IT'S a worst-case discharge: Your million-gallon, on-site storage tank has imploded. Some of the contaminant gets out of the secondary-containment system and flows into a waterway.

You are among the 90% of facilities that don't have the capability to handle a spill of that size, so you have contracted with an Oil Spill Removal Organization (OSRO).

You know your contractor has met Coast Guard certification requirements and has the equipment and capabilities to respond. But what kind of plan do you have in place? Is the contractor familiar with your facility?

“It's important tILTAhat your whole plan matches up with the facility's operations,” said Donielle Dziedzic, manager of emergency management services for Compliance Management International. “Implementing the plan means conducting inspections regularly so employees know how to use the plan, and they've been trained on it and have conducted regular drills and exercises, working with the contractor in the sense that the contractor understands the facility.”

Dziedzic, who has 16 years of professional experience in environmental and emergency management consulting and works with utility, pipeline logistics, and trucking clients in addressing their spill-prevention and planning needs to meet state, local, and federal requirements, stressed the importance of training exercises and record-keeping in her presentation, “EPA Facility Response Plan (FRP) Inspections: How Prepared is Your Facility?”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to evaluate a facility's preparedness to respond to a discharge, so it makes inspections and agency-initiated unannounced exercises.

Facilities prepare FRP plans that need to be submitted for approval to the EPA, which reviews them and then schedules an on-site inspection.

A team of two to four inspectors will interview qualified individuals, do a walk-through inspection, verify the accuracy of the FRP to facility operations, evaluate the facility's FRP measures to respond to a worst-case discharge, and inspect the condition of spill equipment and/or of the OSRO.

Dziedzic used to review plans for the EPA as a contractor and has gone out on few inspections with the EPA, so she has insight into what the EPA looks for. She recommends being courteous and non-adversarial, and showing only the areas that the inspector wishes to observe.

“They're not really coming out to slam down the hammer,” she said. “They want to make sure the facility truly is capable of responding to a discharge scenario.”

The best way to be prepared for an FRP inspection or unannounced exercise is to have accurate plans, make sure the facility personnel are familiar with those plans, and prepare and exercise with the contracted OSRO.

All records should be in order.

“What the facility states in its plans should be the true essence of how operations are conducted at the facility,” she said. “The plan should state that the facility has these resources in place to respond or they contract out or they have measures in place to prevent and respond to an incident. Make sure what you're submitting is actually what is happening at the facility, that equipment is in place, that equipment is being tested. If you're relying on a contractor, make sure that you not only have a contract in place but you're checking up on the contractor to make sure the contractor can do what they say they will do at the facility. It's important that the two match up — the actual operation and what they're stating in the plan.

“Make sure that the training of employees is actually happening, it's documented and there is good record-keeping, that exercises they're supposed to do on their own — there are several different types of drills conducted on an annual basis — are being documented and are readily available. Make sure the facility is kept in good shape so when the EPA comes, it looks good. Make sure the terminal managers and employees are familiar with the FRP and know where it is and know how to work their way through it so they're not like, ‘Oh, what do you mean, FRP?’ And trust me, that happens at some facilities.

“Be ready with record-keeping — items you're required to keep up with based on the FRP, such as monthly inspection of tank systems, loading and unloading areas, secondary containment. You should be inspecting on a monthly basis. Not just saying you're doing it, but documenting that you're doing it — filling out the forms and keeping the forms in a readily available place with the plan or in separate file, and everyone is aware of where that location is, so they're not scurrying around trying to find it when the EPA is there.”

She said the EPA's most frequent findings are:

  • Poorly written FRP, but well-prepared.

  • Well-written FRP, but has not been implemented.

  • Compliance to oil industry standards.

  • The it-won't-happen-here syndrome.

  • Poor record-keeping.

  • Ignoring required National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) or equivalent exercises.

Poorly written plans have a lack of spill history; no spill-flow volumes and/or directions indicated on a site plan; a missing description of containment and/or diversionary structures; impracticality demonstration; or inadequate discussion of the spill-prevention and control measures.

“Another finding that happens a lot is when a contractor doesn't show up in the time they're supposed to respond, which is within two hours of the call,” she said. “They have to be on-site and employing equipment.

The EPA tests that. A lot of times when the EPA comes out and does an agency-initiated unannounced exercise, that's one of main areas they test. That facility calls in their contractor. They test how long it takes the contractor to get there and how the contractor responds in an organized way. Along with that, the facility itself has to know what needs to be done and isn't scrambling around. The EPA expects chaos, but expects it to be organized chaos.”

She listed these resources as valuable:

  • EPA Region 3 FRP coordinator Linda Zeigler-Rice.

  • EPA Region 3 informational outreach flyer, “Oil Spill Removal Organization (OSRO).” It lists roles and responsibilities of an OSRO contractor.

  • EPA Region 3 informational outreach flyer, “Facility Response Plan Government Initiated Unannounced Exercise Program.”

  • EPA Region 5 FRP seminar presentation by FRP coordinator Alexander C Tzallas.