The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) statutory definition of “hazardous waste” includes any waste that may pose a threat to human health or the environment, but specifically excludes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from regulation as hazardous waste.
Why is that, and how should these wastes be managed and disposed of? The answer may depend on what state you're in.
Why Does RCRA Exclude PCB Wastes?
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was written the same year as RCRA and mandated US EPA to create specific management standards for chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment “such as polychlorinated biphenyls.”
That mandate required EPA to create a program regulating PCBs from manufacture through disposal. Congress recognized that if PCB waste disposal was also
regulated under RCRA, it might create an unnecessary burden on generators, transporters, and treatment/storage/disposal sites (via duplicative regulation). So, Congress excluded PCBs from RCRA regulation by law.
That said, state
hazardous waste programs can be (and often are) more stringent than the Federal program. Many states loop in wastes that don’t meet, or are excluded from, the Federal definition of hazardous waste–including PCBs.
PCB Management Under TSCA
The TSCA rules for managing PCB wastes both prior to and during disposal can be found in 40 CFR 761, Subpart D. The exact rules for disposal will depend on the type of PCB waste you have—PCB liquids, PCB items, and PCB remediation waste are all subject to different rules, for example.
But the rules for storing PCB wastes before disposal are a bit more straight-forward. PCBs and PCB items with concentrations of 50 ppm or higher must be:
- Disposed of within one year from the date they were determined to be waste
- Marked with the PCB marking and the date they were determined to be waste
- Inspected at least once in each 30-day period until sent for disposal
- Stored in a PCB container with sufficient absorbent if leaking
- Stored in an area that meets specific design standards (if the PCBs will be stored for more than 30 days prior to being sent for disposal)
- Shipped using the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest
In addition, the generator of the PCB waste must receive a Certificate of Disposal from the disposal facility within 30 days of the actual disposal of the waste.
State Rules for PCB Management and Disposal
Below is a sampling of the many states that regulate PCB wastes more stringently than the Federal RCRA regulations. It is not
an exhaustive list of states that regulate PCB wastes.
Don't see your state listed here?
Lion Members can consult our hazardous waste management State Summaries
in the Member Area
Under Texas’s waste management regulations, industrial solid wastes and media that contain or are contaminated with PCBs at concentrations of 50ppm or greater are a Class 1 industrial solid waste [30 TAC 335.508].
However, when it comes to managing those wastes prior to disposal, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) directs generators to follow the TSCA regulations. PCB wastes must be included in annual waste summaries.
In New York, PCB wastes are listed hazardous wastes and assigned waste codes that start with the letter “B” [6 NYCRR 371.4(e)]. Generators must count B-listed wastes when determining their generator category.
There is an exception for PCB articles from which all free-flowing oil has been drained. For the most part, generators of PCB wastes in New York are expected to comply with the TSCA management standards, except where a RCRA rule would be more stringent.
For instance, PCB wastes in New York are subject to the RCRA requirements for:
- 90- or 180-day storage time limits; and
- Weekly inspections.
In California, PCB wastes are Non-RCRA hazardous waste. California’s includes Polychlorinated Biphenyls in its “Appendix X” list of chemicals which are presumed to be hazardous.
Generators must count PCB wastes when determining their generator category and manage the waste under the hazardous waste on-site standards, just as in New York, as well as appropriate TSCA requirements (for storage area design, etc.)
With certain exceptions, PCB wastes are regulated as “dangerous waste” in the state of Washington. [WAC 173-303-9904 and 173-303-071]
In Maine, totally enclosed non-leaking PCB ballasts are regulated as Universal Waste. They are assigned state waste code MRM002. The Universal Waste program in Maine is more restrictive than the Federal program in terms of on-site management standards. [6 CMR Chapter 858]
PCBs are a state-regulated hazardous waste in Massachusetts and assigned the waste code MA02.
Generators are expected to follow all of the TSCA management standards for PCBs, but the state also requires releases or threatened releases of materials that contain PCBs to be reported to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. [310 CMR 40.0352(5)]
Coming Up: State Hazardous Waste Webinars
If you manage hazardous waste in California, New York, or Texas, you must be familiar with additional, state-specific rules for identifying, storing, and disposing of hazardous waste. Join a full-time Lion instructor for live, expert-led training to get a clear view of what you state requires, and how to comply.
How these states treat PCBs is just one way their regulations differ from the Federal standards. Be confident you know your state’s unique rules for Waste ID, waste codes, universal waste, reporting, recordkeeping, and more.
On-demand State Hazardous Waste Courses
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Learn your state's unique hazardous waste rules at your own pace with these interactive, on-demand online courses.
California Hazardous Waste Management
California Hazardous Waste Management Refresher
New York Hazardous Waste Management
Massachusetts Hazardous Waste Management
Texas Hazardous & Industrial Waste Management
Washington Dangerous Waste Management