Deadline for SPCC plans draws close for wash racks, others with oil storage

June 1, 2004
TANK CLEANING operations are among those likely to be significantly impacted by the federally mandated Spill Prevention, Control & Countermeasures (SPCC)

TANK CLEANING operations are among those likely to be significantly impacted by the federally mandated Spill Prevention, Control & Countermeasures (SPCC) rules. Time is running out on these companies to develop the contingency plans that they must have in place to be in compliance.

An update of the SPCC rules was presented during the National Tank Truck Carriers 2004 Tank Cleaning Council seminar April 12 and 13 in Nashville, Tennessee. The review of the rules was conducted by Bill McNutt, WCM Group, and John McKee, Outsource Environmental Management.

The most recent SPCC development came in March 2004 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was unable to reach an agreement in two lawsuits on the definition of “navigable waters.” The EPA said it would publish in the Federal Register “as expeditiously as reasonably practicable” language to clarify the rule.

While the SPCC rules were developed by and are regulated by the EPA, some states have announced their own SPCC programs. Louisiana is one that has taken this approach. Reporting under the SPCC program is not required unless an oil spill occurs. Most importantly, according to McNutt, the program doesn't require payment of any fees. However, companies can be faced with significant fines and penalties in the event of a spill.

Compliance for most facilities that fall under the rule was extended to August 17, 2004, and SPCC plans must be fully implemented by February 18, 2005. Facilities that become operational after February 18, 2005 must prepare and implement an SPCC plan before commencement of operations.

McNutt explained that the SPCC program is not new. The original regulation was published December 11, 1973 and was developed under section 311(j)(1)(C) of the Clean Water Act. It established procedures, methods, and equipment to prevent discharges of oil from certain non-transportation-related on-shore and offshore facilities and to contain such discharges when they do occur. This rule was amended in March 1976.

EPA officials took steps to toughen the rule in 1991. The action came in response to the 1988 release of approximately 3.8 million gallons of diesel fuel from an Ashland Oil Company facility in Pennsylvania. The 1991 proposed revisions clarified that detailed SPCC plans were mandatory, not optional.

The revisions were published in the Federal Register on July 17, 2002. Applicability was loosened, but companies covered by the rule now had no choice but to develop SPCC plans. The revised SPCC final rule took effect in August 2002.

As it stands today, this is a relatively broad-based rule. It applies to non-transportation-related facilities that have the potential to discharge oil into “navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.” Entities that store or use oil fall under the rule, and wash racks certainly can qualify.

Facility means any mobile or fixed, on-shore or off-shore building, structure, installation, equipment, pipe, or pipeline used in oil well drilling operations, oil production, oil refining, oil storage, oil gathering, oil processing, oil transfer, oil distribution, and waste treatment. Facilities can be industrial, commercial, agricultural, or public (as in government-owned).

Covered facilities include loading racks and waste treatment plants. Even vehicles and pipelines that transport oil products solely within the confines of private property come under the rule.

Storage levels

SPCC requirements apply to the facilities listed above that have buried oil storage capacity of 42,000 gallons or greater, but are not regulated by the EPA's underground storage tank rules. Also covered are facilities with a total aboveground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons. Tanks that are considered standby, temporary, or seasonal are to be included when calculating the total storage capacity.

When calculating the 1,320-gallon threshold, the following items must be included: fuel tanks, other oil (new or used) storage in tanks, drum and/or totes used for oil storage, on-site oil-containing equipment (such as transformers, generators, and air compressors), oil storage associated with or incidental to wastewater treatment units, oily wastewater and/or storm water storage, maintenance shops with new and/or used oil storage, and tank truck and/or railcar areas for loading and unloading of oil products.

A facility (or part of a facility) may be exempt from the SPCC rule if it is used exclusively for wastewater treatment and not for oil storage. Oil containers, including such equipment as transformers, that hold less than 55 gallons are not counted in the aboveground storage capacity calculation. Permanently closed tanks are now exempt.

