Industrial stormwater discharge regulatory compliance defined by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System – NPDES, and the Federal Multi-Sector General Permit – MSGP, slated for implementation in January 2021, will affect state Industrial General Permits. In the states where the EPA is the regulating body (New Mexico, New Hampshire, and West Virginia), the impact will be immediate.
California on the Rise, by Jonathan Meronek and Alissa Barrow, discusses the emerging general commonalties of “lessons learned” that can help dischargers successfully manage their stormwater programs.
Jonathan and Alissa explain best practices that help businesses understand and prepare ahead of the expected changes. The strategies can streamline preparation and response to minimize risk and help prevent fines and lawsuits.
About the Authors: Jonathan Meronek is a State of California IGP Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner – QISP. With SCS Engineers for over 17 years, he leads Stormwater Management in the Southwest U.S. Alissa Barrow has 10 years of experience as an environmental professional specializing in environmental assessment, remediation, and compliance. Find a stormwater professional near you.
Are You Ready to Respond to a Spill? is Part II of the SCS Engineers SPCC series. Click to read Part I here.
Imagine you get a late-night call informing you that a transformer at one of your substations has failed, and as a result, 8,000 gallons of mineral oil spilled. Your next decisions are critical to timely industrial spill response, and taking the right steps will put you on a path to minimizing the environmental impact and your company’s liability. Do you know how you would respond?
If your facility has over 1,320 gallons of oil, your required SPCC Plan should contain spill response steps. If your facility has less than 1,320 gallons of oil, you may not have written spill response steps at all. Whether or not your facilities have SPCC Plans, consider the following tips, so you’re prepared for that late-night call.
Play Where Will a Spill Go?
If a spill occurs at one of your facilities, do you and your employees know where the spill will go? It’s typically easy to track flow paths at facilities in rural settings, but it can still be tricky if the site is pretty flat. Facilities in urban settings can be much more difficult to track. Sure, the spill will go into that storm sewer inlet 100 feet away from the transformer, but where will it go from there?
Critical hours can be lost during a spill because the response team is pulling manhole lids to determine the path of the spill. A little time spent upfront to determine where a spill would go can save a lot of time and headaches.
So take a peek down that inlet grate to see where the pipe goes. Or give a call to the local municipality. Many have GIS databases mapping the storm sewer system, and they can help determine the correct flow path that a spill would take. Knowing where to deploy your spill response materials is a critical step to spill response.
Conduct a Mock Spill Drill
Try conducting a mock spill drill, so your employees understand your spill response procedures, where you keep spill response materials, and how to deploy those materials. Running through these items on a PowerPoint slide is a good start, but you can’t beat the hands-on activity of actually opening up the spill kit and laying down some boom. A spill drill can also help you identify potential issues with your planned response techniques.
Review Your Spill Kits
Spills kits, especially those stored in maintenance shops, are prone to dwindling inventories over time. While raiding the spill kit to wipe up a few drops of oil isn’t a bad idea, it is important to replenish the spill response materials for an emergency. Make sure your spill kits are stocked by keeping an inventory list taped to the top of the spill kit or just inside the lid. Check the spill kit against the inventory list regularly and replenish missing items. Each spill kit should include personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for handling the types and amount of chemicals that the kit is expected to control. PPE should be in good working order. Replace any PPE that is expired or showing wear.
It is also important to understand that absorbent materials come in many styles and work in different ways. Teach your oil-handling employees when to use granular absorbent, or pads and mats, and the proper way to lay booms and socks to prevent spills from seeping through the cracks. If you use “oil-only” absorbents, help employees understand the situations in which these are preferable over a universal absorbent.
Know When You Need to Call for Help
Do you know when you will call for outside spill response assistance versus what your staff can handle internally? The answer can vary by facility type, spill scenario, the experience level of your staff, and spill response materials and equipment that you have available. It’s important to think through different scenarios and know your internal capabilities and limitations, and when you need to call a spill response contractor.
Do you know who you will call? And do you have an agreed-upon response time established with the contractor? Depending on your facility’s location, it could take hours for a spill response contractor to reach the site. Knowing that lag time will help you plan for steps that your internal resources can take until the spill response contractor arrives.
Don’t let spill preparedness slip down your to-do list again. Use these techniques, so you are ready when the next spill occurs.
