Federally-Required Oil Spill Plans Due in 13 Days: What Contractors Need to Know (Part 3 of 3)
By Chris Ennes, Western Region Environmental Manager for Ames Construction, Inc.; member of AGC’s Environmental Forum Steering Committee
It is a late weeknight evening and my cell phone rings. A project superintendent alerts me that a portable aboveground storage tank (AST) has been mobilized on one of Ames’ construction sites. He wants to know the best spot to stage the tank and then asks if it is okay to put fuel into it. Over time, one learns as an environmental manager of a construction firm how to field an impromptu call like this. This article is the third article in AGC’s three-part series on SPCC compliance.
If you use, consume, store, transfer or otherwise handle oils at your construction site, you need to take the appropriate actions to prevent, control and contain spills. My advice to the project superintendent: Do not put product into the AST until you have registered it, secured the local operating permit(s) (generally an inspection is required) and developed a federally-required Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan, if applicable. Locate the AST in your construction yard as far away as possible from drainage ways.
In fact, my first reaction to this sort of question is not to focus on whether or not we need to develop an SPCC Plan to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations” under the Clean Water Act for storing oil on a jobsite. But rather, I first want to determine the local jurisdiction covering the jobsite. Many states and/or localities require registration and permitting of all ASTs that contain oil – ON TOP OF federal SPCC requirements.
Securing the state/local permit(s) and developing the site SPCC Plan can generally be done concurrently if you have an understanding with the permitting agency (e.g., state environment department and fire marshal office) that a copy of the final SPCC Plan will be submitted to them for their files and safety/emergency planning purposes.
As for the SPCC Plan, the development can be fairly straightforward. A good starting point is to assess the site-specific variables and determine whether or not you meet the eligibility criteria to use EPA’s SPCC Plan Template (hereinafter EPA Template) and/or to self-certify your Plan without assistance from a professional engineer. As a general rule, if the aggregate aboveground capacity to store oil at your construction site (counting only containers > 55 gallons) is greater than 10,000 gallons then you MAY NOT use EPA’s Template or self-certify your own SPCC Plan. Instead, you will have to develop your own full-blow Plan and retain a professional engineer to at least certify the Plan. Speaking from experience, it is best to engage the engineer early to streamline the Plan development, with an end goal of being able to fill the aboveground tanks with product as soon as possible.
Following is a case study on how Ames meets SPCC compliance requirements.
Case Study: Ames Construction, Inc.
Review: Tier I versus Tier II Site
A Tier II qualified facility is one that has an aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity of 10,000 U.S. gallons or less and meets the oil discharge history criteria in §112.3(g)(2). To qualify as a Tier I qualified facility, in addition to meeting the eligibility criteria for a Tier II qualified facility, a facility must have no individual aboveground oil storage containers with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons (§112.3(g)(1)).
The owner or operator of either a Tier I or Tier II qualified facility may self-certify the facility’s SPCC Plan, as provided in §112.6.
The owner or operator of a Tier I qualified facility also may complete and implement EPA’s streamlined, self-certified SPCC Plan Template at Part 112, Appendix G. The streamlined requirements are related to provisions on failure analysis, bulk storage secondary containment, and overfill prevention (§112.6(a)(3)).
U.S. EPA’s national deadline for all “regulated” construction sites to develop fully compliant SPCC Plans is November 10, 2011. (See Part 1 of AGC’s series on SPCC compliance to help you determine if your construction site needs to comply with the SPCC rule.) Well in advance of the impending deadline, and in the spirit of environmental stewardship, Ames developed and continually refines its own company-specific templates (hereinafter Ames’ Template) in accordance with the requirements outlined in the statute (see, 40 CFR §112). Because most if not all of Ames’ jobsites utilize a single AST tank larger than 5,000 gallons, we are not permitted to use EPA’s Template for a so-called “Tier I qualified facility” (see Sidebar in this article; see also Part 2 of AGC’s series on SPCC compliance that discusses when and how construction sites owners/operators may use EPA’s Template).
