Ask the Expert, EHS Management, Q&A, Wastewater

Wastewater Exemption

  1. We treat our compressor condensate prior to discharge using this a crude oil water separator in a 55 gallon drum that has a 24 gallon oil storage compartment. Does the wastewater exemption apply?
  2. We are assuming that you are regulated under the federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations, and that your facility meets the 1,320 gallons aboveground capacity threshold. The questions are whether the 55 gallon drum that contains a crude oil/water separator (OWS) and carbon filtration would be counted toward that capacity threshold, whether the wastewater treatment exemption applies, and whether secondary containment is required.

According to the EPA, the intended use of an OWS determines whether the separator is subject to the SPCC regulations.

Wastewater exemption. If the OWS is used exclusively for wastewater treatment, it is exempt from SPCC regulation and would not count toward facility storage capacity. However, any oil storage container that is used to hold oil removed from the separation process is considered a bulk storage container and must comply with applicable SPCC requirements if it has a capacity of 55 gallons or more. You state that the maximum capacity of the filter drum is 24 gallons; therefore, it would not count toward the SPCC regulated capacity.

The presence of an OWS at an otherwise SPCC-regulated facility does not exempt the whole facility from the SPCC rule requirements; such OWS capacity does not count toward the overall storage capacity, and only that equipment is exempt under the wastewater exemption.

Therefore, if your OWS is used exclusively for wastewater treatment, it is exempt from regulation and does not require secondary containment. The bulk storage container of the equipment has a capacity of 24 gallons; because it is under the 55 gallon threshold, it does not count toward SPCC storage capacity and does not require secondary containment.

Oil recovery and recycling. However, if the OWS is used for oil recovery and/or recycling, the OWS is not exempt from SPCC requirements and will count toward the facility storage capacity. The rationale here is that the wastewater exemption cannot apply because the operation is focused on oil treatment rather than on wastewater treatment. Such OWSs are oil-filled manufacturing equipment and are subject to the provisions or 40 CFR 112.7 and 112.8(b) and (d), as applicable. Because these OWSs are regulated under SPCC, the 55 gallon drum that contains the separator and carbon filtration would count toward SPCC capacity.

OWSs located at oil recovery or recycling facilities are subject to the provisions of §112.7 and applicable provisions of §112.8(b) and (d) for onshore petroleum and non-petroleum facilities. The §§112.8(c) and 112.12(c) provisions (such as sized containment, integrity testing and overfill prevention) for bulk storage containers do not apply because OWS at these facilities function as oil-filled manufacturing equipment and are not bulk storage containers. When OWSs are part of a flow-through process, such as that found during oil recovery or recycling activities, OWSs are considered oil-filled manufacturing equipment and are excluded from §§112.8(c) and 112.12(c) requirements because they are excluded from the definition of a bulk storage container as defined in §112.2 of the rule. However, containers used to store recovered or recycled oil collected from the OWS are bulk storage containers. These bulk storage containers must comply with the §§112.8(c) and 112.12(c) provisions and other applicable requirements.

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