Imagine that one of your employees comes and tells you that a 100-gallon spill just took place at your facility and it is flowing swiftly toward a storm sewer on your property.
Suddenly all eyes are on you. What you do next will show your leadership and skill at addressing the issue and limiting the company’s liability. Are you ready to be the hero, or is spill preparedness the one item that just keeps slipping down your to-do list?
Use the techniques recommended in Chris Jimieson’s latest article to make your spill response training engaging and interactive for staff handling oil. Spill preparedness becomes part of your routine and you’re ready to be the hero if a spill occurs.
By Chris Jimieson, PE and Jared Omernik, PE
Do you know how much oil and fuel you store in aboveground containers at your facility? If you have more than 1,320 gallons, you may need an SPCC Plan. What is an SPCC Plan? SPCC stands for Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure, and it is a federal rule (40 CFR 112 in the Federal Register) designed to prevent oil-based products from entering navigable waterways of the U.S. But it’s about more than just compliance. It’s an important tool to help you limit your liability.
Facilities covered under the SPCC rule are subject to agency inspections and potential enforcement actions if the facility’s practices are found to be out of compliance.
Does the SPCC rule apply to me?
The 1,320-gallon threshold isn’t the only trigger for an SPCC Plan. One of the keys to take away from the SPCC rule is that it does not count oil/fuel storage in containers less than 55-gallons in size. Another trigger is that a facility must reasonably be expected to discharge oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines of the U.S.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not define what “reasonably be expected” means. Rather, the responsibility is on the facility owner or operator to determine the potential for discharge. In reality, it’s usually easy to think of a scenario where spilled oil could reach a waterway. Even if you think a spill would never reach the stream, what if there was a significant rain event that washed away spilled oil on the ground through a storm sewer? Often the “reasonably to be expected” is not challenged, so it is best to err on the side of caution.
The SPCC rule applies to my facility, now what?
There are three options: 1) Prepare the plan yourself. 2) Use a third party provider to prepare your plan, or 3) Have a licensed professional engineer develop your plan. The option you choose depends on how much oil you store at your facility and your working knowledge of the SPCC rule.
If you have less than 10,000 gallons of oil and no single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you may be able to prepare your own SPCC Plan, following the EPA’s Tier I qualified facility template.
You can download the EPA’s Tier I qualified facility template here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/tier1template.pdf. The template is the least expensive way to comply with the SPCC rule. However, some users feel it is a little confusing.
If you have less than 10,000 gallons of oil and have a single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you could qualify under the EPA’s Tier 2 qualified facility category. The EPA does not provide a plan template for a Tier II qualified facility. You can still prepare the plan yourself, or you may hire a third party or professional engineer to develop the plan for you.
If your facility has greater than 10,000 gallons of oil storage, you must have a licensed professional engineer prepare your facility’s SPCC Plan.
Working on an SPCC Plan with a Third Party Provider
If you decide to work with a third party provider, here are some things you can expect as part of the process. The provider will conduct a facility site visit to review the oil storage. Prepare to have a staff member familiar with the oil storage escort the provider to each of the sources. The provider will ask questions about spill prevention features at each source location, including secondary containment, overfill protection, and interstitial monitoring, if applicable.
After visiting the oil sources, the provider may ask to see any available tank data such as specifications, current inspection protocol, and tank repair or integrity testing documentation. You can eliminate follow-ups and help keep costs down by having this data available for review.
Following the site visit, the provider will prepare an SPCC Plan that you should review for accuracy before implementation.
The Value of an SPCC Plan for Your Facility
An SPCC Plan is about more than just compliance. An SPCC Plan contains inspection forms and protocols that can help to prevent a spill at your facility. It identifies the single point of contact, an “SPCC Coordinator” for the facility. If there is a spill, the Plan contains steps necessary to contain the spill initially and control the discharge, and the proper contacts to notify internally and externally.
The SPCC rule requires all oil-handling personnel receive annual training to respond appropriately to spills in their work areas. The annual training requirement is another key element to spill prevention, but also covers aspects on how to properly take control and countermeasure actions in the event of an oil spill.
Work with your staff to determine if the SPCC rule applies to you. An SPCC Plan is a required document for certain facilities to help you comply with the SPCC rule and gain the benefits of having a plan in place. However, more than that, it is a practical document that’s designed to assist with training and inspections and to help prevent spills from occurring. Moreover, if spills do occur, an SPCC Plan provides the guidance to help control the spill and limit your liability.
Chris Jimieson and Jared Omernik have more than 26 years’ combined experience helping various types of clients with environmental compliance. Chris and Jared have extensive experience helping customers build and review SPCC and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) projects. For questions about the SPCC rule or how to comply, Contact Chris at
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Are you approaching the required five-year review/plan re-certification for your facility’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan? Even if you’ve been through several cycles of performing five-year tune-ups on your SPCC Plan, you can make your next review easier and prepare yourself for future SPCC Plan re-certifications if you follow these five tips.
Late renewals are a consistent pain point for many companies. To avoid being late with your next re-certification, start your review six months before your SPCC Plan is due for its 5-year review. If you are conducting the review internally, start by identifying the person who will be doing the review. If you are using a third party, this approach will help you go through the proposal/contracting process, so you are ready to conduct the actual review and complete the re-certification before the Plan expires.
Simplify Data Collection
One of the keys to a compliant SPCC Plan is to collect accurate data in the field about your facility’s oil sources. Streamlined data collection is of particular importance if you have a large facility or your oil storage changes regularly. The key to simplifying data collection is to make sure your reviewer has organized information to evaluate the compliance aspects of each source. Accurate data collection can limit the follow-up required from plan preparers to verify information, as well as minimize the potential for discrepancies. Moreover, particularly useful if a third party is auditing your Plan or if it is in review during an EPA inspection.
Reduce Redundancy with a Summary Table
One way to simplify your Plan is to use an oil source summary table to cover as much information as possible. A table can include each oil source and the aspects of how the oil source is compliant with the SPCC Rule. There may be areas in the Plan where you need to provide additional text discussion regarding oil sources to explain a compliance matter. In general, try to avoid duplicating information within the Plan.
Watch Out for Commonly Overlooked Areas
While secondary containment and overfill protection are key elements to review at each oil source, some reviewers forget to measure the size of containment structures. Dimensions need to be carefully measured in the field to verify and show sufficient secondary containment capacity in your facility’s SPCC Plan.
Another commonly overlooked area is facility drainage; specifically the overland flow in the proximity of each oil source, which is key to determining the potential receptors where spilled product can travel. These receptors could be storm sewers, ditches, wetlands, or waterways. You can discuss the protection of these receptors during your facility’s annual SPCC training. Swift action and concise communication during a spill can help limit your liability.
Use Targeted Annual Training
Many companies struggle to comply with the annual training requirement. One of the tripping points is trying to train all employees who handle oil for example. To avoid this pitfall, implement a tiered training program so you can focus the training content based on an employee’s responsibility level.
Spill recognition and notification through proper internal channels to get a spill cleaned up is an essential message for employees that occasionally handle oil. These employees could also be trained to aid with the initial control and response to a spill. A second tier may include team members who manage the SPCC Plan; they have additional responsibilities such as inspections of oil sources and spill reporting.
By Chris Jimieson, SCS Engineers
Chris Jimieson has over 17 years of experience supporting industrial, commercial, military, federal, state, municipal, and solid waste companies with environmental compliance. He has extensive experience building and reviewing SPCC and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) and manages compliance assignments, providing computer-based training modules to meet employer training needs. Contact Chris at or 608-216-7367.