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Fueling Operations - Best Practices

Road Rail Air Water

Diesel fuel, oil, antifreeze and other vehicle fluids are toxic to the environment. It is much easier to prevent them from entering the storm drain and possibly our drinking water supply than it is to remedy the aftereffects. For a fueling facility serving even a modest sized truck fleet, small spills and drips could add up to large problems. Locomotive and ship fueling operations present special challenges due to the larger volumes of vehicle fluids involved.

For additional information, see:

Fueling Areas

Structural precautions stop runoff from passing through the fueling areas and prevent contaminants from entering the stormwater system. Consider the following options for preventing pollution:

  • Curbs or berms and sloped pavement constructed around the perimeter of the fueling area.
  • A cover over the fueling area to help prevent runoff from washing away pollutants.
  • Design the area to completely contain at least 110% of the tank's volume.

Fueling Procedures

With the proper equipment and employee training, pollution from fueling operations can be minimized. Here are the basics:

  • Make sure that dispensing hoses are equipped with automatic shutoff valves and that these valves work.
  • Train workers in the proper fueling procedures and how to respond quickly to spills if they do happen.
  • Post signs instructing fuel pump operators not to overfill gas tanks or leave them unattended while fueling.
  • Make it standard practice to stop filling the fuel tank when the pump shuts off the first time, and avoid "topping off" fuel tanks. "Topping off" increases the chance of spills, especially on warm days when the fuel in the tank will expand and has the potential of overflowing. Besides the risk of diesel fuel washing down the storm drain, the vapors contribute to air pollution.
  • Make routine maintenance a part of the fueling procedure.
  • Check for fluid leaks and immediately repair and clean up any leaks that are found.
  • Always verify that the vehicle fuel cap is in place immediately after disconnecting fuel line.

During locomotive fueling, catchment pans on either side of and between the rails will collect fuel spills and prevent soil contamination. These pans can be cleaned periodically by railroad personnel to remove fuel debris and accumulated wastes for proper disposal.

Ship fueling presents special challenges because of the immediate potential dangers of water pollution. As required by EPA's Vessel General Permit (VGP), ship fueling operations must be conducted using control measures and practices designed to minimize spills and overflows and ensure prompt containment and cleanup if they occur.

Vessel operators must not overfill fuel tanks. For vessels with interconnected fuel tanks, fueling must be conducted in a manner that prevents overfilling and release from the system to the environment. Vessels with air vents from fuel tanks must use spill containment or other methods to prevent or contain any fuel or oil spills.

The following VGP requirements apply to fueling of auxiliary vessels such as life-boats, tenders or rescue boats deployed from "host" vessels, however, they good practices to implement for all vessel fueling operations:

  • It is important to know the capacity of the fuel tanks before you begin fueling in order to prevent unintentionally overfilling the tank.
  • Do not top off your fuel tanks.
  • While fueling, examine the surrounding water for the presence of a visible sheen. If a visible sheen is observed, as a result of your fueling, it must be cleaned up immediately.
  • When possible, fill fuel tanks while boat is on shore or recovered from the water.
  • When possible, fill portable tanks on shore or on the host vessel, not on the auxiliary vessel.
  • Use an oil absorbent material or other appropriate device while fueling the auxiliary vessel to catch drips from the vent overflow and fuel intake.
  • Regularly inspect the fuel and hydraulic systems for any damage or leaks.

Owners/operators of vessels must ensure that any crew responsible for conducting fueling operations are trained in method

Being Prepared for Spills

If proper fueling procedures are followed, spills are unlikely to occur. However, a facility must be prepared for the unexpected. The following procedures will minimize environmental damage from accidental spills.

  • Keep your employees updated on your Emergency Response Contingency Plan and conduct periodic review sessions.
  • Post a summary of the Contingency Plan at the fueling station. The summary should include the name(s) of clean-up coordinators, the location of clean-up materials, and whom to contact in case of a spill.
  • Keep supplies such as rubber mats, drain plugs or temporary berms in the fueling area so storm drains can be blocked immediately if a spill occurs. If plugs are used, train employees in advance on when and how to use them properly.
  • Assign a person to periodically test the clean-up equipment and maintain its inventory.
  • Along with the Emergency Response Plan, label and post the locations of storm drains in the area and indicate the slope toward each so they may be easily plugged.
  • For small spills, cover the diesel fuel with a chemical spill pillow or absorbent material that can be swept or picked up, such as vermiculite or activated charcoal. The absorbent materials used to clean up diesel fuel or solvents must be disposed of properly. Do not place them in the dumpster.
  • Workers should clean up every spill, no matter how small, immediately and without exception. Instruct workers never to wash spilled materials down a storm drain or sanitary sewer, and never to allow spilled fuel to evaporate (since pollutants will remain on the ground and can be washed into the storm drain, and ultimately into local water courses, with the next rain).

See also: Reporting Spills and Diesel Fuel Requirements (Truck).