Call the National Response Center
(800) 424-8802 (toll-free)
(202) 267-2675 (in Washington, D.C.)

The accidental release of a hazardous substance or an oil spill can pose a significant threat to public health and the environment. To reduce this threat, timely response is critical. This brochure describes what to do when a hazardous substance is released to the environment, or an oil spill occurs, and how the National Response System is activated.

When the person in charge of a facility or vessel containing a hazardous substance becomes aware that a release in reportable quantity [2](RQ) is occurring, that person must notify the National Response Center (NRC). Similarly, a discharge of oil must be immediately reported to the NRC if it causes a discoloration or “sheen” on the surface of the water, violates water quality standards, or causes a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface or on the adjoining shorelines.


The NRC, located at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., is a 24-hour facility which acts as the single point of contact for all pollution incident reporting.

To notify the NRC call: (800) 424-8802 (toll-free) (801) 267-2675 (in Washington, D.C.)

Calls to the NRC trigger the National Response System, a network of federal, state, local and private sector groups responsible for responding to oil spills or hazardous substance releases.


Upon notification, the NRC immediately alerts the appropriate federal On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) to respond. If the spill or release is in coastal waters, the regional Coast Guard OSC is notified. If inland, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) OSC in the appropriate region is notified.

Local response teams often are first to arrive at the scene of anenvironmental emergency. They initiate action to mitigate the immediate threat and maintain authority until the federal OSC arrives to assess the situation.


The National Contingency Plan coordinates the activities of the federal, state and local government agencies potentially responsive to a hazardous substance release or oil discharge.

In some cases, the party responsible for the release will take responsibility for cleanup actions. If the responsible party is financially unable, or unwilling to conduct the cleanup, then EPA encourages state and local governments to step in. EPA has established a reimbursement program which provides state and local governments with up to $25,000 in funds to help cope with cleanup costs. For information on state and local government reimbursement call the RCRA Superfund Hotline toll free at (800) 424-9346, or in Washington, DC, (202) 260-3000. EPA monitors responsible party, or state and local cleanup actions to ensure adequate protection of public health and the environment.

If neither the responsible party nor the state or local government can manage the cleanup, the federal government takes responsibility. The EPA or Coast Guard OSC directs all cleanup activities, calling in various federal, local and state agencies, as well as the responsible party, as appropriate. The Superfund Trust Fund, derived from taxes on petroleum and the production of a number of commercial chemicals, financially supports federal response to releases of hazardous substances. Whenever possible, the EPA seeks to recover cleanup costs from responsible parties. Federal response to oil spills is supported by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, supplied by a five-cent domestic fee per barrel of oil.

Report releases and spills to:
The National Response Center
(800) 424-8802
(202) 267-2675

For further information call the EPA Regional Emergency Response Office in your region:

EPA Region 1, Lexington, Mass.
(617) 860-4361

EPA Region 2, Edison, N.J.
(908) 321-6657

EPA Region 3, Philadelphia, Pa.
(215) 597-0992

EPA Region 4, Atlanta, Ga.
(404) 347-3931

EPA Region 5, Chicago, Ill.
(312) 886-6236

EPA Region 6, Dallas, Texas
(214) 655-2270

EPA Region 7, Kansas City, Kan.
(913) 551-5000

EPA Region 8, Denver, Colo.
(303) 293-1238

EPA Region 9, San Francisco, Calif.
(415) 744-1500

EPA Region 10, Seattle, WA

(206) 442-1263

If you detect the release of a hazardous substance or oil:

Report releases to the National Response Center, 1-800-424-8802