SPCC Plan, Regulations, and Requirements for Secondary Containment

SPCC Plan and Regulations

One of the EPA’s mandates is the use of secondary containment to prevent oil spills from polluting our nation’s navigable waterways which are defined under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act as any waterway or body of water that is used for interstate and foreign commerce, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, wet meadows, play lakes and natural ponds.

This description basically covers almost all natural surface water in the United States. Oil is defined as petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, oil refuse and oil mixed with wastes, non-petroleum oils, synthetics oils, animal fats, oil and greases and vegetable oils.

Once spilled, these materials pose a serious threat to soil, ground water, fresh water, marine habitats, human and animal life. Spilled oil is hazardous because:

  • It can contain low concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, sulfur and toxic metals.
  • All of these materials are poisonous to human and animal life if it has leaked into the ground water that replenishes our country’s wells or contaminates the surface water reservoirs where the water is ingested by humans or animals.
  • An Oil spill is especially deadly to birds and water fowl because it coats their feathers so they are unable to fly and usually poisons them as they ingest it trying to clean their feathers.
  • An Oil spill can also destroy most, if not all, of the vegetation adjacent to the waterway that is contaminated by it.
  • In addition, many of these chemicals can also present a significant fire hazard.

As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency requires anyone who stores large quantities of oil in any of the forms described above to develop and implement an oil spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) plan. C.I.Agent Solutions can will work with you to help devise a means to meet Oil spill containment regulations.

Secondary Containment and SPCC RegulationsSPCC Requirements and Secondary Containment

Who is affected?

Any containment facility with an above ground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons using storage media such as tanks, containers, drums, portable totes, transformers and other oil filled electrical equipment as well as any facility with underground tank storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons are required to create and implement an SPCC plan for secondary containment.

To qualify, the facility must be non-transportation related such as on and offshore drilling platforms, oil derricks and oil rigs, mobile oil drilling facilities, oil refineries, railroad car and truck oil tankers and their loading areas and loading equipment, oil pipelines and some waste treatment facilities. There must also be a real possibility that an oil spill can occur that will leak into navigable waters within the continental United States, along our coastlines or adjoining shorelines belonging to another country that can be affected by the oil spill.

Containment Plans

An SPCC secondary containment plan must be developed in accordance with recommended engineering practices and approved by a company employee with the authority to implement the containment plan. Each containment plan must also be tailored to the individual storage facility or media in use and must clearly address the following three areas of concern:

  • Operating procedures that will prevent oil spills.
  • Control measures for oil containment and to prevent an oil spill from reaching navigable waters.
  • Countermeasure for containment, clean up and to minimize any damage of an oil spill that does reach a navigable waterway.

An SPCC containment plan must be prepared by all facilities subject to regulation, have written management approval and be certified by a registered professional engineer. Not all SPCC plans have to be certified by a PE; sites with less than 10,000 gallons can self certify if they have not had any spills.

Containment Plans (continued)

An SPCC containment plan must contain the following information:

  • Identification of all oil storage media, where it is located, what its storage capacity is, what it is used for and how much is actually on hand.
  • Control measures to prevent an oil spill from reaching navigable waters.
  • Written descriptions of any past oil spills detailing the corrective actions taken and what secondary containment plans were implemented to prevent a re-occurrence.
  • A prediction of the direction, rate of flow and total quantity of oil that could be spilled based on past experience of potential equipment failures.
  • A description of any containment or diversionary structures and the equipment that is available to prevent a spill from reaching the waterway.
  • A detailed discussion of the spill prevention measures that apply to the specific facility and how these measure effect operations.
  • The operating procedures that have been implemented to prevent future oil spills from occurring.
  • Control measure in force to prevent future oil spills from reaching the waterway.
  • Implemented procedure and countermeasures to contain, clean-up and lessen the damage of any oil spill that does manage to reach the waterway.

SPCC Compliance

Any facility that spills more than 1,000 gallons of oil into navigable waters or onto a shoreline within a 12 month period, must submit the following information to the EPA Regional Administrator within 60 days from the time the chemical spill occurs for SPCC Compliance guidelines including the following information:

  • Facility name, location and date when the facility began operation.
  • Facility owner or operator names.
  • Facility maximum storage and/or handling capacity and normal daily oil throughput.
  • Copy of the complete SPCC plan including all amendments.
  • The cause of the spill including a failure analysis of the system or subsystem where the failure occurred.
  • Corrective actions or countermeasures taken such as repair or replacement of the failed equipment.
  • Preventative measures taken to prevent a re-occurrence.
  • Any additional information the Regional Director may request.
  • Implemented procedure and countermeasures to contain, clean-up and lessen the damage of any oil spill that does manage to reach the waterway.


The EPA Regional Administrator will review all information received. If the administrator feels that the SPCC plan is inadequate, he may require the facility owners or operators to amend the plan. Owners or operators may submit written arguments on the proposed amendments and may appeal the regional administrator’s final ruling to the Administrator of the EPA.

The EPA Regional Administrator may make both announced and unannounced on-site inspections to determine the facility’s level of preparedness to prevent or respond to an oil spill.


Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines up to $25,000 per day per violation. Some specific violations subject to penalties are:

  • Using untrained personnel.
  • Failure to report a spill that enters a waterway.
  • Lack of an adequate SPCC plan.

More Resources