EPA's Position

June 8, 2002

EPA's Position

Region 5 officials further explain secondary containment and refuelers

by John F. Infanger

CHICAGO - In May, we reported on two regions of the Environmental Protection Agency that are calling for secondary containment for refueling vehicles, citing 1974 law. The issue is causing a stir among service companies, airports, and airlines, as well as their respective trade associations. To more fully present the EPA position, AIRPORT BUSINESS met with officials of the Region 5 office, which is currently working with several Midwest airports on compliance.

Attending the meeting were several inspectors of the Region 5 office, including Robert McCoy, who is in compliance discussions with the airport at Ft. Wayne, IN. The meeting was headed up by Barbara Carr, Ph.D., coordinator of the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures program for the region.
To aviation interests, the issue centers around what many see as unreasonable or impractical requirements for secondary containment for aircraft refuelers. To EPA, say Dr. Carr and her staff, the issue is compliance with 40 CFR 112, which has been in effect since 1974 and which calls for an SPPC plan that includes secondary containment for any facility that has an above ground storage tank greater than 660 gallons of a petroleum product, or other oils, or an aggregate storage capacity of 1,320 gallons on site. Even more specifically, refuelers fall under the category of mobile or portable storage.
Explains Carr, -The other criteria is, if there could be a discharge from that facility that could get into waters of the U.S. Regarding navigable water, it can be intermittent; when a creek fills up with rain water, it can go into the next creek, into a lake or river.
-Navigable water throws people off. It doesn-t mean you can float a boat on it. It means that in certain conditions a discharge could get into the water.-
Comments inspector McCoy, -This is all very workable.-

Various aviation officials question how this issue has surfaced only recently when fuel storage, stormwater runoff, and spill prevention and cleanup have been high profile concerns for the industry for 15 years or more. Answers Carr, -I don-t know. It's the responsibility of the facility owner. Apparently some of the individuals giving advice are not familiar with the regulation and how it applies to oil storage at airports.
-In the rule it says, mobile and portable storage tanks. They-re (refuelers) temporary storage tanks.-
Region 5 officials admit that it has been only in the past several years that the SPCC office has begun going onsite to airports for such inspections. Says McCoy, -We have more inspectors now and have the opportunity to conduct inspections that we weren-t able to reach previously. If we do an inspection we have to do it consistently; we can-t just let airports off the hook for secondary containment on fuel transfer.-
In fact, Carr explains, the SPCC offices nationwide rely on individual compliance and not inspections, per se. In turn, professional engineers (PEs) are relied upon to certify that a facility is in compliance, and Carr and her associates suggest that some consulting PEs may have been the ones who have dropped the ball in terms of ensuring refuelers were included in any SPCC plans.
-It's not the government's responsibility to talk to them,- says Carr. -The engineers know the regulations that apply. They are the people whose business it is to know the rules.-
Adds McCoy, -We-re trying to educate the engineers but they don-t always want to listen because they have a different agenda. Occasionally, they try to represent the interests of the owner to save them money and yet they want to certify plans, and you can-t do both.-

Secondary containment for refueling vehicles is not an issue at airports which have overall containment systems that are designed to contain any spill or unwanted runoff on an airport. For example, some airports have systems which direct all flowage into containment ponds for cleanup. Region 5 officials point to Chicago's O-Hare International and Milwaukee's Mitchell Field as two examples of airports in compliance.
Says McCoy, -We understand that some of these are small businesses and it's not only large airports. We take that into account.
-It's going to cost people money to comply. I can empathize with the leaseholders on an airport because I-ve got one case where there's a handful of leaseholders and each and every one of them separately has to put in these type of protections because the airport doesn-t want to spend the money to put in a retention pond.-
Other means by which operators can comply, say officials, include having the refueling area and/or the area in which refuelers are parked constructed in a depressed area that would contain any spill, or placement of temporary, heavy duty berms that will not float away and will contain the contents of a refueler. Another is, construct a ramp drainage system that flows into an underground oil/water separator. When an inspection reveals noncompliance, says Carr, the agency is willing to work with operators to get into compliance within reasonable timelines.