Are U.S. Waters At Risk From Milk Pollution?

Dairy farmers are up in arms over the EPA listing of milk as an oil based substance in conjunction with the Oil Pollution Prevention Control regulation (40 CFR 112) more commonly known as the SPCC reg. Anyone who has aboveground oil storage tanks with an aggregate capacity of 1,320 gallons or greater is required to have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan. Most farmers have small tanks to store fuel and maintenance oils which must be figured into this aggregate capacity. They may also store other types of animal or vegetable fat which are classified as oil.

If farmers have to add milk storage tanks to this aggregate capacity, many of them would be required to develop an SPCC Plan. If a facility has one or more tanks with an aggregate capacity of 10,000 gallons or more, the SPCC Plan must be sealed by a Registered Professional Engineer. The cost to develop a sealed SPCC Plan averages $3,500 according to government research done several years ago. This is an expense that most dairy farmers cannot afford.

It is because of this expense and regulation that the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has requested that EPA exempt bulk milk storage from the SPCC rule. EPA, in theory, agreed to do this but typically it takes several months of comment period before a rule can be finalized. Meanwhile the deadline for complying with the SPCC rule was looming before farmers who had no idea which capacity category they were going to be regulated by.

Again the NMPF requested that EPA extend the compliance deadline so that everyone could figure out what they were supposed to be doing. This, of course, requires another comment period. If EPA finalizes the exemption and extends the deadline, it will be the seventh time the compliance date has been amended since the rule was published in July 2002. The original inclusion of milk as a polluting substance is typical of most EPA regulations. They are not thought through before they are published. The people who write the regulations are ensuring their job security by continuing this practice.

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