“Our mission is to protect the public health and the environment throughout Los Angeles County from accidental releases and improper handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes through coordinated efforts of inspections, emergency response, enforcement, and site mitigation oversight. ”
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the occurrence of major hazardous materials incidents nationally and in Los Angeles County focused public attention on the need for safe handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. In 1982, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established the Hazardous Materials Control Program in the Department of Health Services for the inspection of businesses generating hazardous waste. In 1991, the program merged into the Fire Department and it became the Health Hazardous Materials Division (HHMD). All Hazardous Material Specialists are sworn and badged Los Angeles County Deputy Health Officers.
In 1997, HHMD became a Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA) to administer the following programs within Los Angeles County: the Hazardous Waste Generator Program, the Hazardous Materials Release Response Plans and Inventory Program, the California Accidental Release Prevention Program (Cal-ARP), the Aboveground Storage Tank Program and the Underground Storage Tank Program.
HHMD is a division of the Department’s Prevention Services Bureau, and includes the following sections and units:
Inspection Section staff permit and inspect hazardous material handling and hazardous waste- generating businesses to ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations. They apply their education, training, and experience in chemistry, manufacturing processes and industrial hygiene to identify and assess the use and storage of hazardous materials. They also oversee the proper handling, treatment, transportation and disposal of hazardous wastes generated by many industries. These inspections ensure compliance with applicable laws or regulations and assist businesses through pollution prevention and waste reduction. HHMD personnel also investigate and resolve complaints alleging hazardous material and hazardous waste mismanagement. For more detailed information on businesses that handle hazardous materials, or generate hazardous wastes please click here.
The Emergency Operations Section provides 24-hour emergency response services to hazardous materials incidents occurring throughout Los Angeles County. Teams of hazardous materials specialists ensure that public health and safety, along with the environment, are protected from hazardous material releases. This is accomplished by identifying unknown substances, assessing threats, coordinating multi-agency responses and mitigating spills and releases. These teams provide remediation and oversight to ensure safe and immediate recovery of the affected properties, declaring properties safe for re-occupancy and identifying parties responsible for cleanup costs. In addition, staff respond to medical waste emergencies, and assist law enforcement at illegal drug lab sites, respond to biological, radiological and chemical terrorist threats, and investigate complaints from residential and non-industrial sources. In 2004, this section responded to over 2,600 emergency incidents.
This section is composed of the following units:
The Cal-ARP Unit administers and enforces the Cal-ARP Program at businesses that handle Regulated Substances (listed flammable and toxic hazardous materials) in quantities above threshold levels. These “high risk” facilities are capable of releasing materials which could result in significant public health impacts. Businesses regulated by this program, such as oil refineries, chemical plants and food processors, are required to submit Risk Management Plans (RMPs) to reduce the risk of accidental releases. Cal-ARP staff review and approve all applicable plan components. Site inspections are conducted to verify compliance. This unit also investigates accidental releases of regulated substances.
The Investigations Unit is a leading member agency in the Los Angeles County and Federal environmental crimes strike forces. This unit investigates criminal complaints alleging felony violations of federal and state hazardous materials and waste laws. Investigators perform criminal surveillance, collect and evaluate evidence, interview informants, prepare, serve and execute search warrants, and draft environmental crime cases for referral to local and federal prosecutors.
The Site Mitigation Unit reviews and approves assessment and mitigation work plans for sites contaminated with hazardous substances. These sites can be active or closed businesses where years of past mismanagement practices have resulted in various levels of contamination in impacted soils and groundwater. Unit staff oversee the work of private environmental consultants to ensure that the appropriate remedial action and cleanup standards are met to protect public health and the environment.
The Administration/Planning Section provides administrative, technical, educational, and operational support to all HHMD sections. This section includes a Technical Services Unit (a Division support unit), a Data Operations Unit, data systems, and administrative staff. The Technical Services unit administers CUPA regulatory oversight requirements and provides support to all participating agencies. Section personnel analyze division needs, prepare fee and ordinance proposals, coordinate staff training, maintain the division website, edit and publish the HHMD newsletter, analyze proposed legislation, and develop division policies and manuals. The Data Operations unit manages and maintains a database of hazardous material inventory information received from regulated facilities, and is a contact point for inventory forms.