Special Topics in Environmental Management

Most Common SPCC Violations in the Field

Events That Can Increase Your Chances of Being Inspected

The EPA conducted about 800 SPCC inspections in 2012. Some of those inspections were part of EPA’s targeted enforcement outreach program, and some were part of routine compliance monitoring. There is little a facility could do to avoid getting on those lists, however there are a few incidents that will increase a facility’s chance of getting inspected by the feds.

A spill event. This is a no-brainer. If your facility spills, you can bet the EPA will put you on EPA’s hit list for inspections.

Referrals. The EPA will often get a “heads up” from state or local authorities about a facility’s activities. So, if your state or local environmental agencies are poking around, it would behoove your facility to be prepared for a federal visit, too.

EPA’s SPCC regulation affects over 630,000 facilities. Is yours one? Download your EHS Essentials Kit—SPCC Plan Compliance now for all the tools you need to be in compliance. Download Now

Facility incidents. Maybe your facility doesn’t have a spill event, but it is involved in a fire or some other accident that brings attention to your operations. This is another trigger that will cause a visit from EPA’s OEM.

You’re a Tier I or Tier II facility. The EPA spends the majority of its time and resources inspecting the highest risk facilities. But that doesn’t mean the little guys are totally off the hook. To reduce burden to the lower-risk facilities, a few years ago the EPA revised the SPCC rule and tiered the program. The big advantage of falling into the simpler Tier I or Tier II category is that the plans of those facilities don’t need professional engineer (PE) certification. The EPA wants to know that the tier program is working and therefore is keeping them on their inspection radar to be sure the Tier I and Tier II qualified-facilities are following the rules.

To find out if your facility falls into the tier program, see this Advisor infographic.

At the conference, one attendee asked if inspectors from other EPA programs ever tip off the OEM office about potential violators. The EPA said that although it is not common practice, they do consider other inspectors to be the eyes and ears for the EPA and this assistance is incorporated into enforcement targeting programs.

Common Administrative Violations

  1. No SPCC Plan. This is most common with smaller facilities and farms. Keep in mind that a regulated facility that gets caught without a Plan at all has a slim chance of getting out of this violation. To find out if your facility requires an SPCC Plan, see this Advisor article.
  2. Not counting animal fats and vegetable oils and biodiesel as “oil.” SPCC regulations at 40 CFR 112 include petroleum oils as well as many nonpetroleum oils. For more information on SPCC regulated nonpetroleum oils, see this popular Advisor article.
  3. No PE Certification or stamp on the SPCC Plan. Believe it or not, the EPA shared a story where a non-PE was caught certifying plans (fake stamp and all). Be sure to check out the license of the PE certifying your SPCC plans if you are not self-certifying.
  4. No records. The EPA said it was really common to hear facilities say that they inspect tanks regularly but don’t write them down. SPCC regulations require facilities to keep visual inspection records for 3 years.

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Most Common SPCC Violations—Nonproduction Facilities

Many of the typical violations found at nonproduction facilities involve improper secondary containment. Here are a few the EPA talked about at the conference.

  1. No containment for oil storage tanks.
  2. Grossly inadequate containment.
  3. Small containers (mostly 55-gallon drums) stored too close or right next to storm drains.
  4. No general containment for nonloading rack transfer areas.
  5. Corroded containment.
  6. No inspections of interstice for double-walled tanks.
  7. The double-walled tank itself does not address all SPCC requirements. This includes general containment for transfers and vent overfills and tank inspection requirements for interstice documented in the plan.
  8.  No sized containment for loading racks.

See tomorrow’s Advisor for more common SPCC violations and what to expect from an SPCC inspection from the EPA.