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Oil Spills

The top priority of EPA’s Emergency Management Program is to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills that occur in and around inland waters of the United States. EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead response agency for spills in coastal waters and deepwater ports.

SPCC for Agriculture

Oil spills endanger public health, impact drinking water, devastate natural resources, and disrupt the economy. Every effort must be made to prevent oil spills and to clean them up promptly once they occur. The purpose of the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule is to help facilities and farms prevent a discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. A key element of the SPCC rule requires farms and other facilities to develop, maintain and implement an oil spill prevention plan, called an SPCC Plan. These plans help farms prevent oil spill, as well as control a spill should one occur. If you have additional questions about the SPCC Program, please call our Oil Information Center at (800) 424-9346 or TDD (800) 553-7672.

Farms and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA)

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, was signed into law by the President on June 10, 2014. Section 1049 of the Act changes certain applicability provisions of the SPCC rule for farms, and modifies the criteria under which a farmer may self-certify an SPCC Plan.

New Farm Fact Sheet Explaining the Impact of the WRRDA on the SPCC rule

Status of Study Required by the WRRDA and Future Rule Making

WRRDA requires EPA to work with USDA to conduct a study to determine the appropriate applicability threshold for farms, based on a significant risk of discharge to waters of the U.S. The threshold quantity must be not more than 6,000 gallons and not less than 2,500 gallons. EPA is currently working on the study and continues to coordinate with USDA during its development. The study is scheduled to be completed by June 2015. EPA then expects to promulgate a rule amending the SPCC requirements associated with the applicability thresholds and other WRRDA amendments.

SPCC Compliance Date for Farms

SPCC Basics:

SPCC: Easy as 1-2-3 (PDF) (1 pg, 58K, about PDF) provides a quick guide to SPCC applicability and determining if you need to create a full SPCC Plan or use the SPCC Plan Template

A Facility Owner/Operator’s Guide to Oil Pollution Prevention - Updated (PDF) (10 pp, 1.9M, about PDF)

SPCC Farms Fact Sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 49K, about PDF) provides a brief overview of the SPCC program as it relates to farms. PLEASE NOTE: This SPCC fact sheet is currently out of date. Please see the new WRRDA fact sheet (PDF) (3 pp, 166K, about PDF) for updated information on changes to farm SPCC applicability and the self-certification criteria.

SPCC Presentation (PDF) (38 pp, 1.3M, about PDF) provides a more in depth look at the SPCC program.

SPCC Train the Trainer for Agriculture provides organizations with materials to hold trainings to raise awareness of the SPCC rule and the upcoming compliance date within the farming community.

EPA’s Introduction to the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Program (SPCC) for Agriculture brochure Exit EPA Disclaimer - additional copies of this brochure can be obtained through the Agricultural Retailers Association.

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Create your SPCC Plan:

Tier I Template, is intended to help the owner or operator of a Tier I qualified facility develop a self-certified SPCC Plan. For updated information on the WRRDA changes to the self-certification criteria for farms see the new farm fact sheet.

Example Tier I Qualified Facility SPCC Plan - this example plan, based on a farm scenario, will guide you through creating your own self-certified SPCC Plan.

How to Fill Out a Tier I Template (55pp, 5.5M, about PDF) - this presentation walks you through how to fill out a Tier I Template using the example Tier I Qualified Facility SPCC Plan above.

Secondary Containment Calculation Worksheets - Example and blank worksheets used to calculate secondary containment capacity are available to help you to comply with the secondary containment requirements of the SPCC rule.

mySPCC Exit EPA Disclaimer - a suite of compliance assistance tools has been specifically developed to provide agricultural retailers with industry-standard information to assist in the preparation of an SPCC Plan for their facility. Sponsored by The Fertilizer Institute and was developed cooperatively with the Asmark Institute and EPA.

State Professional Engineer (PE) licensing board contacts (PDF) (4 pp, 100K, about PDF) - This list will help you contact your state licensing board, which can then help you locate a PE should your plan require one.

EPA contacts (updated April 10, 2013) (PDF) (1 pg, 84K, about PDF) should you need further assistance.

