PA Secondary Containment Requirements

Pennsylvania has enacted rigorous secondary containment requirements, in addition to the federal requirements that are mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal government agencies. Secondary containment regulations are quite complex, and they may leave individuals wondering whether or not their work site is considered to be safely contained. In all, there are a few major regulations that need to be followed:

Secondary Containment Systems Must Be Protected From Run-On

A secondary containment system that is filled with rainwater is going to be useless for the purposes of containment. Thus, secondary containment systems have to be protected from the elements. Usually this means that the containment system is kept underneath a cover. If there is a situation in which this is problematic (such as an exceptionally large containment system), it is best to calculate the amount of potential rain or snow fall and add this into the capacity of the containment system. Speaking of capacity…

Secondary Containment Systems Must Have Sufficient Capacity


A secondary containment system has to be able to contain the largest of either the entire volume of the largest container or 10% of the total volume of the primary containers. If a work site’s largest container holds 100 gallons and its primary containers hold a combined 5,000 gallons, then the secondary containment system would need to be able to hold 500 gallons (10% of 5,000). However, if a work site’s largest container holds 100 gallons and its primary containers hold a combined 500 gallons, then the secondary containment system would only need to be able to hold 100 gallons (10% of 500 is only 50). This is designed to ensure that the secondary containment system has enough room for a significant breach.

Secondary Containment Systems Must Not Leak

It may seem to go without saying, but with government regulations everything needs to be stated. A secondary containment system should be impervious to liquids. There should be no damage that could potentially leak. The secondary containment system may need to be tested regularly and properly maintained, and it should meet certain permeability standards outlined by state and federal governments.

Secondary Containment Systems Must Be Separate From the Primary Containment System

A primary containment system cannot be within the secondary containment system; i.e., you can’t simply place a drum of oil within an impermeable basket because then the primary system will sit within the secondary system, displacing a certain amount of volume, complicating clean-up attempts and potentially obscuring leaks. Instead, the leaking materials must be able to drain away from the primary containment system into the secondary containment system. This is often accomplished through the use of grating, scaffolding, or sloping.

These are the major regulations, but they aren’t all of the necessary requirements. Those who are concerned regarding their regulatory compliance may want to consult with their local environmental board to learn more. Regulations also change from year to year, so those who are within the industry will want to keep themselves advised of any alterations.