Jared Omernik has 12 years of experience helping electric utility companies with environmental compliance. Jared has extensive experience helping companies with SPCC compliance and SPCC Plan preparation. For questions about the SPCC Rule or spill response or preparedness, contact Jared at or find the nearest Environmental Engineers on our website.
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 .
Do you know how much oil you store in aboveground containers at your facilities? If you have more than 1,320 gallons at a facility, you may need 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 United States. But it’s about more than just compliance. It’s an important tool to help you limit your liability.
As a utility leader, your focus is to deliver electricity to your customers; however, facilities covered under the SPCC Rule are subject to inspections and potential enforcement actions if your practices are out of compliance.
The 1,320-gallon threshold isn’t the only requirement for an SPCC Plan. The SPCC Rule only counts oil storage containers with a capacity of 55 gallons or more. Many electric utility facilities will meet the oil storage threshold, including substations, storage yards, power plants, and operations and maintenance facilities.
Another criterion 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 (USEPA) does not define what “reasonably be expected” means. Instead, 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 “reasonably be expected” is not challenged, and it’s best to err on the side of caution.
It’s time to prepare an SPCC Plan. The Plan summarizes your facility’s oil sources, identifies spill response coordinators, and outlines your spill prevention measures and spill response procedures. 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 (PE) prepare 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 your facility has 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 prepare your own SPCC Plan, following the USEPA’s Tier I qualified facility template.
You can download the USEPA’s Tier I qualified facility template here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/tier1template.pdf. It is the cheapest way to comply with the SPCC Rule. You need to be familiar with the SPCC Rule’s requirements to complete a self-certified plan. You must also follow all of the requirements without deviation.
If your facility has less than 10,000 gallons of oil and a single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you qualify under the USEPA’s Tier II qualified facility category. The USEPA 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 PE to prepare the Plan for you. If you prepare the Plan yourself, you must still follow all of the requirements precisely without deviating from them.
If your facility has greater than 10,000 gallons of oil storage, you must have a licensed PE prepare and certify your facility’s SPCC Plan. The Rule allows PEs the flexibility to deviate from certain requirements, so you may decide you want a PE to prepare and certify your plan for your Tier I or Tier II qualified facility.
An SPCC Plan is about more than just compliance. An SPCC Plan contains important information that will be critical if you have an oil spill. The Plan contains inspection forms and protocols that help you maintain your oil sources and prevent a spill from happening in the first place. It identifies the single point of contact, an “SPCC Coordinator” for the facility. If there is a spill, the Plan contains steps to contain and control the spill initially, and the proper contacts to notify internally and externally.
The SPCC Rule requires oil-handling personnel to receive annual training to respond to spills in their work areas properly, and the SPCC Plan contains the material that must be covered in training. The SPCC Plan also contains forms for you to document training, plan reviews and updates, and spill notifications.
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. But more than that, it’s a practical document designed to assist with training and inspections while serving the function to help prevent spills from occurring. And if spills do occur, an SPCC Plan provides the guidance to help control the spill and limit your liability.
Read Part II – Are You Ready to Respond to an Industrial Spill?
About the Author: Jared Omernik has 12 years of experience helping electric utilities comply with environmental regulations, including helping utility owners and operators build and review SPCC Plans and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs).
The environmental reporting season is just around the corner. Every year Ann O’Brien publishes a table to help you determine your reporting obligations. The table summarizes the most common types of environmental reports due to environmental regulatory agencies in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, along with respective due dates.
The professional engineers and consultants at SCS Engineers can help you navigate the local, state, and federal reporting obligations and permitting for your business, in your region, and in your industry. Contact us at or find a professional like Ann, nearest you.
Ann O’Brien is a Project Manager with SCS Engineers with more than 30 years of experience in the printing industry. Ann’s experience includes air and water quality permitting, environmental recordkeeping, reporting and monitoring programs, hazardous waste management, employee EHS training, environmental compliance audits, and environmental site assessments and due diligence associated with real estate transactions and corporate acquisitions.
