Federal agency: 'We're not targeting farm facilities'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
RITZVILLE, Wash. -- The Environmental Protection Agency is advising farmers to use common sense when considering whether their farm meets requirements for a fuel spill prevention plan.
"If you lost the entire contents of any single tank, where would it go?" said EPA on-scene coordinator Greg Weigel of Boise. "Look at the topography, the natural grade on your site, direct drainage and see if there's a reasonable likelihood that the worst-case scenario could get into the water."
He advised against automatically assuming a farm is regulated by the EPA. If a farmer determines it's not, he should document the reasoning, he said, noting there's no registration requirement.
"We're not targeting farm facilities," Weigel said. "If we were to come out to your facility because of a spill or we've received a complaint, certainly we expect you to be in compliance. If you're not, then there's consequences."
The EPA is more concerned about large bulk distributors, Weigel said.
Farmers must have a spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) plan if they can store more than 1,320 gallons of fuel above ground or have underground storage tanks larger than 42,000 gallons.
If they have a storage capacity of more than 10,000 gallons, a professional engineer needs to certify the plan. If less, they can use a short form to create and certify a plan.
Ritzville farmer Paul Simonson said he has to build some containment around his tanks.
"It's just the point I have to comply with regulations -- it's going to be an added expense," Simonson said, estimating the plan and changes will cost him $10,000. "It's just more regulations on us we have to put up with. We can't pass our expenses off to our customers."
Creston, Wash., farmer Loren Houger has a spill control plan.
"I really honestly think people should consider protecting their investment as much as the environment," he said. "Fuel costs the way they are, why wouldn't you invest a few thousand dollars to protect it? If you did have a spill, you should be able to recover a good portion of that."