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How You Can Avoid Common RCRA Violations

July 15, 2015

Many common RCRA (Resource Conservation Recovery Act) violations come down to simple lapses in judgment or a general lack of education of the law itself.

From simply failing to clearly mark labels to making improper hazardous waste determinations, these common violations can be detrimental to business and often carry hefty consequences.

Fortunately, avoiding them isn’t a monumental task.

Here are some common RCRA violations that, with a little bit of conscious effort, can be avoided rather easily by invoking practical thinking skills.

Failure to Clearly Label and Mark Containers [40 CFR 262.34(a)(3)]

Failing to properly mark and label containers as hazardous waste is one of the most common RCRA violations individuals or companies get dinged for. It’s also one of the easiest to remedy.

In addition to making sure labels are always in stock, assigning someone with the task of labeling containers while they’re empty is a straightforward and effective solution to the issue. By using this method and labeling containers prior to the waste being deposited, you decrease your chance of missing something that’s already been filled.

Obviously, for that to work, those depositing the hazardous material need to also be aware of whether or not the containers they’re filling have labels adhered to them.

Lastly, you should ensure that you are compliant with any labels your state may specifically require.

Failure to Mark the Accumulation Start Date [40 CFR 262.34(a)(2)]

Another simple mistake people often make is forgetting to label the accumulation start date on each container of hazardous waste.

This requirement—like labeling each container as hazardous waste—is one that can be easily missed, yet cause great consequences.

Again, communication is the simplest and most effective way to ensure this step in the process gets taken care of on a consistent basis.

Putting a notice or poster on the wall that reminds employees to date the container as soon as they begin placing the waste in it, is one way to remedy this issue. In addition to that, having someone double check all containers after they have been filled is an easy and effective quality assurance method.

Failure to Make Hazardous Waste Determinations [40 CFR 262.11, 40 CFR 268.7(a), 40 CFR 268.9(a)]

Properly making hazardous waste determinations may seem like an obvious, common sense step for an individual working in the industry. However, it’s not always that elementary.

If a material is ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic, it usually is considered hazardous. There are exceptions, but that’s the general guideline. Additionally, if the material falls under one of the EPA’s listed wastes categories, it is also deemed hazardous.

Typically, the generator of the waste should know what type of material is in the container. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In those instances, lab testing would certainly help determine whether or not the material is hazardous.

Be sure to check your state regulations as well, as they may consider certain non-RCRA wastes to be hazardous, even though they aren’t on a federal level.

Failure to Obtain a Permit When Storing Hazardous Waste for Greater Than 90 Days [40 CFR 262.34(a), 270.10]

For large quantity generators, RCRA states that a container of hazardous waste housed in short-term storage areas must be shipped out within 90 days of it being filled. For containers larger than 55 gallons, that clock doesn’t begin until the volume of waste has exceeded that number.

Meanwhile, small quantity generators have 180 days to send the waste offsite.

Like the aforementioned violations, this one can also be tidied up with a bit of organizational skills and common sense.

Assuming your waste containers are properly dated and labeled, shipping them off within this timeframe should be as simple as setting up a calendar reminder. Set an early reminder, followed by one closer to the actual 90 days. That way you give yourself a few chances to make sure everything is out the door.

Failure to Accumulate Hazardous Waste In a Closed Container Except When Adding or Removing Waste [40 CFR 265.173(a)]

Sometimes RCRA violations stem from not having quality materials on hand, or even simple laziness. Failing to keep containers closed while they’re in storage is one of them.

Keeping containers open until they are full may seem like a more convenient option but, as stated, they need to be closed unless you are adding or removing waste. If they aren’t, you face the potential for major consequences.

Not only could you be fined a significant dollar amount, storing hazardous waste in containers that are not fully sealed or have leaks increases the chance for spills. Obviously, the consequences of spills are documented in ad nauseam.

Routine inspections on a consistent, weekly basis can ensure that all containers are properly sealed and without leaks.

These are obviously just a handful of violations listed in the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, and it’s imperative that you are well-versed on the entire law. If you need further clarification or would like us to handle your hazardous waste shipment, give our experts a call at 800-936-2311.

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