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EPA moving forward with spill prevention enforcement

By Matt Reese

Though it has been in the works for several years now, it appears that the long discussed regulations pertaining to the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Program (SPCC) for on-farm fuel and oil storage will be enforced in the near future.

“This regulation already exists and the EPA is going to get serious about enforcing it this coming May. This is also about developing plans to manage storage on your farm,” said Mark Wilson, with Land Stewards, LLC.  “This has been on the books for awhile, but EPA has been continually pushing back this enforcement schedule.”

Before a farm is subject to the SPCC rule, it must meet three criteria:

1. It must be non-transportation-related;

2. It must have an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons; and

3. There must be a reasonable expectation of a discharge into or upon navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.

Preparation of the SPCC Plan is the responsibility of the facility owner or operator or it can be prepared by an engineer or consultant, but it must be certified by a registered professional engineer. By certifying the SPCC Plan, a professional engineer, having examined the facility, attests that:

1. They are is familiar with the requirements of Part 112;

2. The engineer or their agent has visited and examined the facility;

3. The plan has been prepared in accordance with good engineering practices, including consideration of applicable industry standards, and with the requirements of Part 112;

4. Procedures for required inspections and testing have been established; and

5. The plan is adequate for the facility.

If the facility stores less than 10,000 gallons of oil, the farm may qualify for a self-certification process.

“There are two categories with this. The first is 1,320 to 10,000 gallons of storage of oil and oil based products. The second category is 10,000 and up,” Wilson said. “If you are in the category of less than 10,000, and you have no one container greater than 5,000 gallons, there is a really streamlined certification process that lets you self certify instead of a full blown plan developed by an engineer. Farms with greater than 10,000 gallons must have plans developed and or reviewed by professional engineer, which adds a lot of cost to that plan. If you have over 1,320 and no spill, but have a tank over 5,000, then you need a full plan and it is a much more time consuming and tedious process.”

The plans need to include an inventory of the entire operation. Heating oil is exempt and nurse tanks are considered mobile refuelers, which are not added onto the aggregate, but it should be noted in the plan. The fuel tanks on combine or tractors do not need to be included, Wilson said.

“The plan needs to include facility and personnel, storage containers, secondary containment, spill control, inspecting and testing records and training, security, and emergency response. There is also a requirement for overfill protection,” Wilson said. “The intent is for the tanks to be added together and considered one operation, so the EPA looks at the ownership of the facilities. Are tanks close together and do they share a similar flow pathway if there is a spill? You must add up any storage in containers greater than 55 gallons. You need to have regular inspections and testing and document this in a record keeping form that would show an inspector for EPA that you are keeping track of what you are supposed to. This is a plan that you do not need to send anywhere, but you do need to have it in your farm shop. And, if the EPA shows up, it had better be there.”

The original compliance date was October of 2011, but EPA postponed this and added some rules. It has now been moved to May 10, 2013.

“From every indication I see, this one is going to stick,” Wilson said. “My suspicion is that, come May 15, there will be some doors that get knocked on. They tend to pick and choose and make headlines with enforcement actions.”

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