Info ready mixed and precast concrete plants need to know about SPCC Plans.
For ready mixed, precast, brick, block, pipe, or any other type of concrete plant out there, the need for a SPCC Plan is often misunderstood. Since environmental compliance can be such a daunting task, understanding what regulations apply your concrete plant is crucial to staying in compliance and out of trouble with regulators and third party environmental groups.
For most concrete plants, their primary environmental considerations are NPDES stormwater permits, air quality permits, and annual reporting in the form of both TRI Reporting and Tier II Reporting. Many concrete producers think this is where it ends as far as environmental regulations go, but this often isn't the case.
One critical area of compliance many concrete plants overlook is SPCC Plans and the regulations surrounding them. The problem is, many concrete producers have never heard of SPCC Plans because they're poorly enforced, leading many to wrongfully believe they aren't needed.
Do concrete plants need SPCC Plans?
The short answer is maybe. If you have storage capacity of over 1,320-gallons in above-ground containers, or over 42,000-gallons in underground containers, for any type of oil at your concrete plant, in containers larger than 55-gallon drums, then yes, you need a SPCC plan at your concrete plant.
Now there's a few things there that you need to pay attention to, so let's call them out now, and we'll cover them again in depth in a moment:
- storage capacity totals
- above & below ground tanks
- any type of oil is included
- only containers larger than 55-gallon drums count
What does my concrete plant need to know about SPCC Plans?
Let's start with the basics. Check out our article What is an SPCC plan? to learn more. Here's the 10-second version - SPCC Plans are required at any facility or location that has the storage capacity for oil in any quantity greater than 1,320 gallons, in any sized container down to and including 55-gallon drums.
That sounds familiar, so let's go over those three bullets from above and explain the important details:
- Storage Capacity Totals - This is pretty simple, but trips a lot of folks up. If you have a 2,000-gallon diesel tank at your concrete plant, then you very likely need a SPCC Plan. Often we'll hear "I only fill it halfway so I don't need one" which is incorrect. The regulations look at your maximum storage capacity, so if you have a 2,000-gallon tank that only ever has 1,000-gallons in it, as far as the regulations are concerned you store 2,000-gallons of diesel at your concrete plant and you need a SPCC Plan. There's no getting around this one, the regulations specifically state "capacity" not actual on-site totals.
- Above-Ground & Below Ground - If you have the capacity of storing 1,320-gallons in tanks above-ground at your concrete plant, you need a SPCC Plan. If you have underground tanks that can store over 42,000-gallons, then again, you need a SPCC Plan at your concrete plant.
- Any Type of Oil - Whether it's oil from an animal, a vegetable, petroleum, synthetic oil, waste oil, used oil, sludge, or grease, it's to be included when looking at whether or not your concrete plant needs a SPCC Plan. A common thing we see clients at concrete plants get hung up on is including either anti-freeze, admixtures, or DEF in SPCC Plans. Since those aren't oil, they aren't included. Precast concrete plants that use form oil would need to consider that in their calculations.
- Containers Larger than 55-Gallon Drums - Pretty cut and dry here. You only need to include containers that can store 55-gallons and above. This means 55-gallon drums are counted, but 35-gallon drums are not. Make sense? When in doubt, ask someone, ask your vendor, the guy ordering the drums, or an expert. Again, anything smaller than 55-gallons is not included.
There are three "types" of SPCC Plans as we like to say, Tier I SPCC Plans, Self Certified Tier II SPCC Plans, and PE Certified Tier II SPCC Plans. You can learn how much these various plans cost in How much does a SPCC plan cost?
Here's some other topics which may be of help to you:
- How long does it take to get a SPCC Plan?
- Should I keep my SWPPP & SPCC Plan in the same "book"?
- When should I update my SPCC Plan? Can I do it myself?
Do SPCC Plans even apply to concrete plants?
The answer is usually yes, but lets explain why SPCC Plans are needed at concrete plants, or really any type of industrial facility. Here's what the regulations state:
...applies to any owner or operator of a non-transportation-related onshore or offshore facility engaged in drilling, producing, gathering, storing, processing, refining, transferring, distributing, using, or consuming oil and oil products, which due to its location, could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful, as described in part 110 of this chapter, into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines...
Let's look at that SPCC regulation for a second and break it down to why it applies to a concrete plant. Take a look at the bold parts of the sentence.
- Concrete plants are not transportation related.
- Concrete plants store, transfer or distribute (filling trucks and equipment), use, and consume oil products.
