The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air requirements make it necessary for businesses and individuals to report to an appropriate authority if there are releases of refrigerants beyond a certain safety level. Refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) could deplete the ozone in the atmosphere; this is why the government is concerned about their release into the air.
CFC and HCFC Releases
There are requirements for governments, local authorities and facilities to report on hazardous and toxic chemicals. If any of these entities accidentally releases a CFC or HCFC refrigerant, they must make a report under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA). In the case of “comfort cooling” appliances with a refrigerant charge of more than 50 lbs., the trigger rate is a leakage of 15 percent or more. For commercial refrigeration and industrial refrigeration with a refrigerant charge of more than 50 lbs., the trigger leak rate is set at 35 percent. The EPCRA provides information to the public about the use of chemicals at facilities and about their release into the environment.
If ammonia is released into the air, a report should be made to the appropriate State Emergency Response Commission as well as to a Local Emergency Planning Committee. A report must also be made to the National Response Center, a federal agency. The same trigger rates for CFC and HCFC releases also apply to ammonia refrigerant releases.
Refrigerant Leak Repair
Besides reporting requirements, the government has also set up requirements relating to the repair of appliances that are leaking. If during the course of a 12-month period, an appliance is leaking refrigerants beyond the trigger rate, you have to take actions to repair it. In general, you need to make suitable repairs to the appliance within 30 days of finding out about the leak. Or, make plans to retrofit or retire the appliance within 30 days, and act on the plan within a year of the plan date.