Weekly Compliance Digest - EPA Hazardous Waste Generator Rule

December 09, 2016
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we cover a final rule by the U.S. EPA on revisions to hazardous waste generator regulations.

EPA Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

What is it?

On October 28, 2016, the EPA Administrator signed the final Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. The rule was published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016. It revises the hazardous waste generator regulations by making them easier to understand and providing greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed, the EPA says. The revisions aim to enhance the safety of facilities that create hazardous waste and the response capabilities of emergency responders by improving risk communication. The hazardous waste generator regulatory program was originally promulgated in 1980. Two key provisions of the rule include:

  • Allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste, provided the episodic waste is properly managed.
  • Allowing a very small quantity generator (VSQG) to send its hazardous waste to a large quantity generator (LQG) under control of the same person.

Who is affected?

The regulations apply to any person or entity (a “generator”) that produces a hazardous waste as listed or characterized in part 261 of title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). To give an idea of the most affected industries, in 2013, about 25,300 generators reported generating about 35.2 million tons of hazardous waste. Of the total number of reporting generators, about 20,800 were LQGs while 4,500 were non-LQGs. Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) generate 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste or more than one kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste. Of the 35.2 million tons of hazardous waste generated by LQGs in 2013, 33.4 million tons, or 95%, were generated in just the following five industrial sectors:

  • Chemical manufacturing (NAICS 325)
  • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing (NAICS 324)
  • Waste management and remediation services (NAICS 562)
  • Primary metal manufacturing (NAICS 331)
  • Mining (NAICS 212)

What are the provisions?

The final rule includes over 60 changes to the hazardous waste generator regulations. As part of some of the more significant changes, the final rule:

  • Allows VSQGs (previously known as “conditionally exempt small quantity generators”- CESQGs) to send hazardous waste to a LQG that is under the control of the same person and consolidate it there before sending it on to management at a RCRA-designated facility, provided certain conditions are met. In some situations, organizations may have satellite locations that qualify as VSQGs and that could take advantage of this provision to send their materials to an LQG within their company.
  • Allows a VSQG or a small quantity generator (SQG) to maintain its existing generator category in the case of an event in which the VSQG or SQG generates a quantity of hazardous waste in a calendar month that would otherwise bump the generator into a more stringent generator regulatory category. Under this provision, generators that satisfy the listed conditions do not have to comply with the more stringent generator standards when an unusual event such as a cleanout or an act of nature causes its generator category to temporarily increase.
  • Updates the emergency response and contingency planning provisions for SQGs and LQGs to include Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) among those emergency planning organizations with which a generator may make response arrangements, and requires that LQGs submit quick reference guides with the key information when they develop or update their contingency plans to local responders for easy access during an event.
  • Requires periodic re-notification for SQGs every four years (SQGs only notify once under the current system), starting in 2021.
  • Revises the regulations for labeling and marking of containers and tanks to clearly indicate the hazards of the hazardous waste contained inside.

What is next?

The final rule will be effective at the federal level on May 30, 2017 for states and territories that are not authorized for the RCRA program (e.g. Alaska, Iowa, the Indian Nations, Puerto Rico). Authorized states will be required to adopt any provisions that are more stringent than the current RCRA generator regulations in order to retain their authorized status. The rule will become effective in states authorized for the RCRA program when states have adopted the rule and become authorized for the new provisions, which can take anywhere from two to three years.

If you need to better manage waste generators, transporters and disposal facilities, as well as the end-to-end process of waste generation, storage and disposal, consider implementing waste management software in your organization.

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To learn more about EHS, Sustainability and Risk trends, we encourage you to read the NAEM 2016 Trends Report: Planning for a Sustainable Future, which presents the ideas and issues that will shape EHS and Sustainability Management.

NAEM 2016 Trends Report: Planning for a Sustainable Future