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Welcome to BCI’s FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for our secondary containment solutions. Here you’ll find answers to often asked questions about products and regulations. The questions are arranged according to the secondary containment categories below.

If there is something you’re looking for that is not addressed here, please let us know so we can better meet your needs.



Solidifying Polymers

What are oil solidifying polymers?

Formerly known as C.I.Agent® oil solidifying polymers*, solidifying polymers are an integral component for most of our secondary oil containment solutions. They are an environmentally-friendly, petroleum-based proprietary blend of 7 different polymers. These polymers are hydrophobic and will always float on water (salt or fresh). Once it comes in contact with hydrocarbons (oil, diesel, gasoline), it solidifies into a rubber-like mass. The solidified hydrocarbons become non-toxic, float on water and do not leech.

*C.I.Agent® is listed on the EPA National Contingency Plan Product Schedule as a “Solidifier” for use on oil spills in the navigable waters of the United States.

How do solidifying polymers differ from other solidifiers in the marketplace?

BCI’s oil solidifier is a proprietary blend of several different polymers. Other solidifiers on the market are made up of only one or two co-polymers. BCI offers the only solidifier that works instantly on the full spectrum of hydrocarbons ranging from low-end gasolines to heavy crude oil.

Do BCI solidifying polymers work on biodegradable oils?

Be it double bonded biodegradable oil or single bond oil, the solubility parameter of the oil is the most important property. If the oil is between 7 and 11 Hildebrands, our solidifying polymers should work.

Can BCI solidifying polymers absorb elemental mercury or its inorganic compounds from water, as well as, other trace metals in the same solid state form as it does the petroleum oils?

No. Our solidifying polymers will not attract elemental mercury or trace metals. It is likely to have some attraction for most trace compounds, but the attraction would be weak and therefore, ineffective in removing low concentrations.

What hydrocarbons can be solidified by BCI solidifying polymers?

All of the following materials can be encapsulated and solidified, but only the hydrocarbons preceded with an asterisk (*) can be disposed of in landfills under certain conditions with the use of our solidifying polymers.

* Acetone
* Acetonitrile
* Amylacetate
* Benzene
* Butanol
* 2-Butanone
Bunker C
Canola Oil
Carbon Disulfide
Carbon Tetrachloride
* Chloromethane
* Chlorobenzene
* Corn Oil
* Cutting Oils
* Cyclohexane
* Dicholorobenzene
* 1,2,-Dicholoroethane
* Diesel Fuels
* Ethanol
Ethyl Ether
Ethylene Glycol
* Gasoline
* Heptane
* Hexachlorobenzene
* Hydraulic Oil
* Isobutanol



Barrier Boom

What are Barrier Boom panels made of?

The inside wall of the Barrier Boom panel is a basic geotextile made from a patented blend of recycled synthetic materials that are both hydrophobic and oleophilic. The material wicks the oil throughout the fibers and has a tremendous load capability per square inch. Agent-X makes up the outer wall of the panel. It is made of two layers of a geotextile with BCI solidifying polymers laminated between the layers. The material itself has a tremendous filtering effect and keeps oil from passing through this unique final outside wall. The polymers fill the void between the outer and inner wall. A unique quilting pattern keeps the polymers from shifting during handling and installation.

Do the polymers in your Barrier Boom secondary oil containment shift over time?

None of our customers have ever complained of shifting. We have two sources of polymers in our Barrier Boom; one is in our Agent-X material and one is blown in-between layers of Agent-X and another geotextile. Agent-X is a new generation of smart textiles with BCI solidifying polymers embedded between two geotextile layers. Movement of polymers is very unlikely. Then, polymers are blown between the Agent-X layer and another geotextile and we finish with a quilting process that keeps the polymers in place; no shifting.

How long will the Barrier Boom walls last in the ground?

Barrier Boom is a “bury and forget” application. The outer non-woven synthetic material outer protective covering is rated for up to 200 years; the polymers inside the booms are a plastic and therefore do not have a shelf life.

How much maintenance is involved with the Barrier Boom secondary oil containment system?