In this case study, the subject AST is a single portable steel skid mounted dual-walled 6,000-gallon on-highway, low-sulfur diesel fuel tank. Besides some miscellaneous boxes of oil quarts, the superintendant assures me that no other petroleum product tanks will be staged with the subject AST as the project will utilize mobile oilers based from our regional maintenance shop. With this information, I determined that this SPCC Plan will most likely fall under the “Tier II qualified facility” category requirements. Under Tier II, the facility owner/operator can prepare and self-certify a SPCC Plan for the jobsite, so long as the jobsite/facility meets the eligibility requirements pursuant to the statute (see 40 CFR §112.6(a)(1-8) or review the list of eligibility requirements at the end of this case study). Primarily, the facility must have an aggregate aboveground storage capacity of 10,000 gallons or less and a “good” spill history (i.e., has had no discharges exceeding 1,000 gallons or no two discharges each exceeding 42 gallons within any 12 month period in the three years prior to the plan’s self-certification date).
I determine that the jobsite meets the eligibility requirements and therefore is regulated as a “Tier II qualified facility.” Ames has a dedicated section in Ames’ Template that outlines the 40 CFR §112.6(a)(1-8) eligibility requirements, complete with a signature block at the bottom of the page. The owner/operator representative must actually sign this section of the Plan in order to truly “certify” compliance. Also, the site owner/operator must self-certify any “technical amendments” pursuant to 40 CFR §112.6(b) in this fashion.
Meanwhile, I have located the proper local permitting authority and have secured an AST permit. I explain to the fire marshal that in the next week or so I will submit to his office a completed SPCC Plan. During the inspection he points out that there were some dry weeds too close to the facility and that the fire extinguisher that was rigged onto the AST should actually be staged away from the tank for access in case of an actual fire emergency. Ames responds by clearing the weeds to form a reasonable buffer (~50 ft) and mounting the fire extinguisher on a post about 30 feet from the tank. In general, my recommendation is to make sure combustibles are not stored within 50 feet of the tank. The fire marshal liked the idea of placing precast portable concrete barrier rail for attenuating potential crash impact and this practice is part of our security component (click here to see PHOTO #1).
Before I start to write the SPCC Plan narrative, I visit the site to get the facility diagram and layout maps correct and to make sure that the tank was set up in the best possible spot to minimize or even avoid the potential for a discharge (i.e., spill) into a “waters of the U.S.” during filling/dispensing activities. I also take several photos for desk reference. The Plan itself must have a general location map and a more detailed diagram or layout of the jobsite (click here to see PHOTO #2).
Here is our spill kit rule of thumb: For “oil” storage ≥ 10,000 gallons, we use 1-2 drums to hold the following materials: four 25-pound bags of sorbent clay material (“kitty litter”), 36 gray/white pads, 24 gray/white socks, nine gray/white pillows, 12 gray/white booms (or more if near a watercourse), approximately six garbage bags, rubber gloves, shovels – if storage <10k then material supply can be reduced by 50% — and MSDS sheet(s) for the product(s), in a sealed bag.
Ideally all sides of the AST should be labeled with the following:
- Product ID;
- Applicable placards; and
- “No Smoking” signs (generally applies to most oil-based products).
The next step is to designate a response action team. For this project, I select the project superintendant as the facility manager and as an alternate I choose a key foreman. These folks are inserted into the call-down sheet comprising the key personnel that I will instruct on the contents of the Plan and who in turn will train their field staff, mechanics, etc. These steps are necessary to satisfy the training component of the SPCC Plan. Probably the biggest challenge for Ames has been getting this training done and then formally documenting it into an appendix of the SPCC plan. The SPCC Plan also should list at least one local spill response clean up company for that potential catastrophic release. A prearranged contract with them is very beneficial.
The narrative section of the SPCC Plan for this site includes extensive spill prevention mitigation best practices as well as instructions on what to do when there is a significant spill. Spill reporting protocol is outlined in the Plan; however, only upper management handles regulatory reporting (i.e., typically performed by an environmental manager, such as myself). The facility manager must fill out an incident report (attachment to the SPCC Plan) which serves as the basis for our reporting. Be sure to have a spill kit handy and proper labeling in place (see Sidebar in this article and click here to see PHOTO #3).
The subject AST is a dual-walled tank system therefore secondary containment is not necessary. However the most cost-effective successful pollution mitigation measure that Ames has instituted is placing a piece of HDPE (45mil) liner material partially under the AST extending away from the tank dispenser platform to cover a footprint big enough for service/fuel trucks. The area is excavated down a couple feet, sharp rocks are removed, the liner is layered between imported finer textured sand material (alleviates liner puncture) and then capped with the dirt that was initially excavated. Sometimes the liner is turned up at the surface interface to form a small berm around the perimeter to capture any potential spill or small drips that may occur during the dispensing of the AST. The liner essentially alleviates the potential for groundwater contamination.
