EPA Requires Spill-prevention Plan

Farms storing large quantities of petroleum products will need to put plans in place for handling spills.

by Dani Yokhna

Fuel tractor
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock
Farmers who store petroleum products to fuel their tractors and for other means must have a spill-prevention plan in place by November.

The start of a new season is a good time to reassess your farm safety plan, and now there’s a new regulation farmers will have to follow. Farmers storing more than 1,320 gallons of fuel or other petroleum products on their farms soon will need a written plan for preventing and handling spills, according to amendments to the EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure regulation, taking effect Nov. 10, 2011.

“The SPCC’s basic intent is to make sure growers who store large amounts of these products are putting in place measures that will protect the area around their properties, specifically groundwater and surface water,” says Fred Whitford, coordinator of Purdue Pesticide Programs, who co-authored “Aboveground Petroleum Tanks: A Pictorial Guide,” providing general information about the SPCC and fuel and oil storage. “With this regulation, EPA is saying that we need to be thinking about fuel storage as much as pesticide and fertilizer storage. It doesn’t take much oil or gas to pollute water.”

Under the new amendments, only petroleum products stored in stationary tanks and containers of at least 55 gallons are counted toward the regulated total. Gasoline, diesel fuel and oil in tractors, trucks and other vehicular machinery are exempt.

Farmers will not be required to write a spill-prevention plan if their more than 1,320 gallons of petroleum products are stored on separate farms, so long as no single farm stores the regulated 55-gallon minimum, Whitford says.

The spill-prevention plan should include information such as how petroleum products are stored, the location of storage units, the farm’s topography and steps to be taken in the event of a spill. The document is kept on the farm; the EPA does not receive a copy.

“If EPA has to respond to a spill on your farm, they will ask for this plan,” Whitford says. “Regulatory enforcement likely would occur only if an EPA representative visited a farm on an unrelated matter.”

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Find a template for writing a spill-prevention plan on the EPA’s website .

The federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure regulation was adopted in 1974. It has been amended over the years.

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