Companies with qualifying facilities must prepare SPCC plans that include basic information, including company name, facility location, identity and amount of regulated (oil) substances stored at the facility, a description of the nearest potential receiving water body, and procedures for taking corrective actions and/or countermeasures in response to an oil spill. The plan must contain a prediction of the direction, rate of flow, and total quantity of applicable substances that could be spilled at the facility where experience indicates a reasonable potential for equipment failure or human error.

There must be a description of the containment and/or diversionary structures or equipment used to prevent a spilled substance from reaching the body of water. At a minimum, the facility should use one of the following: dikes, berms, retaining walls, curbing, culverts, gutters, weirs, booms, other barriers, spill diversion ponds, retention ponds, and absorbent materials.

Plan requirements

The SPCC plan should provide a complete discussion of the facility's conformance with the applicable rule requirements regarding spill prevention and containment procedures for tanks, piping, facility drainage systems, facility security, personnel training, and periodic inspections.

Plans must be certified by a registered professional engineer, and the facility must keep a copy of the plan on site. At a minimum, SPCC plans must be reviewed every five years, and each review must be documented.

Under recent revisions to the rule, spill histories won't be required. Spill levels that will trigger government agency notification have changed. Trigger volumes have been increased to >1,000 gallons for a single discharge or any two events within 12 months when each is >42 gallons.

Deviation is allowed from substantive requirements (except secondary containment) as long as the reason for nonconformance is documented. The SPCC plan also must contain a statement detailing how equivalent environmental protection is provided.

A description of drainage controls must be included in the plan. Spill countermeasures and disposal methods must be detailed. An emergency notification list must be included, along with a spill notification form for the National Response Center and other agencies.

Spill contingency

The plan must have spill contingency procedures. All equipment that could result in a discharge (including loading and unloading systems) must be included in the list of potential spill sources. Containment structures must be capable of holding any oil likely to be released.

The SPCC rules mandate periodic integrity testing of the containers and leak testing of valves and piping. New buried piping must have protective wrapping and cathodic protection. Integrity and leak testing are required on buried piping at the time of installation, modification, construction, relocation, or replacement.

Storage tanks require a written tank integrity testing program that is in line with industry standards, and they must be available for review and must be referenced in the SPCC plan. Test records must be kept on file for comparison.

Testing must be conducted on a regular schedule or whenever significant repairs are made to the tank. Tank testing must combine visual inspection with another technique, such as hydrostatic, radiographic, ultrasonic, acoustic emissions, or other non-destructive shell testing. Supports and foundations must be included in the testing regime.

The rule calls for frequent inspection of the tank exterior to detect deterioration or discharges. Appropriate action must be taken if the tank undergoes repair, alteration, or a change in service that might create the risk of a discharge or failure due to brittle fracture or other catastrophe.

Spill containment at a facility must at least provide for the capacity of the largest single tank with sufficient freeboard for precipitation. EPA considers sufficient freeboard to be the amount necessary to contain precipitation from a 25-year, 24-hour storm event.

Mobile and portable storage containers also must be furnished with sufficient containment, and there must be an allowance in the containment for precipitation.

Loading racks

All truck and rail loading/unloading racks must be equipped with containment. At a minimum, the containment must be able to hold the full capacity of the largest tank trailer or tankcar handled at the facility. Product transfer at other areas of a facility (such as a rail spur) also must meet the containment requirements for a loading rack.

Training must be provided to “oil-handling” employees at least once a year. An overview of the training program must be included in the plan.

Facility security must be provided and described in the SPCC plan. Some aspects of the security requirements are not well defined, according to McKee. For instance, fences are required around the facility, but the rule doesn't clearly state whether that means just a storage tank or the entire property.

Under the security section of the rules, facilities must be outfitted with the following: sufficient lighting to detect oil spills at night, fencing, gates that can be locked when no one is in attendance, loading and unloading connections that are blank-flanged or capped when not in use, and starter controls on pumps locked in the off position when not in use.