The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), first introduced to congress in 1976 by the senator of West Virginia Jennings Randolph, is a comprehensive piece of legislation regulating the proper disposal of hazardous waste.

First enacted to battle the deluge of industrial and municipal waste from large manufacturing cities, RCRA has since been amended to oversee the regulation of a variety of hazardous materials and those who handle this hazardous waste, including medical waste, small quantity generators (SQGs) of solid waste, non-solid waste, landfills, waste incinerators, and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs).

Protection of the environment is its main goal, but it also prevents citizens from being exposed to harmful toxins and chemicals in their drinking water, work places, and landholdings. But these laws can only protect us as far as hazardous waste generators follow the provisions of RCRA and its sister-bills.

If they do not follow the law, companies that produce or otherwise handle hazardous waste may be subject to fees, fines, civil cases, and other penalties, including—which can be surprising to most people—prison time. With so many laws, amendments, revisions, you or your company might not even know when you’re in violation of the law.

(Related: Why You Need To Think Twice About Regulatory Compliance)

Penalties for the violation of these ordinances can be pretty daunting to imagine, but this is especially so if you aren’t aware that your company’s practices are against the law.

Civil cases could subject a violator to a $50,000 fine, or in the worst case, a criminal case could mean up to 5 years in prison. There are several cases in which one might unwittingly land themselves in jail, but here are the main five:

  1. Mislabeling a container which holds hazardous waste, or misrepresenting in some way the toxic nature of its contents;
  2. Not keeping up with RCRA’s record-keeping and reporting requirements;
  3. Treatment of waste without an up-to-date permit or after loss of interim-status;
  4. Transporting any sort of hazardous waste to a facility which is not permitted to handle it, or without a manifest, if required; and/or
  5. Being responsible for the exposure of hazardous waste that has adversely-affected the health of, put in imminent danger, or has taken the life of another human being can carry its own, higher penalties of up to a $250,000 fine or up to 15 years in prison for an individual who has broken this statute, or up to a $1,000,000 fine for a corporation

It’s crucial that generators understand these regulations, not only because there can be a hefty fine or jail time for the one who has broken them, but because breaking them also means jeopardizing our environment and the health and safety of others. They might seem labyrinthine or become overwhelming, so if you would like more information, you can consult the EPA, or call Hazardous Waste Experts at 888-681-8923.

(Article contributed by Michael Manouel) 

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

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