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Are Environmental Regulations In Your State More Stringent Than Those Of The EPA?

November 6, 2017

Individual states have the power to adopt hazardous waste management regulations that are more stringent than those of the federal government—and a number of them have done so.

How did that happen?

In matters of hazardous waste disposal, the face of the EPA is likely that of your state—not the federal government. This is because the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) directs the EPA to delegate primary responsibility for implementing federal hazardous waste regulations to the individual states.

Per the RCRA, states must fulfill this mandate with programs that are consistent with federal regulations—and at least equally stringent. Of the 50 states, only Alaska and Iowa have not done so; they defer to their EPA regional authority.

So What Constitutes Hazardous Waste In Your State?

Perhaps most significantly, individual states can differ from federal guidelines about what constitutes a hazardous waste per se, as well as how it should be handled.

Examples might be an industry-specific waste in a state where that industry is common; or a unique military waste in a state with a large military facility; or where the federal government allows certain waste to be placed in landfills, some states do not.

Watch For Differences in Defined “Characteristics.”

Also, different states might have different regulations about “lethality” or “severe toxicity” characteristics when determining if something is a hazardous waste; or they might add to the characteristics already in place per the EPA.

For example, a state might tighten the “corrosivity” characteristic by stipulating that otherwise benign materials require hazardous waste handling if they produce pH levels above a certain point when mixed with water (per US LAW 40 CFR 261.22).

Or individual states might make the “toxicity” characteristic stricter by adding to the list of identified contaminants, specifying maximum allowable concentrations, or creating an entirely new category of contaminants (unregulated elsewhere) that are locally deemed as “persistent and bio accumulative toxins.”

Mixture Rules Can Be Different From State to State

Per the EPA, any combination of otherwise benign waste that includes a “listed” hazardous waste requires hazardous waste management and hazardous waste disposal specific to the “listed” hazardous waste.

A major exception is mixtures where the constituent hazardous waste is only “listed” because of its ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity—and no longer exhibits any of these characteristics. But beware: make sure yours is not one of the individual states that disallow this exception.

Other Differences Abound

There are other differences that are less obvious but nonetheless crucial to consider. Among them:

  • Some states require annual as opposed to biennial hazardous waste management reports.
  • Notification of “regulated waste activity” might require state-specific paperwork in lieu of federal forms.
  • Time intervals between required accumulations might be tighter.
  • Central accumulation areas might be required for “un-permitted” hazmat generators where the EPA requires them only for “permitted” generators.

Know Your Local Requirements

While knowing what the EPA requires is necessary for successful hazardous waste management, it is not sufficient. States can impose regulations that are more restrictive and severe than their EPA counterparts, and they often do.

Running afoul of such local requirements can be expensive, litigious, and time-consuming. So as in all things concerning hazardous waste disposal—expert advice is crucial. Call Hazardous Waste Experts at (800) 936-2311.

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