If you generate hazardous waste in your industry, it's very likely you already know you can be subject to fines if you are noncompliant with hazardous waste disposal laws. Not everybody, however, realizes that those fines have recently increased. This means the federal government is cracking down even harder on these kinds of violations, and if you're caught not following the rules, it's going to hurt a lot more than it ever used to!
Many EPA Fines for Hazardous Waste Violations Have Nearly Doubled
Recent EPA Fine Increases: A Brief History
Starting on August 1, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially raised the maximum civil penalties for certain violations of EPA regulations or environmental law.
These fine increases didn't just randomly and arbitrarily appear in mid-2016, however. The process began on November 2, 2015. On that date, President Barack Obama signed into law the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.
Among other things, this adjusted penalty rates to accommodate for inflation and attempted to make the financial penalties more severe in order to discourage noncompliance.
RCRA Hazardous Waste Fines
One area where fines are becoming even more stringent is with RCRA law. Prior to this increase, the maximum civil penalty for a RCRA violation was $37,500—per violation, per day. That's already a massive fine, but after this rate increase, it's now $70,117 per violation, per day.
Other Relevant Fines for Improper Handling of Hazardous Material
RCRA isn't the only law that experienced significant fine hikes. The following are several laws and their corresponding fines (previous and current):
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act; Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Fines for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act were unaffected. They remain the same at $37,500.
Violations Prior to August 1, 2016
So, these new financial penalties actually went into effect on August 1, 2016. Does that mean the new fines apply to all violations starting from August 1, 2016, on?
No! These new rates can be applied to any and all violations that occurred from November 2, 2015, on.
Also, neither your industry nor size gets you out of paying these fines. No matter your EPA generator status—whether that be small quantity generator or large quantity generator—you still have to comply or face the financial penalties. This is equally as true for manufacturers as it is for dry cleaners as it is for auto body shops.
Need Help? Reach Out to Hazardous Waste Disposal Companies
As fines become more and more severe, it's increasingly likely that doing business the wrong way and simply hoping you won't get caught isn't viable. One violation, left uncorrected, could easily bankrupt a company.
While mitigating factors will still play into fine amount (severity of offense, genuine compliance efforts, and so on), a waste management company can be your safety net.
If you're confused or unsure about any of these laws—especially as the rules change over time—it makes good financial and logistical sense to hire a hazardous waste disposal company. Not only does this keep you, your employees, and the environment safe from your generated hazardous materials, but it also makes good fiscal sense. Anything you spend on hazardous waste management companies is likely going to be a lot less than you'll have to pay up in fines—especially now that those penalties have increased so severely.
Just make sure you do your homework and choose carefully from the hazardous waste removal companies. You want somebody who is knowledgeable enough about the industry to help you avoid violations and penalties but is reasonably priced enough that it makes sense to use those services.
For more information about these EPA fine increases and what you need to do to avoid them, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management Atlanta company.