Oil Contamination of Water

Contamination of water by industrial oil byproducts is serious business, especially to the EPA. In 2002, the Government strengthened the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to further prevent discharges of oil and oil-related materials from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines.

Many businesses, both large and small, were affected. The stronger regulations applied to the following structures:

  • Industrial facilities with total above-ground oil storage capacity (not actual gallons on site) of greater than 1,320 gallons. (Storage containers that are 55 gallons and greater are used to calculate total capacity.)
  • Facilities with below-ground storage capacity of greater than 42,000 gallons.

Facilities that meet such criteria must develop and implement a written SPCC Plan. However, certain facility types, e.g., convenience stores, are exempt. Also, in an effort to make compliance more business-friendly, the EPA has extended compliance dates for four problem areas:

  • Qualified, oil-filled operational equipment
  • Mobile power containers
  • Mobile refuelers
  • Animal fats & vegetable oils at onshore & offshore oil production, drilling facilities

To meet requirements of the EPA regulations, businesses provide containment or diversionary structures like dikes, berms and retaining walls. Secondary means of containment often include those that seal drains or divert spills from drains as well as “sorbents” or other countermeasures.  

Skimmers like the ones offered by Dandy Products help absorb oils that may collect inside a catch basin. Absorbent pillows also can be added to certain types of diversionary or other water runoff abatement tools to help absorb oils in place.

According to the EPA, the following are considered "oils" and are subject to regulation:

  • Animal oils
  • Fats and greases (including oils from fish or marine mammals)
  • Asphalt
  • Aviation gasoline
  • Bunker fuel
  • Crude oil
  • Cutting oil/machine coolants
  • Dielectric fluid
  • Diesel fuel
  • Heating oil
  • Gasoline
  • Greases
  • Hydraulic oil
  • Jet fuel
  • Lubricating oil
  • Mineral spirits
  • Motor oil
  • Naptha
  • Natural gas condensate
  • Oil refuse
  • Oily wastes (other than oil mixed with dredged soil)
  • Stoddard solvent
  • Synthetic oils
  • Tall oil
  • Turpentine
  • Residual fuels
  • Used oil
  • Vegetable oils (including oils from nuts, seeds, fruits and kernels)


Any business operating with a risk of contamination by the above “oils” should take steps to further familiarize itself with applicable EPA regulations and take steps to avoid water contamination.