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Many chemical companies have been encouraged by EPA indecisiveness and bureaucratic vagueness in their regulations into thinking that Spill Prevention, Containment and Countermeasures, SPCC will not be focused on them for many years to come. The latest rewrite of 40 CFR 112 in 2002 was pulled and another “enhanced” version came out in 2004 only for it too to be deferred because of litigation from some special interest groups. Now, the new implementation date is on the horizon for Feb. 2006 with the requirement for both spill containment equipment and training to be in place by Aug. of 2006 for older corporations. Many corporate managers, are thinking, “Why prepare SPCC plans when the EPA is sadly under staffed, overworked, and probably doesn’t even know we exist. We could sure use the capital funds better to improve production or develop that next product.”

This prevalent attitude of many chemical and oil product company top management is very similar to that of a surprised deer “frozen” in the headlights of an on-coming car. The deer recognizes that something “dangerous” is coming, but their “what to do process” has become the “analysis paralysis” which soon makes the deer a “Road Kill ”. Since EPA enforcement headlights may eventually get to the contact point, many companies prefer to analyze “how soon do we have to comply?” or “How long can we put them off before we actually have to do something?”

Many corporations appoint committees to develop the direction for the SPCC. These groups unfortunately get caught in the “analysis paralysis” of waiting just a little longer so some new equipment can be reviewed, or some idea seen in a magazine can be fathomed by local managers. These end-to-end delays soon add up to months and months of indecisive discussion and NO ACTION. There are many internal political angles that have to be bridged but following are some of the VALUE items that should be examined.

Don’t just look at the initial cost of the equipment. What will be the reoccurring costs over the life of the operation? Purchasing cheap, open railroad track spill containment pans may save a bundle in the initial purchase but how much is the additional oil-water filter equipment going to cost and then there is the labor to pump out the oily, tainted rainwater after each storm and then its disposal.
Will this procedure or equipment become obsolete in a matter of months after we purchase it? Can it be used in a different way at another plant or location on the facility site. A large, open concrete slab for containment of tanker truck loading or unloading is expensive. But to avoid collection of rainwater 24/7 365 you’ll consider building a canopy over it to the tune of about $50,000. Next the local Fire Marshall tells you you cannot do that unless you add a deluge fire suppression system to the canopied loading area. If your plant master plan changes, or other new products alter the plant’s mission, what do you do with this expensive containment that now may be on the wrong side of the facility?
Will this same equipment be more expensive in a short time or will it be cheaper. Companies who chose to not purchase steel track pans back in 2003 thought they were saving money by not investing at that time. They figured that the thousands of dollars that they would cost would have a better return on investment if they were used for enhancing production or just holding the funds so that they drawing interest. In 2004, due to international plate steel prices soaring, the cost of these containments nearly doubled. Putting off the inevitable, for a year cost them dearly. The steel prices for 2005 have leveled off some but with the steel demands from Red China and India , the price of good quality steel containment is not going to go down.
How long will it take to get our employees trained in Spill Control? Review your key employee list and then figure how long you can spare a certain person to attend training and get certified as an instructor. By delaying the expenditure on training, what have you saved? Will a last minute rush to get persons trained cost a whole lot more than just working it into the schedule now?
What would be the cost to your company if a major spill got loose and contaminated the local area and the newspapers and press reported your negligence about not having proper spill containment to control the situation? Would the bad public image influence your customers to not do business with you? What would be the cost to employee morale if they went home and their neighbors and associates chided them on being part of a careless company? Would this bad press just draw even more “extreme greenies” into the fray when you attempted future building plans or needed community support for your operations? What would be this cost of delaying complying with the SPCC?

While your ‘best way” analysis is being conducted, what is happening in the meantime at the facility? Are small releases on concrete slabs being washed “off” with hundreds of gallons of water into a holding tank? Are empty tote tanks or drums being left out on an uncovered storage slab or loading dock? What happens to the rainwater that lands on these used containers? Do “minor” releases of bulk powders get cleaned up immediately or do your work floor shifts each wait for the “other shift” to sweep it up?

Yes, there is a cost to doing nothing ! What risk are you willing to take? How long will your management “stand in the middle of the road” hoping that maybe the SPCC regulation will be postponed yet again? The tainted rainwater run off from your plant will still be migrating your chemicals off site and down the local drainage ditch . Do you wait until the EPA just happens to analyze a water sample down gradient from your plant and correlates the chemicals to those you reported under SARA Title III reports?

By then you’re “Road Kill”!