By Ed Burke, Dennis K. Burke Inc.
As fuel dealers, there are dozens of state and federal rules and regulations that come under the umbrella of environmental compliance. Our companies focus on maintaining our SPCC plans, getting the right permits, making sure our delivery trucks and trailers are tested as required, and we are continuously training our drivers with handling procedures and spill prevention. It’s difficult at times, but we keep our companies in compliance.
Maintaining SPCC Plans
Most fuel dealers are familiar with Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans. If you store more than 12,000 gallons of petroleum products, whether in an aboveground tank, drums, railcars or product left on the truck, you are required to have an SPCC plan. There are regular inspections and reporting requirements to maintain the SPCC, and a professional engineer must sign off on the plan.
Coast Guard Regulations
Over-the-water deliveries are regulated by the Coast Guard. Along with specific rules for handling and delivery procedures, they also require additional precautions, like annual pressure testing for any hoses that go over the water.
We thought that was a good practice and made the decision to pressure-test all of our hoses annually. Each hose is pressure-tested to the pump and products being delivered. It helps us to be proactive in preventing spills.
Be A Good Neighbor
Local community groups are encouraging states to take a harder line in enforcing anti-idling regulations in their neighborhoods. Rules vary from state to state, but basically, they limit how long a truck can sit idling, and there are huge fines for violators.
Each year, we do our own company-specific spill control and response training with all of our drivers. We review standard operations for deliveries, and standard procedures for dealing with spills. We talk about the equipment that we use to make deliveries, and look at the different types of hoses and fittings that we use. We discuss how we monitor our customer’s tanks, and go over issues that sometimes come up at different sites where we deliver.
Our new hires are paired with a senior driver or trainer during a 15-day program that helps the driver to get familiar with the vehicle, learn about loading procedures, and understand the company’s spill control policies.
At our quarterly People in Charge (PIC) meetings, we discuss compliance issues, go over operations manuals, and review procedures to make sure everyone is up-to-date.
Planning Spill Response
A good response plan clearly describes the equipment, management procedures and notification guidelines for responding to a release of petroleum products. Following the response plan, drivers should know exactly what to do in the event of a spill, who to notify, the information they need to provide, and the step-by-step procedures they should follow.
Dealing with spills
Spill reporting requirements vary from state to state, so it’s important to know the state’s reportable quantities in the areas you operate. For example, in Massachusetts, the reportable quantity is 10 gallons, and the state must be notified within two hours. In Maine, spills on asphalt or concrete may not be reportable, but any quantity spilled on dirt or water must be reported.
As a rule, if we have a reportable spill, or if it’s on the water, we’re calling an environmental contractor to handle it. With a smaller release below the reportable quantity, we sometimes handle the cleanup ourselves. We would typically apply Speedi Dry, collect it, and put it into a sealed pail or drum. It’s important to note that the container is now considered hazardous waste and should only be transported by an environmental contractor. We would leave the container on-site for the environmental contractor to pick up and transport it to a licensed waste management facility.
Environmental Contractors and Pollution Insurance
Location and response time is important, so it’s a good idea to have relationships with environmental contractors in each of the states you operate in.
Not all fuel dealers need a pollution insurance policy, but you may want to weigh the costs with the benefits. Companies offering pollution insurance maintain relationships with many of the environmental contractors and have negotiated pre-determined rates for services. So you know in advance the set prices for cleanup, labor, materials, transportation and disposal.
Are There Compliance Dividends?
In short, we’re better at what we do. As business owners, we’re certainly more in tune with environmental concerns. We’ve improved health conditions in the workplace, and we’re better neighbors too. When spills do happen, our staff is better trained to handle them, but they’re even more focused on preventing spills. That’s a proactive safety culture.
We all know that the fines for non-compliance are excessive and can far outweigh actual compliance costs. While we can tally the costs for environmental compliance on a spreadsheet, we may want to look at some of the positive changes in our business culture to find the dividends.