Environmental Protection & Pollution Prevention Methods for Safety Professionals

Instructor: Christopher Cowan

Christopher has taught Environmental Science and has trained employees about environmental compliance and worker safety. He has a Master's degree in Environmental Science.

Learn about environmental protection and pollution prevention methods. We will discuss how these methods can be used to address air, water, and soil pollution.

Environmental Protection and Pollution Prevention

Imagine that you are in charge of environmental, health, and safety duties at a petroleum storage facility approximately ten miles outside of a large city. Your company recently took ownership of the facility. The facility has multiple aboveground and underground storage tanks that contain gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel fuel, and multiple pieces of heavy equipment are used onsite. A maintenance building at the facility has an issue with gasoline vapors inside the building. You will be reviewing the pollution prevention programs and measures in place as well as looking into the issue with the maintenance building.

Aim to Reduce or Prevent Pollution

Your company is working toward achieving optimum performance in the management of its business as well as ensuring environmental compliance. Environmental protection and pollution prevention measures are in place to reduce or prevent pollution from company operations.

Oil Spill Prevention

Your facility has aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) and underground storage tanks (USTs) on site. There are six 12,000-gallon gasoline USTs, two 10,000-gallon diesel ASTs, and two 12,000-gallon jet fuel ASTs. You have over 1,320 gallons of aboveground fuel storage in 55-gallon containers and over 42,000 gallons of underground fuel storage. Your facility is required to have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan in place. An SPCC Plan is a site-specific plan designed to prevent the discharge of oil into navigable waters. The definition of oil in the SPCC rules includes vegetable and mineral oils, grease, and petroleum (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and kerosene). Leaks and spills of oil and petroleum can cause water and soil pollution.

Oil spill in creek. Leaks or spills of petroleum cause both water and soil pollution.
Oil spill in creek

Fuel and oil storage tanks may have leaks or spills may occur during fuel transfer. As part of your plan, you routinely inspect the facility to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed. You inspect aboveground tanks and their hoses and piping to determine if there are any leaks. During your inspection you determine that a transfer hose is damaged and needs to be replaced. During your walkthrough you also inspect the concrete containment structures around the diesel and jet fuel tanks for leaks and also to see if any rainwater is sitting inside the containment wall.

Kerosene storage tank. During periodic inspections, look for leaks or spills around the tank.
Kerosene tank

Secondary containment is designed to capture the entire contents of the tank and prevent any of the material from discharging into the environment. The secondary containment consists of an exterior or interior structure. An example of an exterior structure is a containment wall or berm. Some fuel tanks and containers have interior containment structures. A double-walled tank consists of an inner and outer tank - basically, a tank within a tank. The outer wall is designed to capture the contents of the tank if it corrodes or leaks. Double-walled tanks should have an interstitial monitoring system; this allows you to determine if there are any leaks in the tank. Gas tanks at service stations are equipped with interstitial monitoring systems.

As a rule of thumb, secondary containment structures are designed to contain 110% of the tank's volume. This extra 10% volume is designed to account for the extra volume that would result from 24 hours of rainfall from a 25-year storm. Depending on where your facility is located, a containment wall or berm may be designed to handle more volume.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention

Your facility is located in an urbanized area, and your facility is required to have a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). This site-specific plan identifies site activities or conditions that contribute to stormwater pollution and establishes pollution prevention measures your facility will take.

Fuel can leak or spill due to corroded or damaged tanks, defective hoses, and valve failure as well as during fuel transfer activities. Heavy equipment and trucks may leak oil from hydraulic and fuel lines. Fuel spills can also result from fueling equipment. Rain or snowmelt can pick up pollutants from exposed materials, including scrap metal, construction debris, trash, and open fuel and oil containers. Sediment runoff occurs when there is soil erosion due to construction activities; this has a negative impact on water quality.

Your SWPPP contains measures that you are taking to address stormwater pollution issues at your facility. You perform routine site inspections to see if there are any potential pollution issues. Spills and leaks are cleaned up as soon as possible. Exposed piles of materials are covered or removed if no longer needed. Silt fence or other erosion control measures are taken to prevent soil and sediment runoff.

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