Special Topics in Environmental Management

SPCC Secondary Containment Impracticability FAQs

SPCC Secondary Containment Impracticability FAQs

Q: How does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) define “impracticability” in regard to secondary containment?

A: According to the EPA, the meaning of “impracticability” relative to SPCC secondary containment requirements is the determination that a “facility owner/operator cannot install secondary containment by any reasonable method.”

Q: What considerations are acceptable to the EPA in making an impracticability determination?

A: The EPA suggests a number of considerations that may be taken into account in determining impracticability, including, “space and geographical limitations, local zoning ordinances, fire codes, safety, and other good engineering practice reasons that would not allow for secondary containment.” Although this list does not cite costs as a consideration, in May 2004, the EPA clarified in a Federal Register Notice that “economic cost may be considered as one element in a decision on alternative methods, consistent with good engineering practice for the facility, but may not be the only determining factor in claiming impracticability.”

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Q: Does an impracticability determination require certification by a licensed Professional Engineer (PE)?

A: Yes, either the entire SPCC Plan must be certified by a PE, or, in the case of a facility that qualifies to self-certify under 40 CFR 112.3(g), the relevant portions of the SPCC Plan must be certified by a PE. The impracticability determination is not allowed for any facility without review and certification by a PE. In addition, the facility’s SPCC Plan must contain a clear explanation of the impracticability determination made by the certifying PE.

Q: If an impracticability determination is made at a facility, what additional measures are required in lieu of secondary containment?

A: The following additional measures are required when an impracticability determination is made and should be included in the facility’s SPCC Plan:

  • Periodic integrity testing of bulk storage containers (112.7(d))— the EPA defines integrity testing as any means to measure the strength (structural soundness) of the container shell, bottom, and/or floor to contain oil. All integrity testing must be performed in accordance with good engineering practice, and consider applicable industry standards. The EPA notes that good engineering practice suggests that integrity testing on containers with no secondary containment follows a more stringent integrity testing schedule than would be necessary on containers with secondary containment.
  • Periodic integrity testing and leak testing of the valves and piping associated with bulk storage containers (112.7(d))— The PE should determine the minimal elements of the integrity and leak testing program needed for the valves and piping and identify what portion(s) of piping to include in the program.

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  • An oil spill contingency plan prepared in accordance with the provisions of 40 CFR 109, unless the facility has submitted a Facility Response Plan (FRP) under §Section 112.20— The elements of a spill contingency plan are outlined in 40 CFR 109.5 and cover such aspects as authority and responsibility, notification procedures, provisions to ensure resource availability, capability and actions, and procedures to facilitate damage recovery and enforcement measures as provided by state and local statutes and ordinances.
  • A written commitment of manpower, equipment, and materials required to expeditiously control and remove any quantity of oil discharged that may be harmful (40 CFR 109.5)— This may be either a written contract or other documentation showing that the owner/operator has made provisions for items needed for response purposes, including equipment and materials, agreements and arrangements related acquisition of equipment, materials and supplies, spill response actions, predesignation of a properly qualified oil discharge response coordinator, a preplanned response operations center and a reliable communications system, provisions for response efforts relative to the severity of the oil discharge; and prioritization of protection of water uses where more than one water use may be adversely affected as a result of an oil discharge and where response operations may not be adequate to protect all uses.

The EPA also notes that each facility need prepare only one spill contingency plan and commitment of manpower, equipment, and materials that covers all impracticability determinations at the facility.

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