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The Most Common Violations of the Most Typical EPA Regulations

March 4, 2016

For the everyday person, keeping up with the numerous Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations can be, to put it lightly, tedious. However, failure to acknowledge these regulations may mean you’re committing some common violations and could end up costing you in fines or even prison time.

From the Clear Air Act to the Toxic Substance Control Act, now is the perfect time to take a look at some of the most common violations of some of the most typical EPA regulations.

Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA)

For readers of this blog, the Resource Conservation Recovery Act is likely the most important EPA regulation to be well-versed on. RCRA was created with the goal of protecting human health and the environment from the hazards of waste disposal.

RCRA is most concerned with the management of hazardous waste, solid waste, hazardous medical waste, and any underground storage tank containing specific chemicals or petroleum. When it comes to hazardous waste, anyone who generates, transports, treats, stores, or disposes of hazardous materials should be concerned with the ins and outs of RCRA. From the amount of time you’re allowed to store certain waste to proper labeling, there are a plethora of things to be know about. Here are some of the most common violations:

  • Dumping hazardous wastes down the drain
  • Not having, or having inadequate, hazardous waste manifests
  • Failing to properly train employees in hazardous waste management, handling, and emergency preparedness
  • Lack of, or improper, labeling
  • Open containers of hazardous waste on site
  • Failing to comply with hazardous waste generator regulations
  • Improperly managing expired paints
  • Failing to have hazardous waste determinations on file
  • Improper consolidation of waste from other, nearby facilities
  • Noncompliance with underground storage tank regulations

This short list is why it’s imperative to know RCRA inside and out in an effort to avoid these violations and, potentially, risking monetary or criminal penalties.

Clean Air Act (CAA)

The Clean Air Act was implemented by the EPA in an effort to enhance and protect the country’s air quality, and to promote public health and the environment. It address criteria pollutants, permitting programs, mobile sources, hazardous air pollutants, global climate protection, and acid rain control.

Using scientifically-based guidelines, the EPA sought to address primary standards of protecting human health while secondarily addressing agricultural issues, property, and aesthetics. Regulated by the EPA under the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), hazardous air pollutants can include inorganic chemicals, volatile organic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and radionuclides. When looking for violations of the CAA, the EPA looks at things like refrigerators, air conditioners, and boilers. Some common violations include:

  • Failing to use properly accredited and trained asbestos personnel
  • Not notifying the EPA of asbestos removal projects
  • Failing to get boilers permitted with state agencies
  • Failing to apply for a Title V operating permit
  • Improperly disposing asbestos debris
  • Not keeping required documentation

As you can see, it could be easy to commit some of these violations if you were unaware of the regulations to begin with.

Clean Water Act (CWA)

Acting as the primary federal statute regulating the protection of the country’s waters, the Clean Water Act aims to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution in navigable waters and groundwater. In turn, a water quality standards program, permit program for discharging and treating waste and stormwater, and an oil pollution prevention program were created.

These programs—and the regulation—were designed to maintain and, in some cases, restore physical, biological, and chemical integrity to our waters. The hope is that eliminating the discharge of solid waste, sewage, biological materials, chemical waste, and radioactive materials to these surface waters will help clean things up.

Common violations of the CWA are as follows:

  • Improperly disposing materials down floor drains
  • Noncompliance, or not having a permit, for wastewater discharges
  • Having inadequate secondary containment of storage tanks
  • Failure to have an adequate Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
  • Failing to have Spill Prevention Control Countermeasures in place

Additionally, inspectors may inquire about certain records and documentation, so it’s important to have these items readily accessible.

Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)

Intending to protect the environment and human health by way of testing certain chemicals, which could potentially be hazardous, the Toxic Substance Control Act establishes regulations that restrict the manufacturing, processing, and use of those chemicals.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead-based paints are two major culprits of violating this act, and focusing on them should be a primary focus when it comes to ensuring everything is in check. Some common problems and violations of the TSCA are:

  • Not informing tenants/residents of lead paint, or any lead hazard, in buildings
  • Having equipment, fluids, or other items (used or stored) which contain PCBs
  • Failing to provide required, EPA-published educational pamphlets (“Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home”)

While lead-based paint and PCBs were once used quite common, they pose serious health concerns. In order to avoid facing fines, it’s vital that you comply with the regulations under the TSCA.

These are some of the most common violations of the more typical EPA regulations, however, they are far from all-inclusive. It’s imperative that you educate yourself as much as possible on these regulations and their potential consequences.

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