Oil Spill Prevention and Containment Regulations

oil spill prevention

Industry and individuals alike historically harmed the environment and humankind by discharging pollutants into waterways. As information came to light about the effects of this pollution, the nation responded with the Clean Water Act of 1973 and its Oil Pollution Prevention regulation. The regulation required certain facilities to devise methods for spill control, containment and countermeasures (SPCC) and delegated program enforcement to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What Is SPCC According to the EPA?

SPCC regulations include preventing, preparing for and responding to oil discharges for covered facilities. In other words, those who must comply with the regulation need comprehensive strategies to prevent, confine and clean up oil spills specific to their facility and its operations and characteristics.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 further underscored the need for effective strategies by amending and strengthening parts of the original law. Penalties for noncompliance with oil spill containment and cleanup regulations carry significant financial consequences and potential for imprisonment.

Who Must Follow EPA SPCC Regulations?

According to EPA guidelines, a facility must comply with SPCC regulations if:

  • It’s classified as non-transportation-related but uses or stores oil and oil products.
  • It reasonably expects oil discharge in nearby navigable waters or their adjacent shorelines.
  • It has above-ground storage of over 1,320 gallons of oil, with a short list of applicable exclusions.
  • It has below-ground storage of over 42,000 gallons of oil, with some exclusions applied.

6 Tips for Complying With SPCC Regulations

The EPA requires certified facility-specific plans for covered entities, and its inspectors will measure your performance against plan conditions. Common components of an SPCC plan include spill-prevention measures, spread-control efforts, and cleanup and risk mitigation methods.

The following tips will help you create a successful plan for the required engineer certification.

1. Map Your Site

Numerous activities, from agriculture to utility substation operations, rely on transporting or storing fuel. Make a comprehensive examination of how your facility uses, moves and stores oil-based materials and create a plot plan. This map should identify each storage area and potentially harmful substance, and the volume of substance present, which will be vital for emergency responders if a spill occurs.

2. Determine Your Facility Risks

Every facility has unique risks related to proximity to waterways, storage materials and volumes, and equipment fitness. Use the site plot plan you created in step one to build a risk profile assessing the individual impact a spill could have at each possible point. Do you have older tanks that are more vulnerable or areas with high-volume storage where the effects of a spill could amplify damage? You’ll need an SPCC strategy for responding to every scenario you identify.

3. Create Proactive Processes

The sooner you’re aware of a potential leak or spill, the faster you can respond to it to reduce risk to the environment or your company’s pocketbook.

Design a plan for conducting and documenting regular equipment inspections addressing tanks, pipes and secondary containment units. Routinely monitor for sheen and other sensory evidence of abnormalities, such as cloudy water or unusually strong fuel odors from storage or containment equipment.

It’s also a best practice to review your spill kits and cleanup equipment as part of your preventive measures. Ensure everything needed is present and operable.

4. Add SPCC Solutions for Containment

As part of your required SPCC plan, you must have robust control measures such as secondary containment units. One challenge inherent with these units is rainwater collection, which can lessen their effectiveness. Discharging the water can be a high-risk activity — if it contains pollutants, it could infiltrate local sources and leave you open to financial penalties and cleanup costs.

Containment solutions generally fall into two categories, these being passive and active. Active solutions are those requiring human interaction, and they’re not suitable for every application. Conversely, passive products like Solidification Products International Inc.’s patented containment solutions work independently around the clock. Our Petro-Pipes®Petro-Plugs® and Petro-Barriers™ provide 100% effective protection against oil discharge while promoting efficient water drainage and management.

5. Train Your Workforce

Once you have the necessary SPCC solutions, you must empower your teams to use them correctly for a fast and effective response.

Identify those who may be part of a spill control or response unit and ensure they receive comprehensive training for operating cleanup equipment. You’ll also want to instruct them on safeguarding their health with personal protective equipment. Periodic refresher training reinforces the information and boosts their confidence in being prepared.

6. Stay Current With SPCC Regulations

While the Clean Water Act may have originated SPCC ideals, numerous amendments have clarified or modified the initial requirements. State- and local-level laws also continue to evolve. Ensure your organization has access to the latest information and keeps up with changes impacting your covered facilities. You’ll also want to adjust your strategies to address updates as needed.

Contact SPI for Market-Leading SPCC Solutions

Solidification Products International Inc. has set the standard for technology and innovation in SPCC products for over 30 years.

Explore our results, then contact us online to learn more or start designing your system.

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