EPA has finalized a rule to revise the existing hazardous waste generator regulations that clarifies obligations under the program and allows for more flexibility in hazardous waste management. As of May 30, 2017, the rule became effective in Iowa, Alaska, and all territories and tribal lands, but authorized states must adopt all provisions that are more stringent than the current RCRA generator regulations in order to maintain an authorized status by July 1, 2018 (or July 1, 2019 if a change to a state law is required).
Many owners and operators of facilities that produce hazardous waste may have recognized that this regulatory program, which was originally promulgated in 1976, contained quite a few gray areas. Without the necessary clarity, parts of the program were being interpreted in a variety of ways, leading to diverging applications of the rules among states and organizations. Recognizing this, as well as the need for increased flexibility to make the regulations more business-friendly and reasonable, EPA has reorganized the regulations, made minor technical corrections, and also implemented some significant changes.
Requirements with widespread impacts
The following changes are expected to affect most hazardous waste generators:
- Hazardous waste containers must now also be labeled with the hazards of the contents.
- It has been clarified that preparedness and emergency procedures apply to satellite accumulation areas and allowable treatment areas, as well as central accumulation areas.
- Hazardous waste contingency plans must incorporate a detailed quick reference guide with key information that is easily accessible to responders in the case of an incident.
- Large quantity generators must comply with additional closure requirements.
Provisions for increased flexibility
Though we often associate new rules with the implementation of more restrictive practices, portions of this new regulation actually make compliance with the program easier, namely:
- Waste consolidation within an organization. Very small quantity generators (VSQGs—formerly conditionally exempt small quantity generators) will be allowed to consolidate hazardous waste at a large quantity generator (LQG) site under the control of the same person or company, if they comply with procedures outlined in the regulations.
- The introduction of a specification for episodic events. In the past, if a VSQG or small quantity generator (SQG) produced more hazardous waste in a calendar month than allowed for their generator category, they ran the risk of being bumped into a more stringently regulated category. Now, if an unusual event causes an episodic bump in generator status, the typical generator status need not be changed if some basic requirements are met.
These are just a few of the notable changes to this program. For more information and details, the full rule or this helpful summary are both useful resources. To understand how this might affect your compliance status, get in touch!