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Retail Risk Insights: Preventing Petrol Station Pollution

Managing a petrol station comes with a variety of risks, most of which are easy to identify. All it takes is one cursory glance at a petrol station’s forecourt to see risks such as fire, theft and constant vehicle movement.

Less obvious, but no less hazardous, are the pollution risks arising from storing, selling and using petrol. If your petrol station causes pollution or allows it to occur, not only could you be poisoning the water, air and land, but you could also be committing a criminal offence, one that generates huge fines and extended prison sentences.

To avoid costly fines and prison time, follow the Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPGs) produced by the Environment Agency for England and Wales, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The PPGs are based on relevant legislation and reflect current best practices—use them as a framework for your own pollution prevention programme.

Pollution Prevention Guidelines

The PPGs apply to all types of fixed refuelling facilities, but you may need to comply with additional legislation based on several factors such as the type and quantity of fuel you store, the intended use of the fuel and the environmental sensitivity of your location. Make sure you familiarise yourself with all applicable legislation to ensure your petrol station stays compliant.

In addition to any local or specialised legislation, your petrol station should follow the best practices listed below for a solid pollution prevention strategy:

  • Carry out a pollution risk assessment for your site. The best way to prevent pollution is to stop it at the source. This means carrying out a risk assessment that identifies and tries to mitigate your pollution risks. Risk assessments should pinpoint exactly which risks your business faces and provide strategies for avoiding them. Accomplish this by simply walking around your business, noting every pollution hazard you spot. With feedback from your employees, you should have a list of your business’ biggest pollution risks.

When assessing your petrol station’s pollution risks, look for the following:

  1. A source or potential source of pollution.
  2. A receptor, or what would be affected by the pollution.
  3. A pathway, or the path pollution can travel from the source to receptor.

During your risk assessment, pay special attention to the presence of any of these three components—they can signal a pollution hazard.

  • Ensure proper site drainage. Poorly designed or maintained site drainage systems are one of the most common pathways for spills and leaks to enter and pollute the environment. Make sure the clean water and contaminated water from your site go down the proper drains. Invest in a drainage system that works for your site—either a separate system which isolates contaminated from uncontaminated water, or a combined system which has just one sewer carrying both contaminated and uncontaminated water.

Devise a site drainage plan that details the location and flow of the site’s drains, the location of all drain covers, all surface water drain outfalls, the destination of all foul sewers or combined drains, and the location of all pollution control facilities. This will help you prevent any possible pollution and allow you to quickly revise your drainage strategy if needed.

  • Use leak detection systems. Routine site management is crucial to avoiding health and safety hazards and preventing pollution. With so many opportunities to pollute the environment, rely on leak detection systems to safeguard your business. The environmental sensitivity of your business’ site along with the findings in your risk assessments should dictate the type of leak detection system you need.

Other pollution hazards, such as fuel delivery, are constantly endangering your business. Implement a system to ensure all deliveries are managed by employees who are trained to do so.

  • Dispense and store other non-fuel products. Your petrol station likely dispenses and stores materials other than fuel—such as solvents, paints and car wash fluids—which present a different set of environmental risks. Establish strategies for the safe dispensation and storage of any pollution-causing non-fuel products. Such strategies could include forecourt drainage that does not connect to surface water drains, trigger nozzles with automatic shut-off to make sure the nozzle cannot be left in the open position, and providing appropriate pollution control equipment like drain mats, pipe blockers or permanent valves to contain spills.
  • Inspect and maintain your site. Because your petrol station is always dispensing or storing hazardous materials, the threat of pollution is always present. One of the best ways to battle this threat is regular maintenance—even a small leak in an otherwise functioning tank can result in devastating pollution.

You should frequently inspect and maintain all equipment on your site, both above and below ground, to reduce the risk of leaks. Keep a record of each inspection, any problems you found and any maintenance you carried out.

When you identify a problem, record and correct it as soon as possible. Defer to the manufacturer’s instructions whenever possible to avoid making any mistakes.

  • Minimise and manage waste. Waste disposal can cost a lot of money. By shaping your waste disposal programme according to the relevant legislation, you save money, minimise pollution and comply with the law. The findings from your risk assessment should help you establish a waste reduction programme. Consult waste reduction organisations for free, industry-specific guidance.

Dealing with waste comes with a legal responsibility—you must make sure your petrol station can handle it without harming the environment. Your responsibility dictates that you must accomplish the following: Deal with waste so it cannot escape your control, allow only authorised people or businesses to handle waste, include transfer notes to accompany your waste with enough information so recipients can handle it correctly, and keep transfer notes for two years.

When storing waste, clearly label all containers with their contents. Store such containers only in designated areas which are completely sequestered from surface water drains or direct discharge to the environment.

  • Plan effective response procedures to an environmental incident. In the event that your petrol station inadvertently pollutes the environment, a swift response is central to diminishing overall damage. An incident response plan will prescribe the correct procedures for certain pollution-related emergencies, keeping everybody safe and informed. Train all employees in the proper response procedures. Your incident response plan should help you achieve the following:
    • Define when the plan should be activated.
    • Ensure all relevant staff know how and when to contact other emergency responders.
    • Consider the impact that an incident on your site could have on the environment outside your boundary.
    • Establish staff evacuation procedures.
    • Identify special methods for dealing with substances that pose particular health or environmental risks.
    • Develop a firefighting strategy with your local fire and rescue service.
    • Train employees to use spill kits, drain blockers and other pollution control equipment.
    • Detail procedures for recovering spilt product and the safe handling and disposal of any waste associated with the incident.

Common Environmental Hazards

Environmental hazards from petrol stations are so pervasive that they seem to be lurking behind every corner. But the vast majority of environmental incidents stem from the following relatively small list of hazards:

  • Delivery and use of materials
  • Overfilling storage containers
  • Plant or equipment failure
  • Containment failure
  • Fires, explosions and failure to contain firefighting water
  • Wrong connections of sewers and pipes
  • Incompatible materials coming in contact
  • Discharge of partially treated or raw effluent
  • Accidents and vandalism
  • Flooding

Bespoke Is Best

Because your petrol station faces so many disparate environmental hazards, you need bespoke insurance and risk management solutions to make sure you are covered. A one-size-fits-all approach will not suffice—you need tailored guidance. Sirelark Risk Services has all the resources and business-specific advice to keep your business—and the environment—protected for years to come.

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The content of this publication is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances or jurisdiction. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice from their own legal counsel. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. © 2014 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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