In its recently updated SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a hypothetical spill response scenario covering aspects of 40 CFR Part 109 that are integral to compliance with the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule and should be included in training. It is important to note that Part 109 applies only to those facilities that do not have an Facility Response Plan (FRP) in place and that have determined that required secondary containment is impracticable. These criteria are designed to ensure that response activities for these facilities can be provided quickly, in a well-organized fashion by the most suitable responders.
One of the most critical aspects of spill response is that of who is in charge and what are their responsibilities. This means not only facility personnel but local and state agencies as well. Part 109.5(a) requires facilities to provide:
“Definition of the authorities, responsibilities and duties of all persons, organizations or agencies which are to be involved or could be involved in planning or directing oil removal operations with particular care to clearly define the authorities, responsibilities and duties of State and local government agencies…”
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The purpose of this section is to both identify appropriate available spill responders in advance and also to eliminate the potential for duplication of services between responders that can cause confusion in emergencies and cost both precious time and money. This is especially true during large spills that may require local, state and even federal assistance.
In addition, Part 109.5(d) also specifically addresses personnel by requiring “Specification of an oil discharge response operating team…” and “Predesignation of a properly qualified oil discharge response coordinator…”
The goal of these requirements is to ensure facility personnel are assigned specific roles, trained and qualified to perform according to their assigned role and have the authority to carryout operations necessary to handle a discharge. In particular, the response coordinator (RC) should have the training, capability and corporate authorization to manage a spill event including initial discovery and reporting, on- and off-site communications as defined in Part 109.5(3), emergency procedures such as evacuations, and requesting assistance from local fire and/or police, specialized contractors or other responders as warranted by circumstances. Part 109.5(d) also requires that facilities include established plans for an “oil discharge response operations center and a reliable communications system for coordinating the overall response operations.”
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To coordinate all the different personnel and their roles and responsibilities EPA recommends using a flowchart diagram that clearly shows all potential responders and the delegation and order of involvement. For example, if the designated RC is off-site when a spill occurs, the diagram should show the next immediate person in command so that time is not wasted trying to figure out who is in charge. For responders such as contractors that are not available via 911, the diagram should include names and telephone numbers of designated contacts available 24/7.
Because Part 109(d) specifically requires that the spill response team be “trained, prepared and available,” EPA cites ongoing training that includes drills and exercises using equipment, supplies and materials in a simulated discharge situation. These training events should be analyzed and evaluated by the RC and results shared with staff, first responders, contractors, and other stakeholders. When exercises reveal deficiencies or warrant SPCC Plan changes, amendments should be certified by a Professional Engineer if required.