Back to All

How to Become an EPA Approved TSDF

February 3, 2020


One of the imperatives of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is that hazardous waste “generators” are responsible for any hazardous waste they “generate” from “cradle-to-grave,” including its subsequent, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal.

Rest in peace

The final stage in this cradle-to-grave concept is the place where the hazardous waste is ultimately laid to rest, so to speak. This must be an approved “treatment, storage, and disposal facility,” affectionately known among EPA authorities as a “TSDF.”

Thus, an Inquiring Mind might want to know, what does it take to get legally certified as a TSDF? Especially if that Inquiring Mind has a pile of something-or-other festering onsite that an EPA inspector might decide is hazardous waste, illegally stored, and eminently fineable.

Could such a thing happen to you?

You decide. The RCRA makes it remarkably easy to be a hazardous-waste generator. E.g., the moment you uncork a can of solvent and use it, you’ve joined the ranks.

True, you might only generate a single quart of waste solute per week, but the improper storage or disposal of even that small amount can land you squarely in the crosshairs of the EPA, which is not a good place to be.

Getting terms straight

The EPA defines any site where hazardous waste is intentionally placed as a disposal facility that must comply with a long list of standards, especially if such waste will remain there forever, like after your industrial widget factory has been converted to condos. Per the EPA:

  • A “facility” includes all contiguous land, structures, and “appurtenances” on or in the land used for treating, storing, or disposing of hazardous waste.
  • Treatment is any method, technique, or process designed to change the physical, chemical, biological character, or composition of any hazardous waste.
  • Disposal is the discharge, deposit, injection, dumping, spilling, leaking, or placing of any solid or hazardous waste on or in the land or water.

This blog post concentrates on the storage aspect; and it isn’t comprehensive, given the sheer volume of regulations pertinent to this subject. But forging ahead:

About hazardous waste storage

The EPA itself advises that “regulations pertaining to TSDFs are more stringent than those that apply to generators or transporters.” This means that your heretofore perfectly legally hazmat handling habits might not cut muster for its storage—whether intended or inadvertent.

Such regulations include general “good housekeeping” standards for all facilities, but also specific standards, depending on your particular kind of waste and operations.

General Considerations

You need be aware of what captures the interest of the EPA in determining if you’re operating as a hazardous waste storage facility, know it or not. Again, this is not a comprehensive list. But among other things, the EPA’s Officer will look at:

  • Air emissions. To determine any presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), your ventilation, waste treatment processes, and equipment will be inspected along with your storage impoundments, tanks, and containers.
  • Groundwater. The EPA is particularly touchy about groundwater contamination—as well they should. Thus, a storage facility is required to have monitoring wells that regularly sample groundwater. (You do have monitoring wells, don’t you?)
  • Financial Assurance. A storage facility must prove it has the financial wherewithal to respond adequately to an accidental spill or release, and/or cease operations while maintaining financial viability temporarily to do so. (Payday loans don’t count.)

Thinking of closing up shop? Not so fast

If you determine you’re at the cusp of getting deemed a hazmat storage facility by the EPA, be advised: there’s no escape. You can’t just shut down and disappear into the ozone. (Write your own joke). There are general decommissioning requirements to which a facility must adhere.

And by the way, what chemicals and methods you used to manufacture your industrial widgets will be a major issue, because beyond general decommissioning requirements, there are particular guidelines for specific kinds of processes, facilities, and their waste.

Did we mention recordkeeping?

The EPA permitting system required to ensure that all TSDF hazardous waste disposal practices are in legal compliance is formidable. It’s essential to have systems in place to accurately track the ebb and flow of your hazardous waste management. You can’t do this anymore with just index cards and Postem Notes®.

Minimally, you need software. Ideally, a platform that’s purpose built to manage and document the peculiarities and legalities of hazardous waste management; and that will consistently and accurately populate various EPA forms with numbers, codes, and other data across the multitude of legal documentation required by state and federal authorities. The most complete hazardous waste management software platform is the PegEx Platform.

The featured image used in this post was taken by the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Biotreatment Area and can be found here.

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