come about?

California Health and Safety Code, Chapter 6.95 was adopted in 1987 to minimize potential firefighter exposures to hazardous materials when responding to an emergency at businesses. This law required an annual inventory, posting of buildings, and a spill response training plan.  In 1994 the Governor and Legislature enacted a law that mandated the State of California to designate a single local agency in each county to administer six hazardous material programs including the hazardous material disclosure program.  This law mandated the State of California to audit each local agency every three years. In 1996, the State designated Solano County Department of Resource Management to administer these hazardous material programs.  In 1999, the State conducted its first audit of Solano County Department of Resource Management and found the implementation of the hazardous material program on farms was incomplete and required a triennial inspection of each farm to verify compliance.  Through cooperation between the Agriculture Department and Resource Management inspections began in 2001.

What do I have to do to comply with this program?

Complete the annual hazardous material reporting form for hazardous materials stored over the reportable thresholds annually, placard buildings appropriately, develop a training plan and train employees on your spill cleanup procedures, and anticipate and allow a site inspection every three years. As of January 1, 2013, farmers need to enter the chemical inventory and upload their site diagram into California Environmental Reporting System at CERS CENTRAL

I don’t store any “hazardous materials”, why am I being billed?

Hazardous materials include gasoline, diesel, waste oil, fertilizers, pesticides, and other hazardous substances. Most growers are affected by this program because they store fuel (not just pesticides). A 250 gallon propane tank used to heat a residence is exempt from reporting requirements. However, propane used to heat buildings involved in the farming operation (e.g. shop buildings and drying sheds) must be reported. Contact Department of Resource Management if you are not storing any chemicals over the threshold amounts.  If you don’t store materials over threshold amounts, you don’t need to pay but you must contact us.  The County Staff may inspect the site before removing you from the list and removing you from the billing.  The department has had three mailings requesting information regarding threshold amounts of hazardous materials.  You should have been taken off the billing list if you responded that you do not store threshold amounts. For a list of acutely hazardous materials and their reporting thresholds contact us for more information at (707) 784-6765.

Where can I get good advice to develop a training plan for spill procedures? 

Solano County Environmental Health Services Division and Solano County Agriculture Department can give you an template for developing spill procedures see  CERS Compatible Contingency Plan or contact Environmental Health Services Division  at (707) 784-6765 or Solano County Agriculture Department at (707) 784-1310.  Additionally, California Office of Emergency Services has examples of spill response and training plans. Please contact California Office of Emergency Services at (916) 845-8470 or  visit their website CAL OES. You can review Sacramento County’s spill response plan template at www.emd.saccounty.net and Yolo County’s spill response plan at Yolo County.  Finally, you can review a generic spill response plan at the Unidocs website developed by Santa Clara County and a various fire agencies at  www.unidocs.org/documents.html.

What can I do to obtain an exemption from reporting?

You can reduce the quantity of hazardous materials you store to less than 55 gallons of liquid, 500 pounds of solid, or 200 cubic feet of compressed gases.

How long do I need to store to be in this program?  I thought it was 30 days.

The code states storage hazardous materials equal to or in excess of 55 gallons of liquid, 500 pounds of a solid or 200 cubic feet of a compressed gas stored on site at any time is subject to the requirements of this program. The 30 day exemption is only for transportation such as rail yards and marine freight facilities. Remember, the goal of this program is to protect emergency response agencies responding to an emergency on your property by informing them of hazardous materials stored on the property for any length of time (e.g. one week, two weeks, or long term).

What are the standards for storage of fuel?  Is there a containment system needed?

Since fuels are hazardous materials, you are required to report storage of 55 gallons, the same as for any other chemical.   You are required to place signs on any building containing petroleum fuels. The Aboveground Petroleum Storage Act and Federal Spill Prevention Countermeasure Control Plan regulations within the Code of Federal Regulations require secondary containment unless there is a determination by a professional engineer of environmental equivalency. The California Fire Code requires secondary containment and the Building Division and  The fire department/fire districts enforce the California Fire Code in Solano County. The California Fire Code Code specifies secondary containment to be at least 110 percent of the volume of the largest tank. For more information see Aboveground Petroleum Act Program Brochure, US EPA Fact Sheet on SPCC on Farms, US EPA SPCC Farm Brochure

Why did the State of California establish these reporting thresholds for hazardous materials?

