SPCC Plan do I need one? 40 CFR 112

As I perform both environmental management system (EMS) and environmental compliance audits, I see much confusion about whether a site is required to develop and maintain a Spill Prevention Containment and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan. The SPCC regulations are specific to developing a spill response plan for oil intended to protect navigable water ways.

EPA promulgated the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) in 1990 and the original SPCC rules in 1991.  The requirements for SPCC plans can be found at 40 CFR 112.7.  The criteria for determining whether an SPCC plan is required are found at 40 CFR 112.1 and include:

  • Criteria #1 – Only applies to non-transportation related facilities.
  • Criteria #2 – Facilities that have oil containers exceeding 1,320 gallons only counting containers 55 gallons and larger [40 CFR 112.1(d)(2)(ii) and (d)(5)].
  • Criteria #3 – Could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful, into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines….[40 CFR 112.1 (b)]

All three (3) criteria must be met before an SPCC plan is required. All manufacturing facilities would be considered non-transportation related facilities and meet criteria #1.  It is the interpretation of criteria #2 and #3 that can become less than clear.

Criteria #2 – Facilities that have oil containers exceeding 1,320 gallons

While this may seem like an easy calculation knowing what to count and what not to count can be tricky.  First, we only need to could containers are 55 gallons or greater, this can include:

  • 55  gallon drums of new or used oil;
  • Above-ground storage tanks (that exceed 55 gallons)
  • Oil reservoirs in machinery (that exceed 55 gallons)
  • Oil/Water separators (that exceed 55 gallons)

Equipment or containers that are “permanently closed” are not included. EPA defines Permanently Closedmeans any container or facility for which: (1) All liquid and sludge has been removed from each container and connecting line; and (2) All connecting lines and piping have been disconnected from the container and blanked off, all valves (except for ventilation valves) have been closed and locked, and conspicuous signs have been posted on each container stating that it is a permanently closed container and noting the date of closure.”

Now we must take an inventory of the containers at our site that meet the above criteria and see if we exceed 1,320 gallons. It is the container size that we measure not the quantity of oil in the container. Also, EPA does define oily water as oil so we need to include our oily waste water and process water that contains oil in the inventory.

Criteria #3 – Could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful, into or upon the navigable waters

EPA defines navigable water way at 40 CFR 112.2 and this includes:

Navigable waters of the United States means “navigable waters” as defined in section 502(7) of the FWPCA, and includes:

  • All navigable waters of the United States, as defined in judicial decisions prior to passage of the 1972 Amendments to the FWPCA (Pub. L. 92-500), and tributaries of such waters;
  • Interstate waters;
  • Intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams which are utilized by interstate travelers for recreational or other purposes;
  • and Intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams from which fish or shellfish are taken and sold in interstate commerce.

So the questions we might ask is “would our worst case scenario spill and the ability to be harmful to a navigable water way?”.  This leads to another question, how does EPA define harmful impact?

EPA defines quantities that may be harmful as discharges of oil that violate applicable water quality standards; or cause a film or sheen upon or discoloration of the surface of the water or adjoining shorelines or cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shoreline. So basically any quantity of oil would meet this criteria.

So could my oil reach a Navigable Water way? To answer this question you should consider your worst case spill and potential pathways this spill could travel. Many facilities have storm water drainage systems that ultimately discharge to either a tributary or major water way we believe could meet the definition of a Navigable Waterway and would be subject to SPCC.

Now there are many sites where the pathway may be much harder to define.  Say you have drainage ditches that discharge to a county drain and most days these are dry.  In this scenario on a dry day a fairly large spill could occur and be cleaned up before it migrated very far. However, lets says the spill occurs during a heavy rain, it is likely the impact could reach a Navigable Waterway.

It is up to each facility to assess the potential of an oil discharge to reach a navigable water way. If your facility meets criteria #1 and #2 but you do not believe a release could impact a Navigable Waterway then it is recommended that you document this evaluation and maintain it for your records.

Many facilities will take a conservative approach and prepare an SPCC plan in either of the above scenarios.  The thought process is that have a spill prevention and response plan is a good business practice and does help reduce risk.

If you have any questions on how this regulation applies to your operations please contact us at James.Charles@iso14001-training.com or www.ISO14001-Training.com. Let us know how we can help answer your questions.


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