Periodically, accumulated stains (< 5-gallon volume) are scooped up. Generally, all media resulting from cleanup of non-reportable quantities of petroleum products are placed in a 55-gallon drum and appropriately secured. Once the drum is filled, a composite sample is collected to characterize the waste and evaluate disposal options, which may include treatment prior to disposal or direct deposit in our dumpster, upon approval from the local landfill. Also keep in mind that any accumulated stormwater in this lined area must be periodically pumped. We check for presence of an oil sheen prior to pumping. If no sheen is present, it is safe to upland infiltrate adjacent to the AST. If there is a sheen, we call an oiler to suck up the contaminated water for disposal/recycling. Generally, if you secure an oil absorbent boom (some come with carabiners) in the corner of your sump, then most if not all of the oil product is absorbed. It is obvious when it is time to replace the boom because the dominant color shifts from white (new out of the package) to dark brown. You can dispose of the used boom in a dumpster as long as no free product is present. Remember to document containment area drainage events with the SPCC Plan.
Another more recently developed best management practice is the fabrication of a custom steel dispenser nozzle box holder (click here to see PHOTO #4). Before this custom box was made, the nozzle would leak onto the platform and potentially onto the surrounding land surface (note the “oil-dri” absorbent clay on the platform). Once the steel box is approximately 50 percent full (identified during a periodic inspection), an oiler will drain the fuel through a valve installed at the bottom. You can also rig up a quick inexpensive drip pan made from a 5-gallon bucket/lid or there are, of course, plenty of manufactured drip pans on the market.
You also must describe in your Plan how you secure and control access to the oil that is being stored on the jobsite. This subject AST was in part selected due to the perimeter fence (click here to see PHOTO #5) which is locked at the end of every shift.
Lastly, the SPCC Plan must include the periodic inspection protocol including any applicable forms that are utilized. Ames endorses the Steel Tank Institute’s (STI) Standard for the Inspection of Aboveground Storage Tanks SP001. STI just released their 5th edition in September 2011. It costs $165.00 and cannot be distributed outside your organization. If you are an environmental manager, like me, who has to know a little bit about everything, this document may be overwhelming at first. Sections 5 and 6 are the most applicable to your SPCC Plans and let the certified tank inspectors worry about the rest. In the subject AST example, the tank is classified as a Category 1 Portable and therefore no integrity testing (formal external inspection by a certified inspector) of the tank will ever be required. However, you must perform a periodic AST inspection as defined in Section 6 of the SP001 standard.
I encourage you to spend the time upfront and develop a template plan for your company (Tier II facilities) and familiarize yourself with the EPA SPCC Plan Template (Tier I facilities). You will still have to fill out forms for each site that must comply with the SPCC requirements, but these templates will save you time and expense in the long run.
Tier II Qualified Facility Eligibility Requirements (40 CFR §112.6(a)(1-8))
1. Familiarity with 40 CFR §112.6(a);
2. Preparer has visited and examined the facility;
3. The SPCC Plan has been prepared in accordance with accepted and sound industry practices and standards;
4. Procedures for required inspections and testing have been established;
5. The SPCC Plan is being fully implemented;
6. The facility meets the qualification criteria set forth under §112.3(g):
- Has an aggregate aboveground storage capacity of 10,000 gallons or less; and
- Has had no single discharge as described in §112.1(b) exceeding 1,000 gallons or no 2 discharges as described in §112.1(b) each exceeding 42 gallons within any 12 month period in the 3 years prior to the SPCC Plan self-certification date, or since becoming subject to this part if the facility has been in operation for less than 3 years (other than discharges as described in §112.1(b) that are the result of natural disasters, acts of war, or terrorism);
7. The SPCC Plan does not deviate from any requirement of this part as allowed by §112.7(a)(2) and §112.7(d), except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section; and
8. The SPCC Plan and individual(s) responsible for implementing the Plan have the full approval of management and the facility owner or operator has committed the necessary resources to fully implement the Plan.
Chris Ennes is the Western Region Environmental Manager for Ames Construction, Inc. Ames is a full-service heavy civil and industrial general contractor established in 1963. While maintaining corporate offices in Minnesota, Ames Construction services many areas of the country from regional offices in several Western and Midwestern states. Chris has worked for Ames 3.5 years primarily focusing on oversight of their Environmental Management System and development and implementation of Ames’ project specific Environmental Management Programs. He has over 15 years environmental profession experience and is a Certified Professional of Erosion and Sediment Control (EnviroCert International, Inc. affiliation
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