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Dealing with RCRA Rejection

Posted on June 28, 2016 by Anthony Cardno

Many of us fear rejection, but mostly in our personal lives. If you ship hazardous waste, you also deal with the prospect of your treatment/storage/disposal facility (TSDF) rejecting your waste shipment. Luckily, the 40 CFR hazardous waste rules provide a specific workflow to be followed when a waste shipment gets rejected. Knowing your responsibilities under RCRA can reduce your anxiety about rejection and help you put in place an effective contingency plan in case of a rejected shipment.

Sometimes, a treatment/storage/disposal facility (TSDF) rejects an incoming shipment of hazardous waste from a generator’s site. If a TSDF rejects a shipment, everyone in the chain—the TSDF, the transporter, and the generator—must follow procedures laid out by the US EPA. EPA’s procedures for rejected shipments ensure that the waste is eventually taken care of properly and that nothing gets lost or forgotten. First, we’ll look at why your TSDF may reject a shipment in the first place.

Why Might a TSDF Reject a Shipment?


A TSDF might reject a shipment of hazardous waste if the type or amount is something it can’t handle. For example, if the TSDF manages hazardous waste in an aqueous wastewater treatment unit and is expecting corrosive (D002) hazardous waste, but it receives reactive (D003) waste that explodes upon contact with water, the facility would have to reject that waste. Maybe the disposal facility has enough landfill space to accept up to 1,000 kg of contaminated soil at a time, but someone sent them 1,000 lbs. of sludge (2,200 kg) that are too much to handle all at once.

Generators, TSDFs, and transporters are supposed to coordinate ahead of time and only send the types of waste a TSDF can accept, but mistakes can happen.

What Happens When a TSDF Rejects a Load?


“[U]pon rejecting waste . . . the [TSDF] facility must consult with the generator prior to forwarding the waste to another facility that can manage the waste. If it is impossible to locate an alternative facility that can receive the waste, the facility may return the rejected waste or residue to the generator. The facility must send the waste to the alternative facility or to the generator within 60 days of the rejection . . . .” [40 CFR 264.72(d) and 265.72(d)]

While making calls and arrangements, the TSDF must either provide secure temporary storage for the waste or ensure the delivering transporter retains custody.

If the TSDF rejects a full shipment of waste before the initial transporter leaves, then the TSDF completes Item 18b of the original manifest by writing in an Alternate Destination Facility. The initial facility retains a copy of the manifest and gives the transporter the remaining copies. The transporter then carries the load to the alternate facility. The “Alternate Facility” can be the initial generator.
If the transporter has left before the TSDF realizes it needs to reject the shipment, or if the TSDF only rejects part of the shipment, then the TSDF needs to create a new manifest before sending the waste to an alternate TSDF or back to the generator.


When a TSDF makes out a new manifest for a rejected load of hazardous waste, it must follow the usual instructions from 40 CFR 262.20, as modified by 40 CFR 264.72 (or 265.72 for interim status TSDFs).

Loading a RCRA hazardous waste shipment for treatment storage disposal

What Happens Next?


After the TSDF rejects a load of hazardous waste, the waste will either travel to a new TSDF or back to the generator. The transporter still has to prevent and respond to releases along the way and sign and maintain copies of the Manifest, but otherwise, there are no new requirements to follow. [40 CFR 263]

If the waste goes to a new facility, the new TSDF will either reject the shipment (starting the whole rigmarole all over again) or accept it. When the Alternate Facility accepts the shipment, it signs the manifest and sends copies back to the initial destination facility, which sends copies back to the original generator. [40 CFR 264.72, 265.72]

If the waste goes back to the generator, then the generator signs the manifest, keeps copies for itself, and shares a copy with the rejecting facility. The generator is then left with the problem of managing extra hazardous waste.

Good News for Generators


There is some good news for generators, though. When a TSDF returns a shipment to the generator’s site, the accumulation time limit for the waste resets. The EPA doesn’t expect generators to count the returned waste towards their generator status calculations for the month.

For large quantity generators (LQGs), this means the 90-day clock starts over once the waste comes back. For small quantity generators (SQGs), the 180-day clock resets. However, SQGs must be careful that the returned waste doesn’t put them over the 6,000 kg on-site limit. If the returned shipment puts them over the on-site limit, then they become an LQG and must comply with more stringent requirements.

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Whether you’re new to the field or need your annual RCRA refresher training, don’t miss the chance to learn alongside new and experienced managers from your area and master the EPA’s complex hazardous waste rules.  See the full schedule and agenda at Lion.com/RCRA-Training.
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