Three Ways the New US Hazardous Waste Generator Rules Could Affect Your Operations

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Cameron, LA, January 11, 2006 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set up a hazardous waste material collection site for the disposal of toxic and otherwise hazardous materials. The site is located in the center of Cameron which was severely affected by Hurricane Rita. Robert Kaufmann/FEMA

Cameron, LA, January 11, 2006 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set up a hazardous waste material collection site for the disposal of toxic and otherwise hazardous materials. The site is located in the center of Cameron which was severely affected by Hurricane Rita. Robert Kaufmann/FEMA

CESQG. The derived-from rule. The K-list. The rebuttable presumption. Do you speak the language, or are you hastily removing the shrink wrap from your English-RCRA[1]/RCRA-English dictionary?

The federal rules for hazardous waste generators in the United States have been in place for thirty-six years now. That’s long enough to develop a dialect and a culture — which you may or may not feel a part of — and long enough to outgrow their original structure.

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed changes to the federal rules that specify what entities that produce hazardous waste need to do to classify and manage it. If these rules come into effect as proposed, they’ll mean changes for between 350 000 and 540 000 entities that generate hazardous waste[2]. Practically every industry will be affected.

What will this mean for your operations? Get ready for some moves and rewording, some more flexibility in how you manage your waste, and some new requirements. Here are three ways that you can expect the proposed rules to affect you if you produce hazardous waste in the U.S.:

  1. It will be easier to find out what you need to do to manage your hazardous waste.

As the EPA heard every time it studied whether generators understood the hazardous waste regulations, it’s not easy to figure out what requirements apply to you. If you’ve been complying with the regulations for years, you generally know what applies to you and where to find the information you’re looking for. But for generators who’ve just entered the hazardous waste program, or for those who recently changed generator categories[3], it’s tough to find out what your obligations are.

The proposed rules should make that learning process easier. You’ll see definitions for common terms like “large quantity generator” and “acute hazardous waste”, and the “conditionally exempt small quantity generator” category will be renamed “very small quantity generator”. There will be more instruction to help generators determine how much hazardous waste they generate, and what category that puts them in. Requirements for transportation, storage, and disposal facilities that also apply to generators will be included in the generator rules, and sections will be moved around to make it easier to find the requirements for each generator category.

  1. You’ll have more options for managing your hazardous waste.

When the EPA asked for suggestions for improving the hazardous waste generator program, commenters told them that there wasn’t enough flexibility in the regulations. The proposed rules address this by including the following options for how generators can manage their hazardous waste:

  • Very small quantity generators will be able to consolidate their wastes at a large quantity generator under control of the same person.
  • Generators will be able to keep their generator category when they occasionally generate more than their normal amount of waste.
  • Generators can apply for a waiver from the requirement to locate containers of ignitable or reactive waste at least fifty feet from a site’s property line.
  1. You’ll have more obligations to meet with respect to notification, labeling, reporting, and documentation.

The proposed rules aim to improve compliance rates and strengthen environmental protection by addressing identified gaps in the hazardous waste regulations.

Depending on your generator category, you can expect to have more requirements that you have to meet. These include the following:

  • Container labels will need to include more information about the contents. For tanks, drip pads, and containment buildings, this information can be kept in logs or records.
  • Contingency plans will need to include an executive summary, to give emergency responders quicker access to critical information like site maps and types of hazardous waste.
  • Generators will need to keep more records than before, for things like determinations that a solid waste is not a hazardous waste, and arrangements made with emergency responders.
  • Generators will need to re-notify the EPA every two years.
  • Hazardous wastes will need to be included in biennial reports[4] in more situations.
  • Hazardous wastes must not be mixed or placed in a container with incompatible hazardous wastes.
  • Generators will be prohibited from disposing of liquid hazardous waste in landfills.
  • Large quantity generators will need to notify the EPA before and after closing their site or a unit accumulating hazardous waste.

This is a multi-year process.

The proposed changes to the hazardous waste generator rules were published on September 25, 2015[5]. The comment period closed on December 24, 2015. No date has been set for when the rules will be finalized, but the EPA has indicated that the final rule is expected to be published in 2016 and then be effective six months later. So starting in 2017, you’ll have some new words to add to your vocabulary — and some new requirements in your audit checklists.

Learn more about how these rules could affect you.

Nimonik’s team of subject experts keep on top of regulatory changes like those coming for the hazardous waste generator program, then explain the changes in straightforward language so you understand what actions you need to take. Subscribers to Nimonik’s legal tracking service will know right away when these proposed hazardous waste rules are finalized, and Nimonik’s web service and app give EHS managers the tools they need to ensure their facilities meet the latest requirements.

You can learn more about what’s going to happen to the hazardous waste generator rules, as well as get an introduction to how hazardous waste is regulated in the U.S., in this free presentation and slides.


Nimonik EHS Expert Webinar Series – Understanding the EPA’s Proposed Hazardous Waste Generator Improvement Rules from Jonathan Brun on Vimeo.

[1] The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This is the U.S. law, enacted in 1976, that regulates disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste.
[2] Included in these numbers are between 290 000 and 470 000 producers of very small amounts of hazardous waste who will only be affected if they take part in certain voluntary programs.
[3] A “generator category” is used to determine the requirements that apply to a generator, based on how much hazardous waste it produces in a calendar month.
[4] This is a report that large quantity generators have to submit every two years.