Part III: 5 Environmental Programs that Apply to You: Spill Prevention

Part III: 5 Environmental Programs that Apply to You: Spill Prevention

One of the toughest tasks in compliance audit is telling a well-intentioned client that the environmental program that he has been ignoring does, in fact, apply to his operation. In most instances, it’s not a matter of being unaware of the regulation but instead incorrectly determining that the requirement doesn’t apply. This can result from several sources of false confidence:

A program may not be an exact fit–An emergency response program would seem on the surface not to apply to a facility that doesn’t house any hazardous materials or dispose of hazardous waste
A program may not have been intended for them–An oil spill prevention program would seem not to apply to a facility that does not store oil
A facility may have had successful agency compliance inspections–The inspector may have been conducting a media-specific inspection and may not have looked at issues outside that specific medium. Or, as inspectors or human, he may have just missed it—this time.

This is the third in a five part series. In part one, we examined the requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). In part two, we looked at the Clean Water Act’s Stormwater Permtting Program.

In this third article of a five part series, we will briefly touch on the requirements of the Clean Water Act’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule.

EPA regulations require certain facilities that use, store, or process oil to develop written plans to prevent, mitigate, and respond to spills. The Facility Response Plan (FRP) rule and the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule were implemented in response to a catastrophic 1988 spill in Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania, where nearly 1 million gallons of diesel fuel was spilled into the Monongahela River. The accident was determined to be the result of an improperly reassembled storage tank.

The SPCC rule requires facilities to install secondary containment and other structures to prevent a spill from migrating offsite, to develop a written response plan, to conduct routine training, and to perform periodic inspections of storage tanks and piping.

Since its initial promulgation, the SPCC rule has been amended and its applicability has been streamlined, making it easier for small facilities to comply.

The SPCC rule is applicability to any facility that meets all of the following criteria:

  1. The facility is considered non-transportation-related.

Operations that are intended to move oil from one facility to another, i.e., transportation-related, are not included. Examples of non-transportation-related facilities include:

  • Onshore and offshore oil well drilling facilities;
  • Onshore and offshore oil production facilities (including separators and storage facilities);
  • Oil refining or storage facilities;
  • Industrial, commercial, agricultural, or public facilities using or storing oil; and
  • Certain waste treatment facilities.
  1. The facility is engaged in drilling, producing, gathering, storing, processing, refining, transferring, distributing, using or consuming oil.

Oil means oil of any kind or in any form, including, but not limited to: fats, oils, or greases of animal, fish, or marine mammal origin; vegetable oils; and other oils and greases, including petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, synthetic oils, mineral oils, oil refuse, or oil mixed with wastes.

  1. The facility could discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.

You can determine this by considering the geography and location of your facility relative to nearby navigable waters (such as streams, creeks and other waterways). Additionally, you should determine if ditches, gullies, storm sewers or other drainage systems might transport an oil spill to nearby streams. Estimate the volume of oil that could be spilled in an incident and how that oil might drain or flow from your facility and the soil conditions or geographic features that might affect the flow toward waterways. Also you may want to consider whether precipitation runoff could transport oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. You may not take into account manmade features, such as dikes, equipment, or other structures that might prevent, contain, hinder, or restrain the flow of oil. Assume these manmade features are not present when making your determination.

  1. The facility has a total aggregate capacity of aboveground oil storage containers greater than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried oil storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. (Do not include containers less than 55 gallons, permanently closed container, motive power containers, or storage containers used exclusively for wastewater treatment.)

When you begin to add up the capacity of your containers, use the shell capacity of the  container (maximum volume) and not the actual amount of product stored in the container (operational volume) to determine whether the SPCC rule applies to you. Remember to include oils stored in oil-filled equipment such as hydraulic systems, lubricating systems (e.g., those for pumps such as irrigation pumps; compressors and other rotating equipment), gear boxes, machining coolant systems, heat transfer systems, transformers, circuit breakers, and electrical switches.

Once applicability has been determined, the SPCC Plan must be developed according to the total storage volume, the spill history, and the single largest storage container. There are three options.

Tier I Qualified Facility

To qualify as a Tier I facility, the total storage capacity must be less than 10,000 gallons and in the three years before the SPCC Plan is certified the facility must have not had either a single discharge of oil greater than 1,000 gallons or two discharges of oil each greater than 42 gallons within any 12-month period; AND the facility must not have an individual aboveground oil container greater than 5,000 gallons;

Tier I Qualified Facilities are required to complete and self-certify the EPA SPCC Plan Template.

Tier II Qualified Facility

To qualify as a Tier II facility, the total storage capacity must be less than 10,000 gallons and in the three years before the SPCC Plan is certified the facility must have not had either a single discharge of oil greater than 1,000 gallons or two discharges of oil each greater than 42 gallons within any 12-month period; AND the facility may have an individual aboveground oil container greater than 5,000 gallons.

Tier II Qualified Facilities are required to develop a full, customized SPCC plan but the plan can be self-certified.

A Tier I/Tier II owner/operator that self certifies the SPCC Plan attests that he/she is familiar with the SPCC requirements and has visited and examined the facility. The owner/operator also certifies that:

  • The Plan has been prepared in accordance with accepted and sound industry practices and standards and with the rule requirements;
  • Procedures for required inspections and testing have been established;
  • The Plan is being fully implemented;
  • The facility meets the qualifying criteria;
  • The Plan does not deviate from rule requirements except as allowed and as certified by a PE; and
  • Management approves the Plan and has committed resources to implement it.

A PE must be involved when you deviate from any of the SPCC requirements (i.e., either by providing environmentally equivalent alternatives or a contingency plan instead of secondary containment). You can still self-certify the SPCC Plan, if your facility is a Tier I or II qualified facility but the deviation must be certified by a PE.

Full Plan Facility

Facilities that do not qualify for Tier I or Tier II must develop a full, customized SPCC plan according to the requirements of 40 CFR 112.7 and subparts B or C of the rule and that plan must be certified by a licensed Professional Engineer.

The following elements must be included in the plan:

  • A list of the oil containers at the facility including the contents and location of each container;
  • A brief description of the procedures that you will use to prevent oil spills. For example, steps you use to transfer fuel from a storage tank to a vehicle that reduce the possibility of a fuel spill;
  • A brief description of the measures you installed to prevent oil from reaching water;
  • A brief description of the measures you will use to contain and cleanup an oil spill; and
  • A list of emergency contacts and first responders.

Include the following spill prevention measures in the SPCC Plan and implement them at your facility:

  • Use containers suitable for the oil stored. For example, use a container designed for flammable liquids to store gasoline;
  • Identify contractors or other local personnel who can help you clean up an oil spill;
  • Provide overfill prevention for your oil storage containers. You could use a high-level alarm or audible vent;
  • Provide effective, sized secondary containment for bulk storage containers, such as a dike or a remote impoundment. The containment must be able to hold the full capacity of the container plus possible rainfall. The dike may be constructed of earth or concrete. A double-walled tank may also suffice;
  • Provide effective, general secondary containment to address the most likely discharge where you transfer oil to and from containers and for mobile refuelers, such as fuel nurse tanks mounted on trucks or trailers. For example, you may use sorbent materials, drip pans or curbing for these areas; and
  • Periodically inspect and test pipes and containers. You should visually inspect aboveground pipes and inspect aboveground containers following industry standards. You must “leak test” buried pipes when they are installed or repaired. Keep a written record of your inspections.

EPA has published volumes of guidance information over the years. Search for SPCC on the epa.gov website or contact Access for help in determining applicability of this often-misunderstood program.