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Avoid these Easy to Make Hazardous Waste Violations

September 17, 2020

Important ways to avoid these easy-to-make Hazardous Waste Violations!

Because the pertinent legislation was created and enacted by different entities at different times during the 20th century, there are innumerable ways to run afoul of the state, local, and federal environmental law in the delicate art of storing hazardous stuff—and especially throwing it away. Let’s consider the three biggest pieces of legislation and how you can run afoul of each:

The Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA)rcra

By far, the proverbial elephant in the room is the RCRA program: a federal pachyderm administered by the EPA that dictates basic requirements that individual states must adopt (and enforce) regarding the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous byproducts.

There are lots of ways to infract the RCRA, which is why you should get expert advice if you even think that something you’re storing onsite—or intend to throw away—might be considered a hazardous waste by the friendly folks at the EPA. 

A partial list of the things you so-do-not-want-to-do:

  • Dumping a hazardous waste down the drain. Almost everyone will take a dim view of this—even your own mother—as it winds up in the local groundwater. With apologies to Nike: Just don’t do it.
  • Missing or incomplete hazardous waste manifests. Last June marked the second year since the launch of the EPA’s e-Manifest for electronically tracking hazardous-waste shipments, in lieu of paper & pencil forms. But whether electron- or graphite-based, you’d better have a proper manifest if you’re moving hazmat from Point A to Point B. See our latest blog about the EPA’s e-Manifest here.
  • Failing to train employees in hazmat management, handling, and emergency preparedness. There are different training requirements specific to hazmat generation vs. storage vs. transport. Check out our free e-book on training requirements here.
  • Missing or non-compliant labels. While neither the EPA nor DOT specifies a format for labeling chemical hazardous waste containers, each requires specific information to be prominently displayed. Our recent blog tells more about labeling requirements here.
  • Uncovered hazmat containers. Smoking is bad for your health, especially if someone tosses a smoldering butt into an open vat of hazmat. Also, hazmat gives off toxic smells. So lids on barrels or dumpsters containing hazmat are mandatory—no surprise. Read our blog about dumpsters for hazmat here.
  • Improper waste consolidation. Mixing one waste haphazardly with another for transport can generate dangerous chemical reactions—along with any number of applicable EPA fines to dwarf any potential savings you were hoping to achieve. Read our blog about how to properly & efficiently carry out waste consolidation here.

The Clean Air Act (CAA)

Clean Air Act

Also within EPA purview, the federal Clean Air Act of 1963 is designed to control air pollution on a national level. The targets here are inorganic and/or volatile chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides (as well as anything you might have lying around that’s radioactive and/or glowing in the dark). 

One big mistake you can make is failing to secure a Title V Air Permit. You need one of these puppies if your enterprise spews into the atmosphere any more than 100 tons yearly of anything the EPA lately deems a hazardous air pollutant—or “HAP” in government lingo. Ditto for more than 50 tons yearly of any volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and/or nitrogen oxides.

This brings us to something called New Source Performance Standards, which is not a compilation CD by Mannheim Steamroller. Instead, pollution control laws are interpreted with different degrees of stringency according to when your facility was built. The newer your building, the stricter the enforcement. 

There are also special CAA permitting requirements if you operate a solid-waste incinerator burning more than 35 Mg per day of residential or commercial waste—that’s about seven pounds for the metrically-challenged. 

Be advised that when looking for violations of the CAA, the EPA is particularly prickly about refrigerators, air conditioners, and boilers. Some other ways to cause yourself grief and trepidation 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 

The Clean Water Act (CWA)

The CWA (technically the Federal Water Polludumping in clean watertion Control Act) is the primary federal law governing water pollution. We’ve already cautioned against dumping stuff down drains. But there are other ways to rankle the EPA when it comes to plain old H2O.

Depending on your enterprise, your facility needs to have spill-prevention & control measures, a stormwater pollution prevention plan, and make provision for secondary containment of storage tanks.

Sone other specific sins of omission include:

  • Failure to secure a permit for wastewater discharges
  • Inadequate monitoring records
  • Missing, late, and/or incomplete monitoring reports
  • Lack of regular inspections

The upshot

As they tend to emanate from more than one government entity at random intervals, environmental regulations are numerous, ever-changing, and difficult to track; and especially if you’re simultaneously trying to run a business and live your life.  

If you think (or know) that you have onsite hazmat that needs to be stored, transported, and/or treated, bear in mind that the consequences of doing so outside the law can be expensive as well as criminal.  

Don’t go it alone. Get expert advice here. And thank-you for reading our blog!

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.