top of page

What is navigable waters?

Recently when we discuss the Spill Prevention Control and

Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan, we find a few individuals have made a

review of the regulation wording and came upon the term Navigable Waters

and decided based on strict definition of the term this doesn’t apply to their

facility. I put together these selected excepts to help show how there are

very few exceptions to facilities with 1,320 gallons of “oil”, being except

from the Oil Pollution Prevention Act of 1973.


December 16, 2013

WHAT IS AN OIL: The SPCC rule’s definition of oil derives from §311(a)(1)

of the Clean Water Act (CWA) which defines oil as “oil of any kind or in any

form, including, but not limited to, petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, oil refuse, and

oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil.”

Geographic Scope of Protection: The rule’s scope includes discharges

harmful not only to the public health and welfare, but also to the

environment through the protection of natural resources.

§112.2 “Navigable waters” of the United States means “navigable waters”

as defined in section 502(7) of the FWPCA, and includes: (1) All navigable

waters of the United States, as defined in judicial decisions prior to the

passage of the 1972 Amendments to the FWPCA (Pub. L. 92-500), and

tributaries of such waters; (2) Interstate waters; (3) Intrastate lakes, rivers,

and streams which are utilized by interstate travelers for recreational or

other purposes; and (4) Intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams from which

fish or shellfish are taken and sold in interstate commerce.

Term: §112.1(b) ...this part applies to any owner or operator of a non-

transportation-related onshore or offshore facility engaged in drilling,

producing, gathering, storing, processing, refining, transferring, distributing,

using, or consuming oil and oil products, which due to its location, could

reasonably be expected to discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful,

as described in part 110 of this chapter...

Paragraph - 2.6.2 Reasonable Expectation of Discharge The SPCC rule

applies only to facilities that, due to their location, can reasonably be

expected to discharge oil as described in §112.1(b). The rule does not

define the term “reasonably be expected.” The owner or operator of each

facility must determine the potential for a discharge from his/her facility.

According to §112.1(d)(1)(i), this determination must be based solely upon

consideration of the geographical and locational aspects of the facility. An

owner or operator should consider the location of the facility in relation to a

stream, ditch, gully, or storm sewer; the volume of material likely to be

spilled; drainage patterns; and soil conditions. An owner or operator may

not consider constructed features, such as dikes, equipment, or other

manmade structures that prevent, contain, hinder, or restrain a discharge

as described in §112.1(b), when making this determination.

Reasonably be expected to mean during a rain event.

Definition of “Discharge” and “Discharge as Described in §112.1(b)”

According to §112.1(b), the SPCC rule applies to certain facilities that could

“reasonably be expected to discharge oil in quantities that may be harmful,

as described in part 110 of this chapter...” The Discharge of Oil regulation

at 40 CFR part 110 (also referred to as the “sheen rule”) defines a

discharge of oil into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or

adjoining shorelines in quantities that may be harmful under the CWA as

that which:  Causes a sheen or discoloration on the surface of the water or

adjoining shorelines;  Causes a sludge or emulsion to be deposited

beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shorelines; or  Violates

an applicable water quality standard.

Summary: Even through the wording is up to the owner or operator of the

facility, its not your opinion that will be the final word. The EPA inspector’s

opinion will be the one that is the final decision of citations and further

penalties. Choosing the easy decision now, will probably cost you 3 times

the immediate savings if there is no reportable spills. Fines for releases can

cost your organization very large fines in addition to your liability of clean-

up costs. you should always consider all the consequences on complying

with the environmental laws and regulations. If you have a release, the

EPA can decide you need a SPCC Plan even if you have less than 1,320

gallons of oil storage or use.

Feel free to contact me if you need additional information about these

terms or the SPCC Plan requirements. Rick Smith, MTCS, 913-638-3455

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Why we do a SPCC Plan review at 5 years

It was reviewed every 3 years up until 2002. The purpose is to keep this document current with your operations and SPCC Plan regulatory changes. Do you have to do a 5-year review of your SPCC Plan?


bottom of page