How to Meet Federal Oil Spill Reporting Requirements; A Step-by-Step Guide
If oil is spilled on your construction site and there is potential for the oil to reach U.S. waters, then you must immediately report the spill to the National Response Center. You may also need to report the spill to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if the jobsite is regulated under the federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule.
If a construction site discharges a harmful quantity of oil (e.g., gas, diesel, hydraulic fluid, asphalt, etc.) to a U.S. water (e.g., stream, storm drain, wetland, etc.), the owner/operator of the site is required to follow certain federal reporting requirements (see 40 CFR Part 110, Discharge of Oil regulation and 40 CFR Part 112, Oil Pollution Prevention regulation). The Discharge of Oil regulation provides the framework for determining whether an oil discharge to U.S. waters must be reported to the National Response Center (NRC). The Oil Pollution Prevention regulation, part of which is commonly referred to as the “SPCC rule,” identifies certain types of discharges from regulated construction sites that also need to be reported to EPA.
Failure to comply with these federal requirements can result in stiff civil and criminal penalties. The fine for failing to notify the appropriate federal agency of an oil spill can reach a maximum of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. The maximum prison term is five years. The criminal penalties for violations have a maximum fine of $250,000 and 15 years in prison.
Who is subject to the Discharge of Oil regulation?
Any person in charge of a construction site (i.e., owner/operator) is subject to the reporting requirements of the Discharge of Oil regulation if the site discharges a “harmful quantity” of oil to U.S. waters.
What is a “harmful quantity” of oil?
A “harmful quantity” is any quantity of discharged oil that violates state water quality standards, causes a film or sheen on the water’s surface, or leaves sludge or emulsion beneath the surface. (For this reason, the Discharge of Oil regulation is commonly known as the “sheen” rule.) Therefore, the requirement to report oil spills to the federal government does not depend on the specific amount of oil spilled, but instead relies on the presence of a visible sheen created by the spilled oil.
To whom do I report an oil discharge?
The construction site owner/operator must report discharges to the National Response Center (NRC) at (800) 424-8802. The NRC is the federal government's centralized reporting center, which is staffed 24 hours per day by U.S. Coast Guard personnel. If reporting directly to NRC is not practicable, reports also can be made to the EPA regional office or the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office (MSO) in the area where the incident occurred.
When must I report to NRC?
The construction site owner/operator must notify NRC immediately after he or she has knowledge of the discharge.
What information do I need to report?
The construction site owner/operator must provide NRC with as much information about the incident as possible including:
- Name, company, and telephone number
- Name and address of the party responsible for the incident
- Date and time of the incident
- Location of the incident
- Source and cause of the discharge
- Types of material(s) discharged
- Quantity of materials discharged
- Danger or threat posed by the discharge
- Number and types of injuries (if any)
- Weather conditions at the incident location
- Other information to help emergency personnel respond to the incident
How are reports to NRC handled?
NRC relays information to EPA or a U.S. Coast Guard on Scene Coordinator (OSC), depending on the location of the incident. After receiving a report, the OSC evaluates the situation and decides if federal emergency response action is necessary.
When do I need to report oil spills to EPA?
If a construction site is regulated under the federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, the site owner/operator must comply with the reporting requirements found in 40 CFR Part 112.4. Those requirements state that EPA must be notified of any spills over 1,000 gallons or of any two spills over 42 gallons within a 12-month period. When determining the applicability of this SPCC reporting requirement, the gallon amount(s) specified (either 1,000 or 42) refers to the amount of oil that actually reaches navigable waters or adjoining shorelines, not the total amount of oil spilled.
What do I need to submit to EPA?
The owner/operator must provide the following:
- Name and location of the site
- Owner/operator name
- Maximum storage/handling capacity of the site and normal daily throughput
- Corrective actions and countermeasures taken, including descriptions of equipment repairs and replacements
- Adequate description of the site, including maps, flow diagrams, and topographical maps, as necessary
- Cause of the discharge to U.S. waters, including a failure analysis
- Failure analysis of the system where the discharge occurred
- Additional preventive measures taken or planned to take to minimize discharge reoccurrence
- Other information the RA may reasonably require.
An owner/operator must also send a copy of this information to the agency or agencies in charge of oil pollution control activities in the state in which the facility is located.
What happens after a facility submits this information to EPA?
The EPA Regional Administrator will review the information submitted and may require a construction site owner/operator to submit and amend its SPCC Plan. A state agency may also make recommendations to EPA for a facility to amend its Plan to prevent or control oil discharges.
Where can I get more information?
Review the Discharge of Oil regulation (40 CFR Part 110) – http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/.
Review the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation (40 CFR Part 112) – http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/.
Call the Oil Information Center – (800) 424-9346 or visit the Center online at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/infocenter.
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