National Agriculture Center is the "first stop" for information about environmental requirements that affect the agricultural community. The Ag Center was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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Frequent Questions:

  1. Who is responsible for holding and maintaining an SPCC Plan?
  2. Is my farm covered by SPCC?
  3. How do I determine if my farm could reasonably discharge oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines?
  4. If your farm does not have fuel storage that will flow into navigable waters by a ditch, river, stream, or lake, do you have to prepare a SPCC Plan?
  5. Is a clay dike or berm without a liner that will hold a potential spill of the largest tank inside the dike or berm sufficient enough protection?
  6. Do service tanks on service trucks or pickups count in the calculation of the total storage on the farm?
  7. If the oil storage capacity on the farm is less than 10,000 gallons total, can the farmer prepare a Plan himself, and do regular self-inspections, and be in compliance?
  8. If I have more than one farm location, do I total the oil storage from all locations?
  9. What do I do with rainwater that accumulates in my containment area?
  10. If a farm is out of compliance with SPCC regulations and is checked by EPA and/or has a spill, is the retailer that filled the tank liable?
  11. What if I leased some parcels, and there are tanks already present? Am I responsible for these tanks?

1. Who is responsible for holding and maintaining an SPCC Plan?

The SPCC rule requires the owner or operator of the facility (e.g. a farm) prepare and implement an SPCC Plan. The Plan must be maintained at the location of the farm that is normally attended at least 4 hours per day.

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2. Is my farm covered by SPCC?

For updated information on the WRRDA changes to farm applicability see the new farm fact sheet (PDF) (3 pp, 166K, about PDF).

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3. How do I determine if my farm could reasonably discharge oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines? You can determine this by considering the geography and location of your farm relative to nearby navigable waters (such as lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and other waterways) or adjoining shorelines. You should consider if ditches, gullies, storm sewers or other drainage systems may transport an oil spill to nearby navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. Estimate the volume of oil that could be spilled in an incident and how that oil might drain or flow from your farm and the soil conditions or geographic features that might affect the flow toward navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. Also you may want to consider whether precipitation runoff could transport oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. You may not take into account manmade features, such as dikes, equipment, or other structures that might prevent, contain, hinder, or restrain the flow of oil. Assume these manmade features are not present when making your determination. If you consider the applicable factors described above and determine a spill can reasonably flow to a waterwaynavigable water or adjoining shorelines, then you must comply with the SPCC rule.

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4. If your farm does not have fuel storage that will flow into navigable waters by a ditch, river, stream or lake, do you have to prepare a SPCC Plan? No. EPA suggests you use a common sense approach. If one of your oil storage tanks leaks, and the spilled oil would not flow into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines, you do not have to prepare a Plan. Remember that you still have the responsibility to clean up any spilled oil and a containment system (for example, a dirt berm around the tank) makes this easier. EPA recommends that you check with your state environmental contacts to determine if there are requirements when oil is spilled to soil only. Also, EPA recommends that you document the reasons why you think an oil spill would not reach water to demonstrate to regional inspectors, if necessary, that your facility is not subject to the SPCC rule.

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5. Is a clay dike or berm without a liner that will hold a potential spill of the largest tank inside the dike or berm sufficient enough protection? Yes.

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6. Do service tanks on service trucks or pickups count in the calculation of the total storage on the farm? Yes, you should include fuel tanks mounted on trailers, fuel trucks used exclusively on the farm and tanks in pickups toward the overall threshold of 1,320 gallons. Also, count 55-gallon drums, but don’t count any container smaller than that.

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7. If the oil storage capacity on the farm is less than 10,000 gallons total, can a farmer self-certify a plan and do regular self-inspections and be in compliance? For updated information on the WRRDA changes to the self-certification criteria for farms see the new farm fact sheet (PDF) (3 pp, 166K, about PDF).

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8. If I have more than one farm location, do I total the oil storage from all locations? Not necessarily. If the locations or the leased or owned parcels have separate farm identification numbers, then the owner or operator will need to calculate the total storage capacity for central fueling and for each parcel, tract or field.

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9. What do I do with rainwater that accumulates in my containment system? Check the rainwater for any oil, and if no oil is present, this can be released. If there is oil in the water, this oil/water mixture will need to be removed and disposed. If this happens, check with your state environmental agency, state extension agent or your fuel dealer to get help.

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10. If a farm is out of compliance of SPCC regulations and is checked by EPA and/or has a spill, is the retailer that filled the tank liable? No, EPA considers the oil tank owner or operator responsible for lack of compliance.

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11. What if I leased some parcels, and there are tanks already present? Am I responsible for these tanks? You could be. If you plan to use these tanks, make sure in your lease agreement, it states who is responsible for these tanks. If the lease does not state who is responsible, you should talk to the property owner to check who is responsible for the tanks under the SPCC rule.

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Additional Resources:

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