Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a one-gallon oil spill can contaminate up to one million gallons of water. To help prevent oil spills from reaching waterways, the EPA requires all non-transportation facilities that store large amounts of oil to write and follow a spill prevention, control and countermeasure, or SPCC, plan.

Types of Oil

These regulations apply to any kind of oil, including—but not limited to—petroleum-based oils, non-petroleum-based oils, and oil-containing products. Common examples of these are gasoline, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, motor oil, animal-based oils and fats, biofuel, vegetable oil and oil made from seeds, paint, paint thinners, ink, roofing tar, and more.

Navigable Waters

Oil Spill in WaterSPCC plans are intended to keep any oil spills or discharge from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines. The EPA generally defines navigable waters as streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans. However, if an oil spill enters a storm drain that connects to a stream, or if precipitation runoff can carry an oil spill to a nearby lake, then both the storm drains and runoff paths are protected under SPCC regulations.

SPCC Plan Contents

All SPCC plans must contain information on the following topics:

  • A description of the facility that specifies the location of all large oil containers
  • Oil discharge predictions
  • Appropriate secondary containment or diversionary structures
  • Facility drainage
  • Site security
  • Facility inspections
  • Requirements for bulk storage containers, including inspections, overfill and integrity testing requirements
  • Transfer procedures and equipment
  • Requirements for qualified oil-filled operational equipment
  • Loading/unloading rack requirements and procedures for tank cars and trucks
  • Brittle fracture evaluations for aboveground field-constructed containers
  • Personnel training and oil discharge prevention briefings
  • Recordkeeping requirements
  • Five-year plan review
  • Management approval
  • Plan certification by a professional engineer or, in certain cases, by the facility owner/operator

Spill Controls and Countermeasures

Oil Tank Spill PreventionTo prepare for potential oil spills, all facilities must be equipped with certain controls and countermeasures. These can include secondary containment methods, such as dikes, berms, and retaining walls built around a tank. These must be large enough to hold the full capacity of the tank plus precipitation without overflowing. Gutters and other drainage systems can be installed to direct spills to proper containment areas. Common countermeasures used to contain and clean oil spills include weirs, booms, barriers, drip pans, sumps, collection systems, and more. Facilities should be equipped with multiple spill kits, which often contain personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as coveralls, gloves, and goggles to protect workers as they clean a spill. Kits also include booms, skimmer socks, pads, pillow, disposal bags, and repair putty to stop and clean small leaks and spills.


SPCC plans are designed to keep oil spills and oil discharge from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines. Facilities that store large amounts of oil must have a certified SPCC plan that contains information on the facility’s containers, predicted spills, employee training, recordkeeping requirements, and more. Facilities must have proper controls and countermeasures in place to prevent spills from spreading, including secondary containment methods and emergency procedures.

For more information, follow these links:

The SPCC Rule and Recent Amendments

Oil Spills Prevention and Preparedness Regulations

Secondary Containment Calculation Worksheets

SafetySkills addresses these topics and more in our Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures course. For more information, click here.

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