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How To Apply For A RCRA Permit in 6 Steps

December 2, 2014

The Grave of Hazardous Waste: the TSDF

Treatment, storage, and disposal treatment facilities (TSDF) are the endpoint (or the grave in “cradle-to-grave”) in the generation and lifecycle of hazardous waste. While these facilities are subject to all Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) statutes, just as generators of hazardous waste are, they must additionally apply for a RCRA permit and abide by regulations which apply to TSDFs alone.

These facilities are designed to receive and handle hazardous waste from all types of hazmat generators. A TSDF will have least one, or possibly all three, of the listed responsibilities:

  • Treatment – Any process, such as incineration or oxidation, which alters or modifies the biological nature of hazardous constituents for safe disposal;
  • Storage – The holding of hazardous waste on-site until it is treated or disposed of;
  • Disposal – Any of the various methods, including depositing, injecting, dumping, or spilling of hazardous waste in the land or water.

The RCRA Permit: Who Needs To Apply?

A RCRA permit outlines the standards, procedures, and practices that apply to its activities as a hazardous waste facility and allows it to become legally operational. RCRA permits are required of:

  • All new TSDFs – Once the plan to create a TSDF is made, a permit application must be submitted to a permitting agency, which will review and issue the RCRA permit. The permit may be valid for up to 10 years before expiring.
  • All established TSDFS that are six months away from an expiring permit.
  • All facilities operating under interim status – Interim status allows for a facility to operate while its permit is being reviewed.

Companies that do not store waste on-site for long periods of time (180 days for small quantity generators and 90 days for large quantity generators) and transporters of hazardous waste do not need to apply for the RCRA permit.

The application process itself is quite lengthy; it is not unusual for the entire procedure to take many months before a final verdict is given.

The 6 Steps of the Application Process

Step 1: Begin the Pre-application 

A RCRA permit applicant must first hold an informal meeting with the local community where the facility will be built to discuss the TSDF’s plans, including the type of waste that will be handled and what methods it will employ.

This unofficial forum is part of what is known as the “pre-application” stage. It must be advertised in some way, either by way of outdoor signage near the proposed facility property, radio spots, or print or television ads. The public may ask questions, voice concerns, or give suggestions at the meeting. A list of the names of the participants should be collected and turned into a mailing list (to be of use later on in the application).

Step 2: Submit Application

After the surrounding community has been given a chance give its collective input, then begins the application process. The permit itself is a comprehensive description of the facility and its activities, including,

  • the construction of the building,
  • day-to-day operations,
  • how the company will deal with environmental cleanups,
  • emergency contingency plans,
  • finances, and
  • what will happen in case the facility is forced to close.

Step 3: Wait for Review by Permitting Agency

Once the permit is submitted for review, the agency will send a notice to every person on the mailing list. The permitting agency will display a copy of the application for review in a public area. The agency will check that the application contains the correct information, that the facility will be operationally sound, and that it has adequate plan for safety procedures.

Step 4: Make Revisions

The permitting agency may issue a notice of deficiency (NOD) for an application that lacks substantive information. Many NODs may be issued during the review process until the application meets the agency’s criteria.

Step 5: Draft Permit

When the application is complete, the agency will provide a preliminary decision on whether to grant or deny the permit. Any information that cannot be supplied by an applicant will prompt a letter of “notice of intent to deny” from the agency, but this is only a temporary denial.

An unobjectionable application that has gone through all the necessary revisions and that meets all standards will be deemed complete, and in that case, a draft permit will then be issued. A draft permit contains the operating provisions which a facility is bound to follow. A public announcement will be made concerning the permitting agency’s decision. The public will be given 45 days to comment on this decision. 

Step 6: Final Permit

When all public discourse on the draft permit has been taken into consideration, the agency will then write a response to public comments, which highlights any changes made to the draft permit. Finally, the agency will release a decision to issue or deny the final permit.

From the stage of final approval onward, the permitting agency will oversee the entire process of construction, the opening of, and the early operating phase of the TSDF.

Photo credit: West Virginia DEP

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