Unexpectedly replacing a tank can strain your budget and always seems to come at the most inopportune times. Based on my experience with tank inspections, one of the most common reasons for unexpected tank replacements is using an Underground Storage Tank (UST) as an Aboveground Storage Tank (AST).
Any STI/SPFA SP001 Certified Inspector can identify a misused UST during the required periodic inspections of ASTs, and these tanks are also commonly discovered during site visits related to drafting or updating Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans. Budget and complete a tank replacement before your next inspection. During my inspections, I use three indicators when looking at a tank to identify if a UST is misused as an AST:
No Emergency Vent! The most important reason not to use a UST aboveground.
If the unthinkable happens and you have a fire around your tank without proper emergency venting, that tank fire can go from bad to BOOM!
The design of ASTs is to minimize the danger of being engulfed in flames to release the vapors from the tank in a controlled manner. In contrast, a UST design will never be engulfed in flames, so the tank manufacturer does not install an emergency vent port.
Properly sizing an AST emergency vent to release the increased vapor pressure during a fire is important, too. The need to release the higher pressure makes emergency vents much larger than the normal vents for simple atmospheric changes. The larger emergency vents come in five varieties:
Flip-up vents are spring-loaded caps held closed by a latch designed to release at a set pressure or temperature. If the latch doesn’t work and the flip-up cap is open, duct tape or a well-placed brick is not the proper solution; you’ll need to replace the latch. Luckily, the latches are readily available, and the latch installation is usually simple.
Rupture disks are vent covers where the entire cover breaks open when a set pressure or temperature is exceeded, instead of just the latch like in the flip-up vents.
Pop-up vents are weighted caps that sit on the vent until the pressure in the tank reaches the designed level. During fire incidents, these vents periodically release the built-up vapors, preventing the tank from rupturing. If this vent is not staying seated correctly, repair or replace the vent.
Long bolt manholes function similarly to the pop-up vents to periodically release built-up vapors. This type of vent relies on the bolts securing the manhole cover to have the designed amount of slack between the manhole rim and the nuts. I’ve seen too many long bolt manholes with the nuts fully tightened to the rim, completely negating the vent’s purpose and safety. A simple fix for this issue is to replace the fully threaded bolts with properly sized partially threaded bolts.
New tanks are unlikely to have Weak Roof-to-Shell joints. Occasionally, I’ve seen them in older single-wall vertical tanks, where the roof construction has a particular area break when the tank pressure gets too high.
Unreviewed Damage: Most USTs as ASTs are old and damaged
Frequently pulling these tanks results in dents or scraps to the UST. Remove any damaged tanks from service until a qualified inspector or engineer can review the damage. Additionally, most states prohibit the reuse of USTs once they are removed from their original installation location.
It may be difficult to see in this image, but the tank is scratched, dented, and starting to rust.
No Tank Saddles
Most of the repurposed USTs are horizontal, so these tanks require chocks or an earthen berm to keep them in place. Saddles act as the welded attachment areas for the tank legs and distribute the weight over the tank’s belly — part of the AST design. Sometimes, people with good intentions get too creative and attempt to turn a UST into a vertical AST. However, the presence of vent connections along the side of the tank and none on the tank top is a sure sign the tank is not in use appropriately.
Best practice — look for these warning signs before inspections and drafting or updating SPCC Plans.
About the Author: Benjamin Reynolds is a Senior Project Professional in our Little Rock, Arkansas, office. His recent experience includes serving as a Technical Branch Manager for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality where he led a team of engineers, toxicologists, and site assessors to review and guide site assessments and remediation projects throughout the state. He is experienced in Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, as well as Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) Plans, and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs). He is a Professional Engineer licensed in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Reach out to Ben at or on LinkedIn.
On March 26, 2020, the EPA issued the COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program memorandum. This temporary policy allows for enforcement discretion for noncompliance resulting from the pandemic. The memorandum requires regulated entities to take specific steps, then document how COVID-19 caused the noncompliance and efforts to return to compliance. Noncompliance issues may include but are not limited to, routine monitoring, reporting, and testing.
EPA is the implementing authority for programs where the consequences of the pandemic may affect reporting obligations and milestones set forth in settlements and consent decrees. These consequences may affect the ability of an operation to meet enforceable limitations on air emissions and water discharges, requirements for the management of hazardous waste, or requirements to ensure and provide safe drinking water.
These are very distinct situations that the EPA plans to manage differently, as described on the EPA website page https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/oecamemooncovid19implications.pdf
Not all states and commonwealths have adopted a temporary discretionary enforcement policy. As an example, the Illinois EPA has not adopted a discretionary enforcement policy, and all state statutes and regulations remain in effect. Should your organization face a situation where regulatory compliance may be at risk due to COVID-19, this special circumstance may still be a mitigating factor in the event of an enforcement action by Illinois EPA.
If you are uncertain if you will be able to meet your compliance obligations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you need assistance please visit our locations to find the office nearest you or contact an SCS professional at .
By asking good questions Chris Jimieson, PE, Senior Geological Engineer at SCS Engineers challenges his clients to think critically about how their facility could be better prepared to navigate a spill response. The answers help a facility’s spill contingency plan become more tailored to best serve that particular facility while meeting the necessary regulatory requirements.
Each facility is different, so the best means of preparedness should fit the operational structure and practices of the facility to ultimately limit your facility’s potential vulnerability during a spill. Chris takes his readers through several examples and ideas of useful tools and processes that help them become better prepared, such as adding infographics as attachments to a spill contingency plan.