None, though we recommend performing a visual inspection on a regular basis to look for exposed Barrier Boom. In those cases, use a hand rake to re-cover it with stone. The only time you will need to touch the booms is if you need to do some expansion at the facility or some other form of maintenance, or if you experience an oil release. Barrier Boom can be temporarily removed and then reinstalled after an expansion or maintenance has been accomplished.

How much maintenance is involved with the HFF Oil Stop Valve or VIPOR Oil Filtration Systems?

All filters need some level of maintenance, but compared to traditional oil water separators or similar systems, required maintenance for the HFF and VIPOR is minimal. Always use a pre-filter with the HFF to prevent silt and mud from clogging it. Maintenance will depend on the amount of silt, dirt and hydrocarbon the pre-filter is exposed to.

The maintenance frequency of the VIPOR-SOWF, VIPOR-100 SOWF and VIPOR-SUMP also varies by job site, depending on how much dirt exists in the containment that can clog the pre-filter. Always perform an inspection following a significant rain event.

If there is a spill, do the Barrier Boom walls/panels have to be replaced?

If the spill makes contact with the Barrier Boom material you may only have to replace the section affected by the spill. The purpose of walls is to allow the natural flow of water through them while trapping and containing any hydrocarbon release. If the section of wall involved in the spill was not removed, a natural rain/snow event could not flow through it, thus causing pooling. When cleaning up after a spill, be sure to keep the spill contractor from destroying all the remaining Barrier Boom panels when removing the stone from the containment site.

Do rodents or bugs damage the Barrier Boom once in the ground?

If the Barrier Boom is exposed, rodents could use the material for nesting. In a “to grade” installation, a trench is dug and the Barrier Boom are placed inside the trench. Clean, washed stone is placed on both sides thus protecting the Barrier Boom. In a “dike” installation, the Barrier Boom are staked above ground and is then covered with the clean washed stone.

Will Barrier Boom burn in a fire?

As attested to by a Certified Fire Inspector, Barrier Boom walls/panels under rock will not burn due to the lack of oxygen necessary to complete combustion.

What effect do defoliate chemicals have on the Barrier Boom systems?

Barrier Boom is installed in the ground and covered with rock. By the time rainwater washes the chemicals down through the rock, the chemicals are diluted to the point that the outer protective non-woven synthetic material, which is a poly in itself, will attract and contain the chemicals in its fibers.

Do Barrier Boom panels degrade if exposed to UV rays?

The fibers in Agent-X, one of the geotextiles used in Barrier Boom, will degrade if exposed to sunlight and oxygen, just like any other fiber would. However, a minimum of maintenance to keep the berm intact and to keep the Agent-X covered would lessen the effect considerably. The geotextile used in Agent-X has a UV Resistance of 70 percent (determined by the ASTM D4355 test method after 500 hours) and an Oxidation Resistance of 80 percent (determined by the EN 13438 test method). Exposed Barrier Boom can be caused by natural events such as a heavy rain or snow/ice melt.

How does Barrier Boom work with grounding grids?

All substations have grounding grids. They are generally 18-24 inches below the surface. We factor the depth of the grid and the placement of conduit into our design on retro installs. Consult with your technical sales professional for more details.

We are thinking of installing a Barrier Boom secondary oil containment system dike method. Will it hurt to drive our service vehicles over the dike?

This physical issue needs to be discussed with your engineer during the initial planning phase. Many customers want to get their service vehicles near the equipment. We recommend an earthen berm which is constructed of finely crushed limestone and packed into a vehicle ramp to go over the Barrier Boom. We do not recommend driving directly over a berm as it could crush the walls, causing possible product failure and invalidating the insurance policy.



Geomembrane Liner

Can our maintenance trucks drive over the Geomembrane Liner with Barrier Boom system?

Driving on the containment unit is not a problem IF the installation has planned for such activity. What is needed is six inches of pea stone below the liner and geotextile fabric placed on the floor before backfill. The deeper the containment unit, the less concern about vehicle traffic.