- Concrete plants already acknowledge they discharge to waters of the US or adjoining shorelines in the form of stormwater permits, so if oil leaks and discharges from you site, then yes, it could enter navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.
Now if you are located within a quarry, or other area where you are 100% certain you do not discharge to any waters of the United States, your stormwater permit says so, then you might have a shot of arguing that you don't need an SPCC Plan. We don't recommend that, since SPCC Plans are cheap and easy to deal with, but that's ultimately your call.
What kind of permit or approval does a concrete plant need for an SPCC Plan?
This is a common mistake many make - when it comes to SPCC Plans, there are no permits or approvals you have to apply for. In fact, there's nothing to submit to any local, state, or federal agency either. It all stays in-house only and is there for your use. A lot of concrete producers I visit are expecting more paperwork to submit to some agency somewhere that does something, but the truth is a lot simpler.
SPCC Plans are designed solely to help your company in the event of an emergency, such as a spill or leak. They help guide you through what to do, who to call, and how to keep your operation as safe as possible until help arrives.
But a big problem is this: normally, SPCC regulations are enforced by Federal (USEPA) inspectors in most areas of the country, not your state or local inspectors who most concrete producers see all the time. Rarely does a USEPA inspector show up, and that's a good thing. I've never talked to a plant manager at any concrete plant that was looking forward to any kind of inspection, especially one done by a member of the USEPA.
However, it's common for state or local inspectors to review and occasionally require you to either obtain or update the SPCC Plan at your concrete plant if it isn't good enough. While I always tell producers they pretty much can't enforce the plan or the regulations, it's easy for a local or state employee to pick up the phone and call the USEPA and ask them to visit your site. In other words, if any regulator says to get an SPCC Plan at your concrete plant, or bring it up to snuff, do yourself a favor and do it. You can learn more about it in our article Who enforces SPCC Plans?
Additionally, we hear a lot that concrete producers have never heard of SPCC regulations, and while we buy that excuse, regulators don't. Remember, ignorance of the law excuses no one. And with every passing year, and the availability of training from state concrete associations, or environmental training from national associations like NRMCA or NPCA, it's easy to learn what you need to know to stay in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations impacting your concrete plant, including SPCC Plan regulations. When in doubt, reach out, and find out what you need to do to stay in compliance!
Common Reasons for Needing SPCC Plans at Concrete Plants
So you run a concrete plant, or you're the environmental manager at a concrete company, a regional manager, you name it, and you're wondering how does this impact my concrete plant, right? Here are some common things that will give cause for your concrete plant needing an SPCC Plan.
Gasoline or Diesel Fuel Tanks at Concrete Plants
Where do your mixers fuel? What about equipment like front-end loaders, Bobcats, or even company vehicles like personal trucks or larger flatbeds for delivering products? If you have a tank on-site to fuel your equipment, chances are pretty good it's large enough that it can accommodate several vehicles over the course of a few days, meaning it's probably a pretty big tank. Meaning, your concrete plant probably needs a SPCC Plan.
Concrete Truck Maintenance Garages
Concrete plants that service their vehicles, or even companies that run a central garage location, usually end up needing an SPCC Plan for a few reasons. Most garages we visit have drums, smaller tanks for things like motor oil, hydraulic oil, transmission oil, etc., and even tanks for holding used or waste oil, whether it's for recycling or reuse in a used oil heating system. When a shop has a few tanks and a couple of drums, it's easy to hit and exceed that 1,320-gallon minimum real fast.
Power Generation at Concrete Plants
Is your concrete plant run by some sort of fuel powered generator? If so, chances are pretty good the generator for the plant has a large diesel tank feeding it, meaning your concrete plant definitely needs an SPCC Plan.
Form Oil at Precast Concrete Plants
If you're using some sort of form release agent that's oil-based or has any form of oil or petroleum products within it, then you're going to need to count it towards your SPCC threshold of 1,320-gallons. Often times we'll see a few 330-gallon plastic tote tanks with form oil in it, which easily meet and exceed the threshold.
We see this a lot in our line of work at places like quarries, open mines, sand pits, etc., that have co-located facilities within them run by the same company. Usually, the operations are run independently, meaning they should both have an SPCC Plan, but we do sometimes see one large operation maintain one SPCC Plan for everything. When you have equipment run by generators, stationary or mobile fuel tanks, pumps, barges, fuel tanks or oil reservoirs built into machinery, and other random types of oil containment, it's extremely easy to hit the low threshold of 1,320-gallons at a concrete plant or any type of co-located facility.
