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UST Questions Answered: What is Spill Protection?

Employees in labor industries who are required to undergo underground storage tank (UST) training need to understand the key points in the training courses related to tank spill protection. 

Employees who operate tank equipment or perform environmental testing procedures also need training in UST safety and spill protection measures. These employees should be fully knowledgeable of state and federal compliance regulations to ensure they follow guidelines for spill detection, response, reporting and recovery. UST training is available online and covers a broad range of questions trainees might ask. 

SPCC and RCRA Plans


Employees may also be involved in the design, creation and implementation of a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC) or implementing the EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) compliance regulations. 

In facilities where there are underground storage tanks in use, a SPCC plan is required by the EPA to be updated whenever changes or new USTs are installed. New installations and changes must be reported to the EPA. 

RCRA is an important factor that should be a part of UST training. It's important for employees to know RCRA regulations regarding UST spill protection. Some of the RCRA questions to consider are:

 

  • What clean up methods are acceptable to the EPA?
  • Why do USTs need to be cleaned up should a spill occur?
  • Why are UST cleanup measures so costly?
  • Are all UST sites are equally contaminated and dangerous?

 

What is Spill Protection?


Perhaps, the most important question for sites containing USTs is to know the definition of spill protection. For example, an owner or operator of USTs needs to know how to protect employees and the environment from spills and overfills of their USTs. 

In simplest terms, spill protection provides containment around underground pipes to catch leaks and spills that occur most often during tank filling in new tanks and refilling in existing tanks.

Depending on the type of UST, this containment may be referred to as a catch basin or a spill "bucket." These should both be double walled according to regulations changed in 2015 by the EPA.

Underground tanks used specifically for storage should provide spill protection that seals tightly around the opening to the tank inlet. The filling device or hose should connect to the inlet so leaks and spills do not occur. This applies to oil tanks and those that store industrial products for use in processing or as storage for excess waste. 

What is Overfill Protection?

In the case of underground storage tank overfill protection, devices sound an alarm to the delivery operator via overfill monitoring gauges that are equipped with automatic shut off devices when the alarm sounds. The other device used for overfill protection is a flow monitor that restricts the quantity to be filled in the UST. This may also be referred to as a "ball float valve." 

However, if the UST is filled with less than 25 gallons of product in a single delivery, the compliance regulations do not apply. 

What is the Responsibility of Owners and Operators for UST Spill Protection?


Knowing compliance regulations is only one part of the responsibility of owners and operators of USTs. Equally important is to understand and document specifications of manufacture to help determine the integrity of tank walls and materials of construction. Leaks and spills often occur due to corrosion of stored chemicals that deteriorate integrity of tank walls. 

The Importance of UST Training


In addition to keeping UST operators in compliance, UST training online is available for Class A/B operators who are responsible for UST installation, daily operation and maintenance. 

Another feature of online training for UST operators is record keeping and identifying and documenting a broad range of oil, chemicals and hazardous materials stored at a facility. 

Class C UST Operator training is required for operation of tank and dispenser system, locating the tank cut off switch and emergency response procedures, locating the SPCC manual that provides information on how to respond to a tank spill and who immediate contacts should be.

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