Environmental Health & Safety Hazardous Materials / Wastes

Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC Plan)

Oil Handler Annual Refresher Training

Washington State University has numerous sites on campus which store oil for internal use. Unknown to most people, the Environmental Protection Agency established regulations within the Clean Water Act specifically addressing oil storage. The regulations primarily focus on protecting the nation’s waters from pollution in order to maintain the biological, chemical, and physical integrity of those waters. While this includes preventing point and non-point pollution sources it also embraces the importance of improving communities’ wastewater treatment and disposal.

Many understand the importance of clean water, but most are unaware of the actual effects a small amount of oil could have on a water source. One pint of oil can potentially cover nearly an acre of water surface. This oil sheen prevents sunlight from reaching aquatic plant life inhibiting the plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis. It also impedes oxygen from reaching the aquatic life that so desperately need it for survival. The type of oil is not limited to petroleum based products. It also includes vegetable oils and animal fats. Once it is understood how important and extensive the task of managing all types of oil is, the process of creating guidelines to prevent these agents from contaminating the water sources of the surrounding environment can begin.

This is accomplished is by developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for every task where oil is used or handled.  The SOPs are created using best management practices. SOPs are developed through a cooperative effort between WSU EH&S and WSU departments. It is asked that if you or your department work with oil on a regular basis you should familiarize yourself with your SOPs, and attend an initial Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) training course or complete this online refresher course.  If you find any discrepancy with the SOPs and how work is completed please contact EH&S to ensure that these procedures are updated.

EH&S continues to look for ways to minimize potential environmental contamination.  Over the last two years several areas of concern were observed.  For example, in 2013, Dining Services and the Compton Union Building (CUB) installed stainless steel tanks with caddy systems to improve the safe transport and storage of used cooking oil.  At the Northside Dining Hall, a drum located on the north loading dock was overfilled and left unattended allowing the oil to seep out.

Releases such as this are easily prevented.  While this spill was small, any amount of water from precipitation could have allowed the oil to reach the stormwater drain, potentially contaminating surface water.  Proper initial and refresher training remind workers to remain cognizant of the amount of oil they are pouring into the containers, to watch for overflows, and to immediately call EH&S if one should appear.

Likewise, a challenging area this year concerned transformers in the Information Technology Building.  These transformers had bad bushings that were allowing oil to be released into the containment.  The leaks were noted during inspections and repaired.  Had regular inspections and maintenance not been completed on these transformers, the problem could have been more extensive.  This example shows the importance of secondary containment which can prevent soil or groundwater contamination.

Another problematic behavior pattern seen throughout campus are residents who change the oil in their vehicles. Unfortunately, many people are unsure of how to properly dispose of this oil so they simply decide to dump it down storm drains or throw it into dumpsters. This is due to inadequate communication and lack of education provided to residents. These discharges are illegal and can pose many threats to the water and surrounding environment. Should you see any illegal discharges please notify EH&S immediately and we will work with those persons involved to contain and manage the spill.

As a reminder, below is the summary of WSU’s discharge protocol.  This protocol is an attempt to maintain an effective SPCC Plan that prevents accidental releases from contaminating surface water.  The discharge protocol is included in all SOPs.

If safe to do so the employee should:

  • Stop the discharge
  • Protect storm and sanitary drains. WSU’s storm water drains eventually reach surface water.
  • If a spill is beyond your cleanup capabilities, call 911 or notify Facilities Operations dispatch at 335-9000 to activate the Contingency Plan
  • Provide all vital information to dispatcher

Facilities Operations Heavy Equipment, Motor Pool, and Grounds have spill response kits on vehicles with larger tanks and on site during projects.  These kits contain absorbent material, bags, bucket, and disposable gloves.  However, they can only respond to spills within their own department unless requested to assist by EH&S.

Once responders arrive on scene their responsibilities are:

  • Stop discharge, if not already done
  • Contain release material
  • Cleanup spilled material
  • Make all appropriate notifications
  • Dispose of cleanup materials properly
  • Release back to the operator

Thank you for all your help and safe work practices over the last year.  If you have any questions, please, see our Contact Page.

Please click on this link and certify you have completed this refresher training.

Washington State University