So I guess my concrete plant should have an SPCC Plan?
Again, it's going to be a solid maybe until you weigh out all the things we discussed above, but there's a pretty good chance that is you have over 1,320-gallons of oil container storage capacity, regardless of the type of concrete plant you run or work at, then yes, you will need a SPCC Plan.
Does an SPCC Plan cover admixtures, DEF, or anti-freeze at a concrete plant?
As of the time of writing this article, the answer is no, SPCC Plans do not cover anything that is not oil or petroleum related. Meaning, if your concrete plant uses DEF in your vehicles, has admixtures of any amount stored on-site, or drums or tanks of anti-freeze, they do not count towards the threshold for an SPCC Plan. Since no admixture I'm aware of would be classified as either an "oil or petroleum product" as far as I know (if I'm wrong, comment below and let me know), they shouldn't be included but should be inspected and maintained independently of the SPCC Plan.
However, this could change in the near future. How soon is the near future? Who knows. A few years back the USEPA was sued by environmental groups after some particularly nasty spills occurred, all materials NOT covered by SPCC Plans. In short, environmental groups sued the USEPA to change the regulations and include other substances. But, we're talking about the Federal government changing environmental regulations after a pretty serious legal battle. This is going to take time, and with today's current political landscape, it might take a few years. So no, those materials aren't covered by SPCC Plans or the regulations today, but most likely will, to a certain degree, in the future. If you're interested, you can read more about the lawsuit and the potential revisions to the SPCC regulations here.
BUT! This isn't to say that your state, the NPDES stormwater permit covering your concrete plant, or even the local regulatory agency doesn't have some additional requirements regarding storage of hazardous substances like DEF, admixtures, anti-freeze, acids, truck washes, non-oil based release agents, or any other hazardous substances. Some states may have regulations dealing with admixture tanks that are similar to the Federal SPCC regulations but are strictly enforced on a state level. Make sure you check! You could have a million gallons of admixture in storage tanks and not need an SPCC Plan under Federal regulations, but might need some other type of spill control plan for the material. Always check with your state regulations to see if anything else applies.
Can a concrete plant get out of an SPCC Plan?
No. If you need one, you need one, plain and simple. You can't use something done for the state in-place of an SPCC Plan. You can't use another type of spill response plan in place of an SPCC Plan. If you need one at your concrete plant, get one.
Also, SPCC Plans are not the same as SWPPP's or stormwater permits, and having one doesn't count as the other. Yes, having regulations that sound similar does make it confusing, but make sure you know the difference since they are very, very different from each other!
And, if you've had a spill or reportable leak, chances are pretty good the inspector who shows up will want to see your SPCC Plan and make sure you followed what your plan outlines. No talking your way out of that one!
Even if all your tanks are inside, or double-walled, or ConVault tanks, you still need an SPCC Plan. Those are all great ways to prevent leaks and spills, but you'll still need an SPCC Plan at your concrete plant.
If you're not close to a waterbody, many mistakenly believe they don't need an SPCC Plan since "any spill or leak of petroleum wouldn't really do much damage." Really? When was the last time you had to clean up 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel spilled on your property? Was that no big deal? Probably not.
Contact Concrete Industry Environmental Experts
Are you running a concrete plant and need help? If so, you've come to the right place. RMA has been actively involved in the concrete industry since our founding in 1992, including staff members from RMA serving on numerous boards and committees for state associations, NRMCA, and NPCA. We've been an integral part in developing NRMCA's Green-Star EMS, and were instrumental in the development of the NRMCA Environmental Course, and our Principal Environmental Consultant Doug Ruhlin has taught the course every year since it's inception.
Long story short, we know the ins and outs of the environmental problems concrete plants face better than anyone else. We've been on-site at close to 1,000 different concrete plants across the country, so when we say we've seen it all and done it all, we mean it. We've helped some of the biggest players in the industry on multi-state projects, as well as small mom and pop concrete producers running a handful of trucks. No matter your size, or the type of concrete you produce, we can help.
So if you're having any type of issue at your concrete plant, we'd love to talk and learn how we can help. Even if we can't help, chances are pretty good we know who can help you, and we'd love to get you in touch with the right people to fit your needs
To reach out, feel free to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, click here to contact us, or give us a call anytime at 888-RMA-0230 to learn how we can help your concrete plant deal with environmental regulations.