By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Agricultural producers and businesses are facing a May 10 deadline for establishing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans.
The plan must ensure a spill from an aboveground storage tank (AST) will be contained and that countermeasures have been established to prevent accidental discharges that could reach navigable waters.
Unlike many newly implemented or proposed environmental laws, the regulation – which affects owners and operators who store more than 1,320 gallons of oil, diesel fuel or gasoline in ASTs or in buried containers holding at least 42,000 gallons –won’t cost most farmers a penny in permit fees, according to Kevin Runkle, manager of regulatory services for the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Assoc. (IFCA).
“(Farmers and agribusinesses) don’t have to submit the plan to anyone. All they have to do is have it on file at their operation for U.S. EPA inspection,” said Runkle, who will lead a seminar on SPCC plans during upcoming farmer safety and compliance classes sponsored by the IFCA, the Asmark Institute and the Illinois Corn Growers Assoc. (ICGA).
He hopes to help a few farmers develop their SPCC plans during the seminars, which will be held at the Asmark Institute, located at 14171 Carole Drive in Bloomington, today, Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. Runkle will also be available to farmers who can’t attend the class but need help putting their SPCC plans to paper, he said.
Farmers who have no SPCC plan in place may be under the impression their operation is exempt from the regulation – though most actually aren’t – according to Runkle.
“Farms that came into creation after (Aug. 16) 2002 have until May 10 to have an SPCC plan in place. If the farm was in existence before (Aug. 16) 2002, they need to have the SPCC plan ready now,” Runkle said.
“You have to (consider) everything on your farm: diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, motor oil in 55 gallon containers ... if you have over 1,320 gallons in aggregate products, then you have to have an SPCC plan. If you have a 500-gallon gas tank and a 1,000-gallon diesel tank, then you are over the threshold. A lot of farmers and companies have more than that.”
The main thrust behind the SPCC plan is to ensure spilled oil and petroleum products do not reach “navigable waters” of the United States. Though many producers may feel their operations are located a reasonable distance from navigable waters, Runkle advises them to be safe and proactive rather than sorry and reactive.
“If your farm is near a ditch, that is considered a waterway,” he warned. The penalty for non-compliance in the event of a spill could include a fine of up to $10,000 per day, Runkle added.
According to the EPA, under SPCC a farm is considered “a facility on a tract of land devoted to the production of crops or the raising of animals, including fish, which produced and sold, or normally would have produced or sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during a year.”
Though some farmers will need to have their SPCC Plan certified by a professional engineer, many will be eligible to self-certify their plan if their farm has an AST capacity of between 1,320-10,000 gallons and a “good spill history,” according to an EPA SPCC fact sheet for farmers.
EPA offers a free SPCC plan template available for download at www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/tier1temp.htm
In addition, the Asmark Institute offers a free template to help farmers formulate an SPCC plan for their operations on their website at www.asmark.org