SEPA checklist guidance, Section B: Environmental health

Guidance on answering environmental health questions on the SEPA Checklist

7. Environmental Health

a. Are there any environmental health hazards, including exposure to toxic chemicals, risk of fire and explosion, spill, or hazardous waste, that could occur as a result of this proposal? If so, describe.

Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person and related factors impacting behaviors.

  • It includes the assessment and control of environmental factors that can potentially affect health.
  • It is targeted toward preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments.

The risk from toxic chemicals doesn't begin with a leaking drum of hazardous waste. It begins when products are made containing toxic chemicals. Most pollution entering the environment comes from small, steady releases of toxic chemicals contained in everyday products such as the vehicle brakes, flame retardants, plastic softeners, and roofing materials. 

1. Describe any known or possible contamination at the site from present or past uses:

Research known or possible contamination at the site from present or past uses. Indicators of possible site contamination include past uses such as auto repair or wrecking facilities, gasoline dispensing facilities, dry cleaning, municipal landfill, radioactive waste, industrial site, log yard, smelters and foundries, and agricultural uses. 

  • Use Ecology’s “Facility/Site database”  and map search function to identify contaminated sites and area-wide contamination.

  • Ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program maintains an interactive map that identifies contaminated sites across the state - What is in My Neighborhood.

If the proposal involves the use of property that is within or near an area-wide contamination zone (e.g. the Tacoma Smelter Plume), then testing may be necessary of all contaminated media (soil, air, or groundwater) in order to  demonstrate that the suspected contaminants are below cleanup levels. If there is data available, describe it below and provide references. Attach a separate report to the Checklist if available.  

2. Describe existing hazardous chemicals and conditions that might affect project development and design. This includes underground hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines located within the project area and in the vicinity:

These would include underground hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines located within the project area and within the 660-foot project consultation zone and easements associated with the pipeline. For example, the location of a hazardous liquid or gas transmission pipeline within 660 feet of the project site poses a potential hazard during planning, development, and the operating life of a project.

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3. Describe any toxic or hazardous chemicals that might be stored, used, or produced during the project's development or construction, or at any time during the operating life of the project.

4. Describe special emergency services that might be required:

Thinking ahead and planning for emergencies can help prevent a small hazardous waste spill from turning into a dangerous, expensive contamination problem. The proposal could require a special response plan for potential hazardous waste emergencies including:

  • Capabilities and proper use of emergency equipment including communications and alarm systems.
  • Responding to fires, explosions, spills, releases to air, and ground water contamination incidents.
  • Procedures for using, inspecting, repairing and replacing your emergency equipment (and monitoring equipment, such as temperature or pressure indicators, if you have any).
  • Details of any automatic waste feed cut-off systems.
  • Steps for shutting down operations.  

Special services involving hazardous materials can include:

  • In the event of a fire, call the fire department or attempt to extinguish the fire.
  • In the event of a spill, contain the flow as possible, clean up the waste and any contaminated materials as soon as practicable, and call 1-800-SPILL-911.
  • If a fire, explosion or other release could threaten human health or could reach state waters, call 1-800-SPILL-911 and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

5. Proposed measures to reduce or control environmental health hazards, if any:

Cleanup after an incident is the most expensive way to deal with toxics. Businesses and other facilities using toxic chemicals must follow a complex system of state and federal rules to properly manage and dispose of those substances. Ultimately, the smartest, cheapest and healthiest approach to reducing toxic threats is preventing contamination in the first place.

b. Noise

1. What types of noise exist in the area that may affect your project?

List the types and approximate level of on-site and surrounding  noise. Consider noises associated with vehicles, machinery, drilling, blasting, crushing, dropping of heavy objects, sports fields, playgrounds, loud music, animals, bells, sirens, whistles, and other alarms. Describe noise levels at different times of day and year.
2. What types and levels of noise would be created by or associated with the project on a short-term or a long-term basis?

Noise can be considered any sound that is undesired or interferes with human hearing. Describe the sources and levels of noise generated as a direct or indirect result of a proposal. Include all phases of development, from construction to operation and maintenance, and possibly demolition.

Maximum noise levels for the state are included in WAC 173-60 pursuant to the Noise Control Act, RCW 70.107. The rules establish maximum noise levels permissible in identified environments, and thereby to provide use standards relating to the reception of noise within such environments 

Chapter 173-62 WAC relates to motor vehicle noise performance standards and establishes maximum permissible sound levels for motor vehicles on all public highways. 

3. Proposed measures to reduce or control noise impacts, if any:

  • Maintenance or construction of berms or vegetated buffers.
  • Site noise sources away from humans and animals.
  • Limit operational hours.
  • Design structures to absorb noise.
  • Select equipment or power source to be used.

Additional Resources