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Oil spills can be enormously damaging to the environment and lead to astronomical clean-up costs. A study in 2012 estimated that a medium-sized tanker spill could cost more than $2 billion to clean up.

Oil spill containment products can help guard against oil discharges on land and water while ensuring companies stay in compliance with safety regulations. Spill containment products include berms, portable dikes, custom barriers and more. 

What Spill Containment Products Do I Need?

Oil spills or leaks can take place anywhere that oil is drilled, transported, stored or used. Aquatic or marine oil spills can be more damaging and difficult to clean up than spills on soil, which are more contained.

On land, spilled oil prevents the soil from absorbing water, which can harm plant life. The highest priorities during a spill will be to prevent oil from entering waterways or leaching into groundwater. 

Physical barriers such as raised berms provide one method of containment for oil or fuels during a spill or discharge. In the event of spills or leaks, the berms keep the chemicals within a contained space for easy cleanup while complying with EPA and SPCC requirements.

Booms are floating barriers, often made of metal or plastic, designed to contain oil and prevent its spread. They can often be placed between the primary storage and a nearby body of water. 

Filtration can be used in tandem with containment systems. If wastewater passes through a filtration system, the filter can capture contaminants such as different levels of oil sheen. Hybrid containment combines filtration with other forms of secondary containment.

In the event of small leaks and discharges from vehicles or equipment, oil drip pads made of chemical resistant, sorbent material can be effective with containment and clean-up. 

Other maintenance spill containment products include spill kits, leak diverters and pop-up pools.

Related Reading

What is Environmental Compliance?

Environmental compliance means that a company or organization is conforming to all of the major laws, regulations and requirements involving environmental protection, health and safety in a given area. 

The Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency is one of the United States major regulations involving oil and fuel containment. The SPCC applies to facilities with total above ground storage tank (AST) capacity of more than 1,320 gallons in containers of 55 gallons or larger, or total buried capacity of more than 42,000 gallons.

The so-called “SPCC Rule” requires these facilities to take preventative steps against oil spills, such as using suitable tanks and containers and provide overflow protection. Petroleum bulk storage containers should include secondary containment, which goes into effect if primary containment fails. 

The EPA’s hazardous waste storage regulation 40 CFR 264.175 requires that secondary containment systems be impervious, free of gaps or cracks and chemically compatible with the material being stored. The containment system must have capacity to contain at least 10 percent of the total volume of the primary container or 100 percent of the volume of the largest container, whichever is larger. The system must either prevent precipitation such as rainwater or run-on from entering or have capacity to accommodate potential precipitation from a 24-hour, 25-year storm.

Material leaked or spilled into the secondary containment area must be removed as quickly as possible to avoid overflow and potential environmental contamination. 

Secondary containment should also be provided where oil is loaded and unloaded for transportation. Sorbent materials, drip pans and curbing can be used in these areas. 

When shopping for secondary spill containment products, consider factors such as the location, type and quantity of stored petrochemicals, the area topography and proximity to population centers, water or other environmentally sensitive areas, and the likelihood of risky construction activities such as fueling or vibration damage. For instance, oil spill containment products may not be effective in applications that involve hazardous chemicals.

  • Light-duty berms have a convenient, one-piece design that allows them to be folded for easy storage and transportation. These secondary spill containment products can be particularly suitable for emergency situations that require a fast response.
  • All-terrain berms are designed for rough or uneven ground conditions, such as military applications. 
  • Berm accessories include repair kits, ground and track guards, and oil stop valves.
  • Pillow tanks, also called bladder tanks, are constructed from fabric materials for storing fuel during emergency situations.

OSHA’s Hazardous Waste and Operational Emergency Response standards have separate designations for incidental spills, which are limited in quantity and pose no safety or health hazard to workers in the immediate area, and emergency spills, which involve an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance.

  • Oil spill kits may be equipped differently based on whether they’re intended to clean incidental or emergency spills. Universal spill kits are designed for any spill, while others are intended solely for oil or hazardous materials.
  • Oil spill kits generally contain absorbent pads and mats, protective clothing, waste-handling bags and other items useful for cleaning up the spilled area.
  • Spill buckets are liquid-tight containers often placed around the fill pipes of underground tanks and designed to capture small drips or spills when the delivery hose is disconnected. They typically range in size from five to 25 gallons.
  • Sumps are liquid-tight containers usually attached to the top of an underground storage tank and used to contain leaks.

Given the different types of potential fuel spills, their clean-up costs and the potential of expensive fines, companies should choose spill containment products to protect the environment and save money. The best oil spill containment products will be durable enough to stand up to normal wear and tear while meeting a company’s specific containment needs.