Casey Calls on National Response Center to Improve Notification Efforts After DEP Wasn’t Alerted to Possible Drinking Water Contamination

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has written a letter to the National Response Center (NRC) urging the agency to improve its notification efforts after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wasn’t notified about possible drinking water contamination. A potentially harmful substance was dumped into the Mahoning River in Ohio that flows into Pennsylvania yet the National Response Center failed to adequately notify the state DEP in a timely manner.  

“Quick and timely notification is essential to protecting public health. In this instance, the National Response Center’s efforts to notify agencies did not make it to the right people,” Senator Casey said. “Residents of Beaver County and localities throughout the Commonwealth rightfully expect federal and state agencies to work together to protect drinking water. When there’s a gap in notification like the one that occurred here there need to be changes.”

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:

Captain John Caplis
Chief, Office of Incident Management and Preparedness
National Response Center

Dear Captain Caplis:

I write regarding an incident that occurred in Ohio but also affected Pennsylvania waters. An Ohio company allegedly dumped brine and oil-based drilling mud in a tributary of the Mahoning River in Ohio over a period of several months. The Mahoning River flows into Pennsylvania and then flows into rivers that are the source of drinking water for several Pennsylvania municipalities. This incident was reported to the National Response Center (NRC). However, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was not notified of the incident because DEP is not on the NRC’s list for notification.

Pursuant to the NRC’s mission, many incidents in Pennsylvania that are reported to the NRC are related to releases of contaminants to the environment, whether land, water or air. I believe the NRC must ensure that the Federal and State agencies responsible for environmental protection be notified of incidents that could affect the environment. Further, notification of events must occur in a timely and effective manner. Above all, it is imperative that notifications be sent to those appropriate agencies responsible for protecting human health and the environment.

I request that you review the NRC’s procedures and answer the following questions:

  1. What types of agencies are most appropriate to receive information from the NRC? Are all relevant Federal and State agencies on the notification list?
  2. What is NRC’s notification procedure? Was it followed for the incident noted above?
  3. What are the means of notification? Are they the most appropriate ways to communicate with the recipients?
  4. Is there a procedure to confirm receipt of the notification?
  5. What is the average time it takes to notify agencies?
  6. What details does the NRC try to collect from reporting parties?

I appreciate your attention to this important matter. I look forward to receiving your response.


Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator



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