/ IN THIS BLOG
01 / Introduction
It might never cross your mind that your business or industrial enterprise would require hazardous waste disposal. But the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) makes it surprisingly easy to be a hazardous-waste generator (HWG).
The EPA considers you an HWG even if you merely generate a single quart of hazardous waste per week. E.g., if you open a 32-ounce can of solvent every Monday and have to dispose of its spent remains every Friday (the solute), you’ve entered the ranks.
The improper disposal of even such a small amount of industrial toxic waste can land you on the wrong side of an EPA inspector—which is not a good place to be. And there are also legal imperatives about industrial hazardous waste disposal per OSHA and the DOT.
Consider: RCRA transgressions can run you $76,764 per day, while “reporting and recordkeeping violations” can set you back $45,268 per day when it comes to the Clean Air Act. And Clean Water Act civil penalties are up to $16,000 per day of violation, with a maximum cap of $187,500 in any single enforcement action.
Of course, such liabilities are scalable. The more waste you generate, the better the odds that a sizable portion of it is an industrial toxic waste—or something else worthy of industrial hazardous waste disposal—per one or another federal, state, or local bureaucracy.
And who or what are those bureaucracies? Read on…
02 / Industrial hazardous waste management: Who’s in charge here?
Because the applicable legislation was written by different bureaucracies at different stages throughout the last century, there are numerous ways to violate state, local, and federal environmental law when it comes to industrial hazardous waste management.
Consider the three most pertinent pieces of legislation, and how you might be in violation of each:
03 / Industrial hazardous waste management and the Clean Air Act
Administered by the EPA, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) prescribes the basic requirements that individual states must enact and enforce regarding the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials.
There are lots of ways to transgress these RCRA imperatives, which is why you should get expert advice, even if you merely suspect that something you’re storing (or disposing of) might be considered hazardous waste by the EPA.
A partial list of potential infractions:
Dumping a hazardous waste down the drain.
Missing or incomplete hazardous waste manifests
Failing to train employees in hazmat generation, handling, transport, and emergency preparedness.
Missing or non-compliant labels
Uncovered hazmat containers
Improper waste consolidation
04 / Industrial hazardous waste management and the Clean Air Act
Also administered by the EPA, the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) aims to control air pollution on a national level, including inorganic and/or volatile chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and radioactive substances.
A common pitfall is neglecting to obtain a Title V Air Permit. This is required if you emit more than 100 tons annually of something the EPA deems a hazardous air pollutant (HAP); or more than 50 tons yearly of any volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and/or nitrogen oxides.
The New Source Performance Standards are another set of pollution control laws. They’re interpreted differently according to when your facility was built, so that expert advice is more than recommended. But in sum, the newer your building, the stricter the enforcement.
There are also specific permits required by the CAA if you operate a solid-waste incinerator burning more than 35 Mg daily of residential or commercial waste—about seven pounds.
As to other violations of the CAA, the EPA is particularly stringent about refrigerators, air conditioners, and boilers. Some violations include but aren’t limited to:
- Failing to use properly accredited and trained asbestos personnel
- Improperly disposing of asbestos
- Not notifying the EPA of an asbestos removal project
- Neglecting to get boilers permitted with state agencies
05 / Industrial hazardous waste management and the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA)—technically the Federal Water Pollution Control Act—is the primary federal law concerning water pollution. Beyond disposing of an industrial toxic waste down drains, it specifies other requirements (and potential violations) relative to water.
Depending on your type of enterprise, you’re required to maintain spill-prevention & control measures, a stormwater pollution prevention plan, and have provision for secondary containment of storage tanks.
Possible violations include but aren’t limited to:
Failure to secure a permit for wastewater discharges
Inadequate monitoring records
Missing, late, and/or incomplete monitoring reports
Lack of regular inspections
06 / State regs for industrial hazardous waste management are typically more stringent
The RCRA directs the EPA to delegate primary responsibility for implementing federal hazardous waste regulations to the individual states. Each must fulfill this mandate with programs that are consistent with federal regulations and equally stringent, but enjoy the authority to adopt hazardous waste management regulations that are stricter.
Thus, when it comes to industrial hazardous waste disposal, the visage of the EPA is likely that of your state—and what the federal government deems compliance might be interpreted as criminal recalcitrance by authorities closer to home.
07 / State regs for industrial hazardous waste management are typically more stringent
Individual states can differ from EPA guidelines about what constitutes a hazardous waste and how it should be handled. Examples might be:
An industry-specific waste in a state where that industry is common
A unique military waste in a state with a large military facility
Some states proscribe landfilling certain wastes where federal guidelines would otherwise allow it
Also, “lethality” or "severe toxicity” characteristics are assessed differently across states, or they might add additional characteristics to those already in place per the EPA.
For example, a state might expand the “corrosivity” characteristic by stipulating that otherwise benign materials require industrial hazardous waste management if they create pH levels above a certain mark when mixed with water.
Or a state might broaden the “toxicity” characteristic by adding to the list of identified contaminants, specifying maximum allowable concentrations, or creating an entirely new category of contaminants.
There are other differences that are less obvious but nonetheless require expert advice. Among them:
- Some states require annual rather than biennial hazardous waste management reports.
- Notification of “regulated waste activity” might require paperwork that is state-specific instead of federal forms.
- Required time intervals between accumulations might be shorter.
- Central accumulation areas might be mandated for “un-permitted” hazmat generators where they’re federally required only for “permitted” generators.
08 / State regs for industrial hazardous waste management are typically more stringent
Part of your hazardous-waste responsibilities is ensuring that the transporter you select to remove an industrial hazardous waste to your preferred disposal, storage, or treatment facility meets all DOT requirements. These minimally include particular labeling and “marking” requirements; and there are exact rules governing the kinds of containers you can use.
Anticipate trouble to avoid it
As they tend to come from more than one government bureaucracy at haphazard intervals, environmental regulations are plentiful, evolving, and challenging to track. Ignoring or misunderstanding them can subject you to pecuniary and even criminal consequences.
To reiterate: RCRA transgressions can run you $76,764 per day, while “reporting and recordkeeping violations” can set you back $45,268 per day when it comes to the Clean Air Act. And Clean Water Act civil penalties are up to $16,000 per day of violation, with a maximum cap of $187,500 in any single enforcement action.
Thus, if you even think you have materials that require industrial hazardous waste management, don’t go it alone. Get expert advice here.
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