What effect do your Geomembrane Liners have on the step potential of the grounding grid within a substation?

Our Geomembrane Liners have no impact, positive or negative, on step potentials within a substation. The grounding grid passes around the liner and thus is not impacted by it, so the step potential remains the same whether a liner is installed or not.

How long does a typical installation of a Geomembrane Liner with Barrier Boom system take? Will we need to prepare to shut the power off during the install?

What’s great about all secondary containment systems is that equipment can remain fully energized during the installation – no power outage is required. Even better, most systems can be installed in 1 to 2 days or less.




Are Barrier Boom and other secondary containment systems approved by the EPA?

The EPA does not endorse, approve, recommend, license, or authorize the use of any product. All secondary containment and diversion systems have been certified by Professional Engineering firms across the nation to meet or exceed the EPA’s SPCC Regulations, as set forth in 40 CFR 112.7 of the Federal Registry for Secondary Containment and Diversion methods.

How do Barrier Boom walls/panels meet the Spill Prevention Controls and Countermeasures (SPCC) requirements?

40 CFR 112.7 (5)(c) states that the entire containment/diversion structure, including walls and floor, must be capable of containing oil, and must be constructed so that the oil will not escape containment before clean-up occurs. (j) States: Dikes, berms, or retaining walls sufficiently impervious to contain oil are acceptable prevention systems. When solidifying polymers come into contact with an organic hydrocarbon, such as transformer oil, it undergoes a molecular transformation and becomes an impervious barrier.

Do I have to have secondary containment?

SPCC regulations require that the owner/operator take measures to assure that no oil can escape from their site and get into the navigable waters of the United States. If you certify that; (1) any oil cannot escape the site and reach any type of water shed, storm sewer, drainage ditch, even during a rain event, or (2) that you could reach the site and prevent the oil from migrating off the site, then secondary containment would not have to be provided.

Do I need to contain 100 percent of the oil at my facility?

SPCC regulations state that the owner/operator needs to provide secondary containment for the “most likely” event. It is not likely that all the oil filled equipment would fail and drain at the same time. It is more likely that the largest oil-filled unit could fail and drain off. Most professional engineers feel that their SPCC Plan should be designed for the most likely event that would contain the amount of oil in the largest vessel, and which may or may not include enough freeboard to contain the oil plus a 25-year, 24-hour rain event. The latter depends on locations and annual rainfall figures




Can the EVAC be re-used?

Yes. The EVAC can be re-used until the Hydrocarbon Detection Strip on the out skin turns a darker blue. This indicates that the filter has reached its maximum oil capacity and needs to be discarded. If your EVAC is not showing signs of hydrocarbon overload, fold the unit up and store back in its bucket for the next use.

Are any of your secondary containment solutions patented?

In 2015, Agent-Q, a filtration material used in many of our solutions, received US Patent 8,986,822 B2 for OIL IMPERVIOUS DEVICE WITH HIGH WATER FLOW RATE. Agent-Q allows extremely high flow rates for our Barrier Boom, HFF and VIPOR systems.

Many of our substations already have secondary containment, most commonly concrete moats or composite walls. We often need to manually dewater these after a heavy rain. Do you offer any automated pumping or filtration solutions that can help us cut down on O&M time?

When it comes to retrofitting existing containment, it’s important to identify the main source of concern and the expectations of the customer. For customers that currently have concrete moats with no drainage capabilities, we recommend one of our automated VIPOR solutions. If passive drainage is preferred, we recommend plumbing the drain to an HFF Oil Stop Valve located in a vault outside of the containment area. Because every situation is different based on site-specific variables, please contact us directly and we’ll discuss your unique containment needs.

What is secondary containment?

In the simplest terms, secondary containment is an additional barrier or outer wall used to contain or stop leaks or spills from the main container. 

The Washington State Department of Transportation Environmental Services Office

Hazardous Materials Program describes secondary containment as a safeguard against accidental spills or releases of substances into the surrounding environment. Secondary containment products allow materials to be held until they can be cleaned up. They may also be engineered to divert leaks and spills away from sensitive environments by routing them to a temporary diversion system. 

