Multiple California companies are in non-compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulation. The agency recently announced a series of financial penalties totaling more than $140,000 from both large and small facilities.
The SPCC regulation was created under the Clean Water Act to prevent oil from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines, and to contain and respond to discharges of oil. It requires onshore oil storage facilities with identified capacities to develop and implement SPCC plans, identifying established procedures, methods, and equipment requirements to prevent and effectively respond to spills.
Under EPA’s Clean Water Act, facilities with aboveground storage tank capacities exceeding 1,320 gallons or underground tanks with capacities above 42,000 gallons, are required to comply with SPCC regulations.
“All companies who store oil must comply with federal standards. Facilities are required to prevent spills and be prepared to respond to a worst case oil discharge emergency," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Preventing spills and protecting our waterways from oil spills is essential.”
While it is not possible for EPA to identify and inspect every SPCC facility, owners and operators need to be proactive in developing and maintaining accurate plans. Despite inspection probabilities, companies must prioritize regulatory compliance in order to minimize financial burdens resulting from fines, negative public perceptions, and potential government mandated shutdown of operations. Recent California SPCC violations include:
- A waste oil recycler facility in Newark, CA was ordered to pay a $90,000 penalty for failing to provide secondary containment around an oil storage area; failing to secure and control access to oil handling, processing and storage areas; failing to use safe containers and good engineering practices, including liquid level alarms to avoid discharges; and failing to develop a complete Facility Response Plan.
- A vegetable oil terminal operator and packaging facility in Fullerton, CA, was fined $45,000 by failing to update and recertify its spill prevention plan; failing to provide adequate oil containment and drainage controls; failing to ensure that the secondary containment walls of a tank farm could contain spilled oil; and failing to remove accumulations of oil outside tanks and piping, transfer areas and process area collection trenches.
- A building materials company in Pittsburg, CA was fined $2,775 for failure to provide a proper spill prevention plan, implement tank inspection and integrity testing programs, and provide documentation of employee training.
- A grease service and disposal service facility in Riverside, CA was fined $2,400 for failure to provide a proper SPCC plan, for storing oil in improper storage containers, and for failing to implement a tank integrity testing program to prevent releases.
- A food products facility in La Mirada, Calif. was fined $2,250 for failure to provide a proper SPCC plan and have adequate secondary containment for vegetable oil storage tanks.
- A grease service and disposal facility in Riverside, CA was fined $1,900 for failing to provide a proper SPCC plan, and complete inspection records, The facility also lacked an adequate tank integrity testing program and proper oil drum secondary containment.
Managing SPCC plans and associated compliance can be achieved through a cohesive, yet site-specific, standardization of best practices. The costs associated with effective emergency management, planning efforts, and overall spill prevention are often much less than the costs associated with fines, spill clean-up, and other civil liabilities. By utilizing available technology, companies can enhance accessibility, portability, and redundancy, and potentially ease communication barriers with responders and regulatory audits.