A SPCC (Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure) plan is a document that should be drawn up by the owner of any oil storage facility to describe what steps are to be taken for the handling of oil, what to do if spills occur, what drainage or discharge controls are in place, who is in charge, and what resources and equipment can be brought into use to prevent any oil spills from reaching the coastline or any busy shipping lanes. The SPCC plans must be drawn up according to recognized engineering standards.
Oil spills are a danger to the health of the public, pollute drinking water, spoil natural resources and cause disruptions in the economy. The United States uses enormous quantities of oil for heating, fuel for vehicles and for the operation of hundreds of thousands of machines. Often, oil is spilled from storage facilities, while being transported, or during the course of exploration or production processes and it ends up soaking into the land or being carried away by rivers and streams.
The prevention of oil spills should be high on the agenda of any oil storage facility and if they do occur, they should be cleaned up as quickly as possible. It often costs less to prevent a spill than to clean one up after the event. The purpose of the SPCC rule is to assist oil storage facilities prevent spilled oil from reaching navigable waterways or the closest shoreline.
The SPCC rule applies to any facility that can store more than 1,320 gallons of oil above ground or greater than 42,000 gallons below ground and there is a reason to suspect that there may be an oil leak. All types of oil are covered, including fuel oil; petroleum; refuse oil; sludge; waste oil and vegetable oil to name but a few. The type of facilities that are covered by the regulation are any that store, refine, process, consume or use oil and are not in the business of transporting the oil.
All covered facilities have to comply with the SPCC rules by preventing oil from spilling and by setting up and following their own SPCC plan. Some of the steps an owner or operator can take to prevent oil from spilling include; use suitable containers for the stored oil, use an alarm system to indicate overfill, provide backup containment measures for bulk storage vessels that is able to contain a major spill from the vessel plus any rainfall, if using a dike, this should be constructed from concrete or earth. Using a tank with double walls may also be acceptable.
Secondary containment should be provided to catch the spills that occur when transferring oil between containers and when offloading tankers. Drip pans, absorbing materials or curbing mechanisms should be used as well as regular inspections of all containers and pipes. Underground pipes need to be leak tested after installation or repair and written records should be included in the plan for these tests.
It is the owner/operators responsibility to draw up and implement an SPCC plan. Once all of the elements have been described in detail, the plan has to be certified by a Professional Engineer. The owner or operator can certify the plan if he is able to or chooses to only if certain conditions are met.
These conditions are subject to certain eligibility criteria such as; the total capacity of aboveground storage should be 10,000 gallons or less, for three years prior to certification, there has been no single oil discharge into the water or onto the shoreline that exceeds 1,000 gallons, two discharges of oil into the water or shoreline have not exceeded 42 gallons over the previous twelve months. If the facility cannot meet the above requirements then a licensed Professional Engineer must certify the SPCC plans.