The State of California established a minimum threshold of 55 gallons for liquids, 500 pounds for solids, and 200 cubic feet of compressed gases to provide chemical information to fire departments/districts and other response agencies to protect firefighters and other response agencies when they respond to emergencies.

What if I don’t comply?

You will be referred back to Solano County Department of Resource Management for follow-up and a site inspection. Solano County Department of Resource Management will contact you to conduct an inspection of your facility and provide you the necessary forms to add or remove your facility from the hazardous material program. The Solano County Department of Resource Management may pursue formal enforcement through the administrative enforcment process, refer your business to the Solano County District Attorney Office, or the State Attorney General for follow-up if reportable quantities are stored on the property and not reported.  Solano County Department of Resource Management can provide you assistance in completing the necessary paperwork.

What does the Fire Department do with the info?

The Solano County Agriculture Department sends the completed inventory and inspection documents to Solano County Department of Resource Management. As of January 1, 2013 the Hazardous Materials Business Plan is required to be submitted to the California Environmental Reporting System at CERS CENTRAL  The fire departments and districts within Solano County have access to view, download and print the information in CERS through the Regulatory Portal. The fire districts use this information for planning and response purposes. This information can protect firefighters from actual or potential exposures from hazardous materials during an emergency response at a business.

Why have we never billed before July 1, 2002?

Prior to Fiscal year 2002, the collection of farmer inventories and the field inspection to farming businesses were performed by the Solano County Agriculture Department at no cost to the farming businesses. On April 23, 2002, the Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of an annual fee. The fee is to recover the costs incurred by the Solano County Agriculture Department and the Solano County Department of Resource Management and includes the State Site (Reporting) fee. The State of California audited Solano County Department of Resource Management in 1999 and required a full inspection program for farms storing 55 gallons of a liquid, 200 cubic feet, or 500 lbs of any solid hazardous material.  Solano County Resource Management entered into a cooperative agreement with Solano County Ag Dept to perform inspections as part of their existing inspection programs to help keep the cost down to the farm business while still complying with State requirements.

Why are we being billed?  Why do I need to pay every year, even if there’s no change? You are required to report annually. You are being billed for cost recovery for the triennial inspection, record keeping, and billing. A portion of the fee is goes to the State as the State Site Fee,  a portion goes to Resource Management for maintaining the inventory database and providing information to first responders, and the majority of the fee is goes to the Ag Department for the inspection, record keeping, etc.  .   You are not being billed for follow-up inspections.  We combined inspections to keep down costs. We cross trained staff to reduce the need for additional staff and inspection time.

Where can I get more information about the State Site Fee?

California Environmental Protection Agency is the agency that oversees the implementation of this fee and their telephone number (916) 327 - 9559 and their website is Cal EPA-Link. The State of California collects this fee to cover the costs of the state agencies overseeing hazardous material programs.

Why did the Agriculture Department not conduct hazardous material inspections before 2001? From 1987 to 1999 Solano County elected to perform voluntary compliance for the hazardous material disclosure program on farms by requesting annual inventories but not conducting field inspections to verify the accuracy of the reported information. In 1999, the State of California performed an audit on the Department of Resource Management’s implementation of the hazardous material disclosure program on farms.  The State found Solano County’s implementation of this program to be incomplete and required a triennial inspection of each farm to verify compliance with this law as specified by the State Office of Emergency Services.  Solano County Department of Resource Management established a cooperative arrangement with Solano County Agriculture Department to perform the hazardous material inspections to minimize the regulatory burden on farmers.  Site inspection/field verification began in 2001 through the County Agriculture Department with a goal of doing inspections no less than one every three years for all growers who store materials above state reportable threshold amounts and have filed inventories.

What State Agencies oversee this regulatory program?

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) has the overall administration of the hazardous material regulatory program. Additionally, the State Office of Emergency Services has jurisdiction over the hazardous material disclosure and writes the regulations governing this program. You can contact Cal EPA at (916) 327-9559 and their website Cal EPA . The California Emergency Management Agency (formerly OES) telephone number is (916) 845-8741 and their website is CAL OES.

Where can we get more information?

 You can contact California Environmental Protection Agency at Cal EPA, California Office of State Fire Marshal at OSFM  and US Environmental Protection Agencyat EPA Link.  You can also contact California Office of Emergency Services at CAL OES.

Other  county websites you can examine are Yolo County Environmental Health’s website at Yolo County, Sacramento County Resource Management’s website at www.emd.saccounty.net, and at Unidocs website developed by Santa Clara County and various fire agencies at www.unidocs.org.