PFAS are also key components in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which is used to fight petroleum-based fires at aviation and manufacturing facilities. For decades, AFFF containing PFAS has been used extensively at airports throughout the world to protect the safety of passengers, crew, and others. The FAA requires that commercial airports train with, calibrate equipment with, and use the best performing AFFF fire suppression systems. AFFF is required to be used at airports and must be certified to meet strict performance specifications, including those mandated by the U.S. Department of Defense Military Specifications.
Lynleigh Love and Chris Crosby of SCS Engineers discuss the risks and issues with PFAS-based firefighting foam used at airports. The authors cover the regulatory climate, contamination investigations, operational and environmental management and litigation, along with alternatives to using traditional AFFF. There are some possible alternatives that can mitigate health risks in your community.
Wednesday, December 11, 10:45 am – 11:45 am, Room 403A
Track 2: Financing Options, Real Estate, & Economic Development
This interactive panel will discuss the nexus between brownfields development and affordable housing and will explore various policy, funding and incentive programs that have been successfully deployed in the US, including a forgivable loan and grant program in California, with an emphasis on creating affordable housing. A case study focused on Comm 22, an award-winning affordable housing project complements the policy and funding conversation. Dan Johnson, Evans Paull, and Jeff Williams share the complexities of tax credit based affordable housing finance of a 200 unit affordable housing and brownfield redevelopment project and the role that brownfields funding played. The premise is that if early-stage project funding were more widely available, combined with informed policy and regulatory approach, that the housing stock in California and elsewhere could be expanded, possibly significantly.
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm, Exhibit Hall, West Hall A
Jim Ritchie and Amy Dzialowski present on the City of West Sacramento and the SCS Brownfields Toolbox that helps take advantage of economy of scale to improve both cost and schedule outcomes, and can result in better buy-in from regulatory agencies, due to an emphasis on an overall vision rather than just a transactional approach. Flexibility is another key concept for reuse planning and as a tool for brownfields sites. SCS demonstrates their expansive experience with an array of brownfields tools including, grant funding and leverage, environmental insurance, and other risk-shifting tools such as “CLRRA” agreements.
At the SCS booth 417, meet Mike McLaughlin, SCS Engineers’ Senior Vice President of Environmental Services and a National Specialist on Brownfields & Landfill Redevelopment and Electric Utilities. He is a licensed engineer and attorney with over 30 years of professional experience providing advice on environmental matters. He is an expert on environmental compliance, remediation, and allocation of response costs.
Mr. McLaughlin advises developers, contractors, lenders and land development professionals on the technical and regulatory requirements for construction on Brownfields’ sites nationwide. His combined engineering and legal background provides an unusual perspective on land development where hazardous wastes or other environmental challenges are present. Redevelopment of closed landfills is an area of special interest; he worked on his first such project in 1976.
Mr. McLaughlin has worked at some three dozen Superfund National Priorities List sites in 17 states, and on scores of regulatory compliance, voluntary cleanup, and remediation projects for commercial, industrial, municipal, and military clients.
Thursday, December 12, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm, Room 411
Track 1: Sustainability, Livability, Resiliency
This 75-minute clinic provides a fun and engaging hands-on experience that will inspire you to tackle the challenges of stormwater flooding using GSI on brownfields. Experts, including Jonathan Meronek, will explain the applications, techniques, and benefits of using GSI on any project site, including the challenges of implementing GSI on Brownfield Sites. During the guided exercise, participants will break into small think tanks, and each think tank will have an opportunity to design their own solution. Come to this session to soak up information on techniques and strategies for integrating GSI into your community’s overall planning efforts.
According to Sean Bothwell, the executive director of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, “There are … thousands of facilities that have failed to enroll in the industrial stormwater permit, creating an economic disadvantage for those facilities that are doing their job to be compliant with their permit. SB-205 will level the playing field for the regulated community and help California achieve their mission of attaining swimmable, fishable, and drinkable California waters.”
California’s Stormwater Multiple Application and Report Tracking System (SMARTs) currently shows approximately 13,000+ active industrial stormwater sites/dischargers (Notice of Intent and No Exposure Sites). For these current General Stormwater Permit (IGP) enrollee’s vs. non-filers, the playing field has not been level across industrial sectors. There is a cost, sometimes substantial, for being in, and maintaining compliance under the IGP. The Permit is fee-based; water quality regulatory programs and the programs and resources supporting those programs are funded directly with the fees collected by these regulated entities under those programs.
