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About National Response Center(NRC) Data

The NRC database was last updated on RTK NET with a copy updated as of January 5, 2016, and includes incidents from 1982 through September 2015.

The NRC spills and accidents database is a database of incidents reported to the National Response Center. These incidents include chemical spills, accidents involving chemicals (such as fires or explosions), oil spills, transportation accidents that involve oil or chemicals, releases of radioactive materials, sightings of oil sheens on bodies of water, terrorist incidents involving chemicals, incidents where illegally dumped chemicals have been found, and drills intended to prepare responders to handle these kinds of incidents. The National Repsonse Center is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, and has become the central point of contact of contact used for the reporting of many different kinds of incidents involving hazardous materials.

NRC data can be obtained through a Coast Guard site at www.nrc.uscg.mil. Links at that site, under "Services", will permit you to search the data through a form or to download it. Note that this database was once called "ERNS". That was its name when it was being provided to the public by EPA; public presentation of it was taken over by the Coast Guard at some time near 2000 and now it is presented simply as FOIAed National Response Center data. There is currently a hidden link from EPA to a downloadable copy of the data by EPA region at www.nrc.uscg.mil/erns/epa.html.

Coast Guard publicly provided documentation of the data is minimal. Therefore, some fields on our system are labelled as having an unknown meaning.

The data from 1990 on are in a common format. Data from 1982 through 1989 are available, but were provided in varying formats, with different data fields for each year. RTK NET has converted these data, as far as possible, into a common format. However, caution should be taken when doing searches that extend back prior to 1990, for some incidents may not show up in a search because the data for that year do not include the data field that is being searched. The RTK NET documentation on individual fields shows the range of years that each was reported within.

Drills (incidents that didn't really occur, but served as practise for emergency responders, which also involves them getting records in the NRC database) are not retrieved in RTK NET searches.

There are a few important terms that are used in a specialized fashion within this documentation:

Incident
Any occurence reported to the National Response Center. Many users of the NRC database are interested specifically in accidents, but an incident may not be an accident, it might also be a spill, sheen sighting, terrorist attack, discovery of illegal dumping, or a drill.
Discharger
The legal entity suspected of being responsible for an incident is known as the Discharger. This terminology is now less often used, since not every incident involves a discharge of hazardous materials, but it is shorter than the preferred terminology, "Suspected Responsible Party." Not every incident has a discharger, since many were caused by an unknown entity.
Continuous Release
One of the types of incidents that must be reported to the NRC is a release of more than the Reportable Quantity of a CERCLA listed chemical. However, some dischargers routinely release more the reportable quantities of these chemicals as part of their normal operations. These predictable operating releases are known as "Continuous Releases" and are reported in a special way which allows a discharger to combine many releases into one report.

In general, the NRC database holds a core of information about each incident, with varying additional information that can be filled in depending on the type of incident (vehicle IDs for incidents involving cars or trucks, storage tank size for incidents involving storage tanks, etc.) Each incident is associated with one or more materials released during the incident, or otherwise contributing to it. Quantities of material released are not reported in common units, so these quantities can not be summed up over multiple incidents. However, the NRC database contains very valuable free text description of incidents, which often offers the best way to understand what is going on with each.

Warning: Although information about these incidents was recorded in a standard form, many incidents were reported through phone calls, and may represent incorrect information given during an event. Some phone calls are from bystanders who may not have good information about what is occurring. In general, the Coast Guard does not corrent NRC notifications after the fact, as better information becomes available (except perhaps for the most important incidents. There was an EPA database, ARIP, that held updated information about some of the most serious incidents reported in the NRC database. However, it was a survey, and has not been updated by EPA since about 1999 to our knowledge.

The NRC database used to have the problem of multiple phone calls referring to the same event. This would result in the same event having multiple records in the database. The Coast Guard appears to have worked to eliminate the duplicates. However, the exact state of progress in eliminating this problem is unknown to RTK NET.

Individual Data fields

Additional help is available through the help file associated with NRC standard report output.