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What to do if you spill oil or hazardous substances

Dangerous substances can spill to land, water, or air. The sooner a spill is reported, the sooner we can respond. Failure to report a spill you're responsible for could result in penalties.

If a spill occurs

  1. Stop the spill and warn others in the area immediately.
  2. Shut off any ignition sources, including cigarettes.
  3. Contain the spill.
  4. Report the spill immediately to:
    • Washington Emergency Management Division at 1-800-258-5990
    • The National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802

There are no penalties for reporting a spill unnecessarily, but there may be significant penalties for not reporting one.

Reporting different types of spills

Type of spill Reporting requirements Required contacts
Oil and hazardous substance spills to water
  • Report it immediately.
  • The National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802
  • Washington Emergency Management Division at 1-800-258-5990
Release of hazardous or extremely hazardous substance
Dangerous waste
  • Report it immediately.
Leaking underground storage tanks
  • Report within 24 hours.
Oil spills to ground
  • Report within 90 days.
  • Oil industry contingency plan holders may have different reporting timeframes designated by their contingency plans.
Spills to air
  • Report within 90 days.

Cleaning up spills

Find an approved response contractor

If you spill, you will need to hire a state-approved hazmat or primary response contractor to clean up your spill.

Cleanup costs and assessing damages

If you spill oil or hazardous substances to state waters, in addition to paying for cleanup costs and claims from third parties, Washington state may require you or your company to pay:

  • A natural resource damage assessment.
  • Reimbursement of the state’s expenses to respond, assess, and investigate the incident.
  • A penalty for violation of the state’s law or rule.

A party responsible for a threat of a spill may still be required to reimburse the state for the cost of responding to the threat. For more information on each of these costs, review the information provided in the links below.

Laws and rules for spills