The additional late-permittees and associated fees will help with the challenge of staffing at the State and Regional Boards, for processing and enforcement. As of today, there is not a direct additional fee/fine for the potential late filers; the message being that potential dischargers (or SIC code-based Facilities with a condition of No Exposure) not covered under the IGP should enroll as soon as possible, to avoid potential initial fines and future costly penalties.
Future penalties could also include “de facto” regulatory compliance penalties through non-government organizations (NGOs) and environmental group citizen lawsuits and 60-day notice-of-intents under Section 505 of the Clean Water Act. SCS Engineers advises businesses to check the Regional Board to see if they need coverage.
If unsure or unfamiliar with stormwater compliance, seek help from a Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practioner (QISP) or begin by using the resources linked to helpful sites from our blog. Although not a comprehensive list, these types of facilities do need stormwater compliance, as follows:
About the Author: Jonathan Meronek is a State of California Industrial General Permit (IGP) Qualified Industrial Storm Water Practitioner (QISP), QISP Trainer-of-Record (QISP-ToR) and an Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV-SP). With an eye to clients’ operational needs combined with long-term sustainable solutions, Jonathan has performed Site BMP and Pollutant Source Assessments, written Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs), and implemented Monitoring Implementation Plans (MIPs); for over one-hundred facilities throughout California.
He continues to provide National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater services for state, municipal, and private clients across a vast cross-section of industrial sectors. Jonathan works with LRPs, facility managers, and attorneys to re-evaluate facilities comprehensively for NPDES compliance using technology-based BPT/BCT/BAT/NSPS levels of control to reduce and eliminate pollutants of concern in stormwater discharge.
Jeffrey Reed, P.E. is now leading SCS Engineers business operations in Texas, including all environmental consulting, landfill, landfill gas, and solid waste business. He commences his responsibilities immediately, under the title Business Unit Director, and is managing the staff and business operations of four offices. His primary office is located in Houston, Texas.
Jeff, a Professional Engineer, licensed in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas has a broad range of environmental expertise. He has provided design and consulting services for projects in 26 states across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Jeff is a Vice President of SCS Engineers and a National Expert on Landfill Design and Construction Quality Assurance for the firm. He has over 30 years of experience working in the solid waste industry. His project experience includes stormwater management, liquids management and leachate control, erosion control, hydrogeological/hydraulic analysis, landfill design and permitting, geosynthetic lining and cover systems, stability analysis, and construction quality assurance. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Solid Waste Association of North America.
Kevin Yard, PE, BCEE, SCS’s former Texas Business Unit Director, will continue to support key projects in Texas while he manages clients nationwide that are investing in new infrastructure and processes compatible with their firms’ environmental climate goals.
“Over his ten+ years with SCS, Jeff has demonstrated his leadership and capabilities resolving complex environmental challenges,” said Kevin Yard. “Jeff provides the standard of quality and services to our clients who rely on SCS to support their business operations while meeting rapidly-changing air, water, and soil compliance standards.”
Stormwater Regulation is evolving, pushing more responsibility on to the dischargers by holding them accountable through categorization based on a discharger’s ability to meet numeric benchmarks. Additionally, how a discharger responds and applies effective BMPs determines their status. Ultimately, it is up to the industrial permittee to take the initiative, with an eye to priorities and feasibility for the future of their stormwater compliance program.
Stormwater managers and facility compliance personnel have only just begun to come to terms with the tiered ERA Response paradigm. However, as the tiered escalation becomes more common and ERA Level 1 and Level 2 reporting is performed, facilities are beginning to reach an equilibrium of stormwater compliance in terms of strategy, feasibility, budget and allocation of resources.
In his whitepaper, Jonathan Meronek, QISP, ToR, takes readers through the fundamental components of the ERA, Exceedance Response Action, or tiered Corrective Action compliance mechanism already in place, and currently being implemented in the States of California, Washington and the most recent General Permit in Oregon. ERA has wide-reaching implications for future NPDES permittees of industrial stormwater discharges. The escalation or “tiered” response standards is based on EPA Benchmark Levels and potential for future Numeric Effluent Limits (NELs). The three western states are viewed as “precursors” of what may be expected throughout the United States, as several key components of the forthcoming Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) will push other states to move towards similar ERA response scenarios and regulations.