OSEA Safety Blog

Are You Making This Common Hazardous Waste Mistake?

Monday, February 15, 2021 Brenda Griffin

Are You Making this Common Hazardous Waste Mistake?

When it comes to hazardous waste management, often the biggest mistake that is made by hazardous waste generators is following EPA federal regulations. (Wait, what?)

Many generators do not realize that 50 states and territories have been granted authority to implement the base Resource Conservation and Recovery (RCRA) program. Additionally, many are also authorized to implement addition parts of the RCRA program that EPA has since promulgated.

But what is most important to know is that State RCRA programs must be at least as stringent as the federal requirements, yet states can adopt more stringent requirements as well.

And that’s “the problem”. Generators may look to EPA for guidance on managing hazardous waste not realizing that their State RCRA program may have requirements that are above and beyond EPA’s requirements.

For example, PCB’s are considered a “listed waste” in NY and can be found on the “B” list (As a refresher, hazardous wastes can either be listed or characteristic or both. EPA has listed wastes on the U, P, F and K with NY adding the B list for PCB’s.).

Another tangle generators can find themselves in is failing to realize that while EPA may have added requirements to the federal RCRA program, until states adopt those changes in their own program, those changes do not yet apply.

For example, EPA adopted the Generator Improvement Rule in 2016, and New York State has not done so at this time. Two key provisions where EPA is finalizing flexibility are:

  1. Allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste provided the episodic waste is properly managed, and
  2. Allowing a very small quantity generator (VSQG) to send its hazardous waste to a large quantity generator under control of the same person.

While these two provisions will be a great benefit for generators, following these provisions now in NY is a violation and could result in fines should your facility be inspected. Even the term VSQG has not been adopted yet – currently this level of generator in NY is referred to as conditionally exempt small quantity generator - CESQG.

This is why it is so important to understand the need to look to your state environmental agency and regulations to understand the RCRA regulations in your state as well as the state where you may be shipping your waste as that will also come into play with the requirements for managing your waste.
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