Environmental Protection

Mass. Schools Face Penalties for SPCC, EPCRA Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking penalties against Atlantic Union College of Lancaster, Mass., and Phillips Academy of Andover, Mass., for failing to adequately prepare and fully implement spill prevention plans and to file hazardous chemical inventory forms with proper authorities, according to a March 12 press release. The college also had an illegal spill, resulting in a discharge of oil to a brook that may have been preventable if a Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) plan had been implemented at the facility.

Both schools could face penalties up to the statutory maximums which, for Atlantic Union College, could be up to $177,500 for the Clean Water Act (CWA) violations and up to $32,500 per day for the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) violations. For Phillips Academy, the penalty could be up to $157,500 for CWA violations and up to 32,500 per day for the EPCRA violations.

The spill from Atlantic Union College was discovered on Aug. 4, 2008 by a resident in the South Lancaster area who observed sheen on a brook that feeds the Nashua River. The spill originated from a 500-gallon tank in Atlantic Union’s power house and was discharged through multiple drains in the power house’s cement floor. Those drains released directly the brook that flows into the Nashua River.

Both educational institutions had been found, upon inspection by EPA, to not have an SPCC plan as required by the Clean Water Act’s Oil Pollution Prevention regulations, nor to have filed the required Tier II hazardous chemical inventory forms with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), State Emergency Response Commission, and local fire department, as required by EPCRA. Phillips Academy has since prepared an SPCC plan and filed the requisite Tier II form.

The SPCC regulations are designed to prevent oil spills or leaks into surface waters from facilities, including schools, and contain them if they do occur. The regulations apply to facilities with an above-ground storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons, or a total completely buried storage capacity of more than 42,000 gallons, and require the preparation, implementation, and regular review of SPCC plans. The plans ensure that measures are in place to prevent leaks and spills from impacting navigable waters. For example, facilities are required to have secondary containment, such as cement floors and dikes surrounding a storage tank, to capture any oil released from the tank.

The regulations promulgated under EPCRA are designed to inform emergency responders and the local community about hazardous chemicals, such as oil, stored on site at facilities such as these institutions.

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