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Spill Response and Prevention

Minimum Measure: Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations

Subcategory: Municipal Facilities

Photo Description:  Chlorinated water from swimming pools should not discharged to the storm sewer system or directly into a waterbody


Spill response and prevention plans should clearly state how to stop the source of the spill, how to contain and clean up the spill, how to dispose of contaminated materials, and how to train personnel to prevent and control future spills.


Construction sites that use or store hazardous materials should have a spill prevention and control plan. Hazardous materials include pesticides, paints, cleaners, petroleum products, fertilizers, and solvents. See the Hazardous Materials Storage fact sheet for more information on storing these materials.

Siting and Design Considerations

Identify potential spill or source areas, such as loading and unloading, storage and processing areas, places that generate dust or particulate matter, and areas designated for waste disposal. Also, spill potential should be evaluated for stationary facilities, including manufacturing areas, warehouses, service stations, parking lots, and access roads.

Material handling procedures and storage requirements should be defined and actions should be taken to reduce spill potential and impacts on stormwater quality. This can be achieved by:

  • Recycling, reclaiming, or reusing process materials, thereby reducing the amount of process materials that are brought into the facility.
  • Installing leak detection devices, overflow controls, and diversion berms.
  • Disconnecting drains from processing areas that lead to the storm sewer.
  • Performing preventative maintenance on storm tanks, valves, pumps, pipes, and other equipment.
  • Using material transfer or filling procedures that minimize spills from tanks and other equipment.
  • Replacing toxic materials with less or non-toxic products.
Provide documentation of spill response equipment and procedures to be used, ensuring that procedures are clear and concise. Give step-by-step instructions for spill response at a particular facility. This spill response plan can be presented as a procedural handbook or a sign.

The spill response plan should:

  • Identify individuals responsible for implementing the plan.
  • Describe safety measures to take with each kind of waste.
  • Specify how to notify appropriate authorities, such as police and fire departments, hospitals, or publicly-owned treatment works for assistance.
  • State procedures for containing, diverting, isolating, and cleaning up the spill.
  • Describe spill response equipment to be used, including safety and cleanup equipment.

Education is essential for reducing spills. By informing people of actions they can take to reduce spill potential, spills will be reduced or prevented. Some municipalities have set up 1-800 numbers for citizens to call in the event of spills. This helps ensure that spills are cleaned up in a safe, proper, and timely manner.


A spill prevention and control plan must be well planned and clearly defined. A well conceived plan reduces the likelihood of accidental spills and helps speed an effective response if they occur. Training might be necessary to ensure that all workers can follow procedures. Equipment and materials for cleanup must be readily accessible and clearly marked for workers to be able to follow procedures.

Maintenance Considerations

Update the spill prevention and control plan to accommodate any changes in the site or procedures. Regularly inspect areas where spills might occur to ensure that procedures are posted and cleanup equipment is readily available.


A spill prevention and control plan effectively reduces the risk of surface and ground water contamination. However, to be effective, workers must be trained, materials and cleanup equipment available, and procedures followed.

Cost Considerations

Spill prevention and control plans are inexpensive to implement. However, extra time is needed to properly handle and dispose of spills, which increases labor costs.


DAWG. 2000. Flexible Spill Berm For Quick Spill Containment.
[ Exit EPA Site]. Accessed September 15, 2005.

USEPA. 1992. Stormwater Management for Construction Activities: Developing Pollution Prevention Plans and Best Management Practices. EPA 832-R-92-005. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

USEPA. 1992. Stormwater Management for Industrial Activities: Developing Pollution Prevention Plans and Best Management Practices. EPA 832-R-92-006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.


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Last updated on May 24, 2006