New York City Right To Know Regulation:
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt

Posted by Josh Sarett, 28th January 2015

The Community Right to Know Regulation (RTK) was signed into New York City’s ordinances under the Bloomberg Administration in an effort to protect tenants, building personnel and emergency responders. In accordance with this law, every year on March 1st facilities that store or use potentially hazardous substances throughout New York City’s five boroughs are required to file reports with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection documenting hazardous substances on their property. 

The list of chemicals regulated by this regulation is extensive. Chemicals such as percholorethylene and tetracholorethylene , glycol ethers, gas, oil, flammable liquids, hydrogen fluoride, anti-freeze, battery fluid and sulfuric acid, must be reported even if they are only on site for as little as one day.

This law is directed at both facility owners and/or tenants/leasees that fall into the following categories:
- Commercial buildings, businesses, hotels and nursing homes
- Utilities, industrial or commercial enterprises
- Auto body shops and automobile service stations
- Dry cleaners
- Funeral homes

Every facility falling under this regulation is required to register their building, assess the building annually and document and report toxic substances and chemicals stored in their buildings that are over the maximum permissible limit defined by the law– the “Threshold Reporting Quantity” (TRQ). The reportable amounts are listed on NYCDEP’s website and must be deciphered and then properly reported. If it is found that hazardous substances in your building exist above the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), you must not only pay a fee but also complete and file a Risk Management Plan for that facility. If the level of hazardous substances in your facility is at or below the TRQ, the facility may be eligible for an exemption. The process for documentation and reporting is as follows: - Annual visit performed by a qualified person, to the property to determine quantities of regulated hazardous substances on the NYC DEP lists. - Research NYCDEP’s website and designated lists to determine whether your specific building ingredient meets this standard, multiply the concentration weight percentage by the weight of the total mixture, then compare your number with the TRQ list. - Report findings online via the Facility Inventory Form (FIF) and document properly. - If hazardous substances are found to be above the thresholds, pay the required fee and prepare a Risk Management Plan for submission.

If you do not file, file incorrectly or fail to allow a DEP inspector to access your facility upon request, you can be assessed penalties up to $20,000.00 and jail time. In general, multifamily buildings are exempt from the RTK law. However, multifamily buildings that have commercial tenants such as a dental office, coffee shop, dry cleaner or drug store, are required to register and, if applicable, report and file. With DEP Inspectors committed to enforce this regulation and the liability incumbent upon owners to properly file to insure the safety and welfare of their tenants, building personnel and emergency responders, this law should not be taken lightly. Hiring a qualified, experienced environmental consultant to perform the annual audit of your building(s), report the findings, complete forms, prepare risk management plans and advise you on what to do is well advised for best practices, compliance, transfer of liability and to the reduced likelihood of fines.