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), secondary containment solutions help protect environmental features like surface water, groundwater, and soil from spills. They also reduce worker exposure to regulated or other potentially harmful substances. 

Your secondary containment needs likely depend on the facilities or sites you’re working in, as well as the materials you may need to contain. This can affect how simple (or complicated) your secondary containment solution will be. 

For example, Temple University uses both facility design and operational practices as part of their secondary containment measures in their Environmental Health & Radiation Safety procedures

Whether your facilities or sites need ready-made or custom-built secondary containment fixtures, BCI offers a variety of customizable, adaptable solutions. 

When is secondary containment required?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set preventing, preparing for, and responding to oil spills as one of its top priorities. 

Accordingly, the EPA mandates secondary containment to prevent oil spills from polluting our nation’s navigable waterways. The Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act define this as any waterway or body of water that is used for interstate and foreign commerce, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, wet meadows, play lakes, and natural ponds. 

This means nearly all natural surface water in the United States is covered by the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act and, as a result, requires protection with secondary containment. Facilities handling petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, oil refuse, and oil mixed with wastes, non-petroleum oils, synthetics oils, animal fats, oil and greases, and vegetable oils may require secondary containment to be compliant with the regulations set out by the EPA. 

Secondary containment is required in the following circumstances: 

  • You operate a containment facility with aboveground oil storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons that uses storage media such as tanks, containers, drums, portable totes, transformers, and other oil-filled electrical equipment.
  • You operate a facility with underground tank storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons

Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans are required for anyone operating facilities that meet either of these descriptions. 

What is sized secondary containment?

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says sized secondary containment is needed for bulk storage containers, mobile/portable containers, and loading racks. 

They describe sized secondary containment as a vessel with  “enough freeboard to accommodate a rain event.” 

If this sounds vague, it’s because there are no set standards for freeboard space. In general, the Ohio EPA suggests that your sized secondary containment accommodate “110 percent of the largest tank or container or a 25-year, 24-hour storm event, whichever is greater.” 

Your local or regional guidelines may be more specific, but the guideline from the Ohio EPA provides a starting point for helping you start understanding what kind of sized secondary containment you  need. 

The EPA also provides worksheets you may use to calculate your sized secondary containment needs. 

What components are required on secondary containers?

The EPA’s SPCC Regulations are contained in section 40 CFR 112.7 of the Federal Registry for Secondary Containment and Diversion methods.

BCI’s secondary containment and diversion systems have been certified by engineering firms across the nation to meet or exceed these standards set out by the EPA. 

What is required on a secondary container label?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for setting standards for labeling on secondary containment receptacles. 

OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard [29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1)] outlines the following standard for the labeling of “any hazardous substance”:

  • The identity of the chemical and appropriate hazard warnings must be shown on the label.
  • The hazard warning must provide users with an immediate understanding of the primary health and/or physical hazard(s) of the hazardous chemical through the use of words, pictures, symbols, or any combination of these elements.
  • The name and address of the manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party must be included on the label.
  • The hazard label message must be legible, permanently displayed, and written in English.

Do double-walled fuel tanks require secondary containment?

In some cases, double-walled fuel tanks may not require secondary containment. However, it is essential for you to ensure full understanding of the nuances outlined by the EPA about when secondary containment is not necessary before foregoing secondary containment. 

What types of containers are considered secondary containers?

Solidifying Polymers, Coating Solutions, Barrier Booms, Berms, and Geomembrane Liners are all considered secondary containers. 

BCI  has a full spectrum of engineered secondary containment options that may work for your facility. 

How do I calculate secondary containment volume?

There are different methods for calculating containment volume, each of which depends on the kind of container you are using and several other variables. 

The EPA provides worksheets that can help “you have adequate secondary containment to prevent oil spills from reaching navigable water.” These worksheets lay out four common scenarios.

It is recommended that you keep the calculations for your sized secondary containment with your SPCC plan to make showing compliance with the regulations easier if you are inspected by the EPA.