Plating Baths Come Under EPA Form R Review Again

EPA’s educational resources and self-policing incentives are opportunities to discover the inaccuracies and violations before they happen.



Donald Gallo / Attorney / Husch Blackwell


A Wisconsin attorney specializing in environmental law says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is enforcing reporting Form R threshold determinations for electroplating baths, and says shops should be aware of the emphasis.

The regulations are outlined in Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, but attorney Donald Gallo said he is seeing more cases of the EPA asking shops for the paperwork that reports released hazardous substances by shops that meet certain criteria.

Documentation plays a major role in the success of a plating shop, and Gallo says calculations are often times theoretical.

“The compounds formed in the process are not easily recognized and often times, you can’t accurately measure them,” Gallo says, “but you can try to quantify them to determine whether you cross the threshold or not.”

Many of the chemical compounds are produced in a variety of intricate chemical reactions occurring just beneath the surface, and are listed under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. But calculating these thresholds are not always straightforward.

The Act requires the reporting of released hazardous substances by shops with 10 or more full-time employees; is covered by certain SIC codes; meets one of the criteria set forth in 40 C.F.R. § 372.22(b)(1)-(3); and that manufactures, processes or otherwise uses a toxic chemical in an amount exceeding an applicable threshold quantity of that chemical during a calendar year. Facilities can report such releases using a toxic chemical release inventory form (Form R) that must be submitted to the EPA and the state.

For electroplaters, these regulations require accurate documentation of threshold determinations and the release of hazardous substances. Companies that are not aware of the Act’s regulations—and how to abide by them—are at risk for violation.

It's a two-step process, Gallo says. First, a company calculates the formation of the chemical compound and then totals those compounds, measuring them against threshold regulations. If a threshold has been crossed, the second step is to report it. 

“Where companies go off the track is when they are not calculating the compounds correctly,” Gallo says. “If calculations are incorrect, they might not even be aware they’re over the threshold.” 

These regulations are far from new. Toxic release documentation has been an increasing issue for the last 20 years and continues to grow. Larry Dietz, general manager of Professional Plating in Brillion, Wisconsin, says his shop has not been asked about Form R requirements.

“We have seen the EPA over time add areas of questions where they are seeking to have companies tell them what they are dong to reduce the amounts,” Dietz says.  “And that good thing. We faithfully fill the forms out and submit with detailed regularity.”

Last December, the EPA announced initiatives to modernize its self-disclosure policies, allowing business to resolve violations through its online automated eDisclosure system. Several resources, like these, are available for businesses that need them or not. 

“This is an awareness issue,” Gallo says. EPA’s educational resources and self-policing incentives are opportunities to discover the inaccuracies and violations before they happen. 

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Originally published in the October 2016 issue.