His advice is directed toward the printing industry but is applicable in many industries.
Paul Migwi joined SCS in May 2017 as an Associate Professional in the Overland Park office. Paul graduated from Kansas State University in 2017 earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering with a structural and environmental focus. He is now pursuing his Master’s in Engineering Management at KSU.
Paul was born in Kenya, and at the age of sixteen moved to the United States with his family. As a child, his dream was to become a pilot. When he grew up, he chased his dream and joined the military. Paul chose the United States Air Force because of its Civil Engineering and Pilot programs. In the four years that he served in the Air Force, he learned a lot about teamwork, engineering, and how to achieve his career goals.
After a year in training, Paul was deployed to Afghanistan for six months. After he returned, he worked at different Air Force bases and learned about construction, buildings, and concrete sheet metal. One of his best experiences and most memorable moments was at his first station in Guam where he worked with colleagues to construct a building in the middle of the forest. They used a technique called concrete tilt-up, which is pouring concrete sections horizontally on concrete slabs, and once they are cured, raising, or “tilting”, them with a crane and attaching them on a Pre-Engineering building (PEB). After multiple sections are created and raised, a building is eventually created. When the project was finished, Paul was amazed. Seeing the results of all the hard work he and his colleagues put into a building was a very gratifying feeling. He learned a lot about the technical process, but also about the importance of working as a team. To this day he still remembers just standing there and looking back at the completed building; “it looked awesome,” he said.
Paul’s military experience has helped him in so many ways, especially working well with others. He learned the value of teamwork, and how to work with different personalities. Teamwork has definitely helped him be successful at SCS Engineers. Paul says his favorite part of working at SCS is the people. It doesn’t matter what project he works on, he always enjoys working with his colleagues. They are helpful and supportive and always happy to lend a hand, and they are a big reason why he feels he has been successful at SCS.
Although Paul’s dream to become a pilot led him to join the military, his career goals and ambitions have changed. He enjoyed mathematics and science and wanted to pursue a career where he could use those skills. He majored in Civil Engineering and interned with a construction firm, envisioning a career in construction. Environmental engineering had not crossed his mind until he attended a KSU Career Fair where he interacted with an SCS employee who opened up his eyes to the possibilities. Later that day, Paul did his own research on SCS and was extremely impressed. He loved everything about the company, from what we do, the size of the Overland Park office, and the projects we perform. It also helped that he had friends who had interned with SCS in the past.
His everyday work varies at SCS; he designs using AutoCAD, and his main focus is on solid waste. He prepares Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPP), Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plans (SPCC), Facility Response Plans (FRP), and Control Quality Assurance (CQA), among other projects. Paul’s goal is to be out in the field more often. He believes that, in order to become a better designer, he needs to understand how things work in the field.
One of the biggest challenges that Paul has been successful in overcoming is balancing work and life. As a full time student and full time SCSer, it sounds very simple, but time management has made a huge difference in Paul’s life.
One of his greatest achievements and contributions at SCS was working on a permit modification. When one of their sites was at risk of a permit violation, Paul and the team had to redesign a practical and feasible landfill that would be acceptable to the state. When redesigning this landfill, Paul had to keep certain requirements in mind, such as water storage and how it affects the existing infrastructure, elevation, slope, and overall design. This project involved a lot of long days and nights, and, according to Paul, has been the best project he has worked on by far. It helped him see the big picture and truly understand how other projects work.
Paul is very ambitious and goal-driven; he has done a lot in his career and continues to push himself to grow every day. In his free time, he likes to be challenged and enjoys biking on bike trails. His advice to anyone interested in SCS is to, “Jump at the first chance you get; it is an awesome place to work!”
SCS would like to thank Paul and all of the Veterans at SCS for their service. Happy Veteran’s Day to everyone who has served!
The industry standard SP001 is incorporated into many Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans is now updated. How does it affect your facility’s SPCC Plan?
The Steel Tank Institute (STI) recently released an updated version of SP001 – Standard for the Inspection of Aboveground Storage Tanks. This document is the industry standard used in most SPCC Plans for inspection guidelines and integrity testing for shop-fabricated aboveground storage tanks. In a typical SPCC Plan prepared by SCS Engineers, your monthly and annual inspection forms, and tank integrity testing frequency requirements are based on the criteria provided in SP001.
No. We recommend incorporating the updated inspection forms during your next SPCC Plan Amendment or 5-year renewal.
The inspection criteria have been simplified, and more flexibility is allowed with the revised inspection forms. This will help make your inspection process easier and of higher quality.
Need help sorting out the details of the revised standard, or have an SPCC Plan that needs amending or is due for a 5-year review? Contact , and we will help you stay on top of your SPCC needs with offices nationwide.
Secondary containment is a basic engineering control to prevent a chemical or oil spill. There are misconceptions, though, regarding secondary containment requirements. In terms of oil-based storage, these misconceptions can lead to not enough containment capacity, significantly more containment capacity than necessary, or simply not providing the right level of containment when containers are grouped.
Chris Jimieson of SCS Engineers explains the five most common misperceptions and advises you how to keep your facility in compliance.
If your company stores oil-based inks and manages them as part of your facility’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Plan, it may be feasible to use an impracticability determination as an alternative approach to comply.
The high viscosity of oil-based inks can provide an opportunity for an alternative means of complying with the secondary containment requirements of the SPCC Rule. An impracticability determination can be an appropriate option for oil-based ink you store in single walled containers at print or similar facilities.
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
To find an office near you click here.
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.