EPA to Modernize Ignitable Hazardous Waste Characterization Under RCRA

Posted on 4/15/2019 by Roger Marks

On April 2, 2019, US EPA proposed a rule to modernize its regulations for characterizing ignitable hazardous wastes. The proposed rule will:
  • Incorporate modern consensus standards into the RCRA regulations.
  • Give generators flexibility to use non-mercury thermometers to characterize wastes and stack emissions.
  • Narrow the exclusion for aqueous solutions.
  • Clarify the requirements for testing multiphase materials.
Meet EPA’s annual training mandate for hazardous waste professionals—when and where you want. Find initial or refresher RCRA training options at

Modernized Ignitability Test Methods

To determine ignitability, EPA currently requires generators to use one of two flash point test methods incorporated by reference into the RCRA hazardous waste regulations at 40 CFR 260.11.

The two test methods are:
  • Method 1010A: Pensky-Martens Closed Cup Tester (ASTM Standard D93—79 or D93—80)
  • Method 1020B: Setaflash Closed Cup Tester (ASTM Standard D3278—78)
Alternatively, generator knowledge can be used to make the ignitability determination.
These test methods reflected the best flash point test methods available in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Because technology has improved since then, EPA has proposed incorporating more modern consensus-based standards that reflect these improvements.  

Non-mercury Thermometers for Testing and Sampling

The current test methods for ignitability created in 1978, ‘79, and ‘80 require the use of mercury thermometers. In 2019, this presents distinct challenges for facilities: Fewer vendors sell and calibrate mercury thermometers today than when the standards were introduced.

Mercury-containing equipment must also be managed as universal waste under RCRA, adding compliance responsibilities for facilities that manage ignitables. The modern standards EPA plans to adopt allow for more flexibility in the type of thermometer used to characterize ignitable hazardous wastes and sample ignitable stack emissions.

Want in-person training? Reserve your seat for the “gold standard” in RCRA training. Upcoming stops for the two-day RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Workshop include St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and more.

Narrowing the Aqueous Solutions Exclusion

In 1980, EPA added an exclusion for aqueous solutions containing less than 24 percent alcohol by volume. This effectively excluded items like wine and latex paint—which despite having a flash point in the ignitability range, are not capable of sustaining combustion.

This relief, EPA has found, may exclude some wastes from ignitability characteristic that EPA never intended to exclude, such as wastes with small amounts of alcohol that are ignitable due to non-alcoholic components.

To remedy this, EPA has proposed to codify its existing guidance by re-wording the exclusion. The exclusion currently reads: “other than an aqueous solution containing less than 24 percent alcohol by volume.” The proposed language will replace the word “aqueous” with a more specific definition, interpreted by EPA over the years as materials that are at least 50% water by weight.

In full, the proposed language for the exclusion reads: “other than a solution containing less than 24 percent of any alcohol or combination of alcohols (except if the alcohol has been used for its solvent properties and is one of the alcohols specified in EPA Hazardous Waste No. F003 or F005) by volume and at least 50 percent water by weight.”

Sampling and Testing Multiphase Materials

The proposed rule will also add new language to 40 CFR 261.21(a) to clarify sampling procedures for multiphase samples, i.e., materials that may change phase during management from a liquid to a solid, a liquid to a gas, etc.

Corrections to 40 CFR 261.21

The proposed rule will further replace outdated references to the Bureau of Explosives and US DOT and revise §261.21(a)(3)(ii)(A) to specify ASTM standard E 681—85 as the approved test for determining whether a waste is an ignitable compressed gas. This will align the RCRA rules with current DOT regulations for flammable gases and harmonize the criteria for ignitable compressed gases with those for Division 2.1 flammable gases and flammable aerosols.  

EPA will also remove a handful of notes from 40 CFR 261.21 that the Agency feels are “outdated or unnecessary to understanding the regulation.”

Read the proposed rule in full in the April 2 Federal Register.

RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Training Near You

Are you ready for compliance with EPA’s major “Generator Improvements”? One by one, states have started adopting the new hazardous waste standards. The new rules not only re-organized all the RCRA regulations, they also impact episodic generation, satellite areas, container labels, contingency planning, EPA notifications, and more.  
If your state has not adopted stricter contingency planning rules or new container label standards yet—they will soon. Learn what’s new for facilities large and small at the two-day workshop that’s considered the gold standard in hazardous waste management training.
St. Louis April 29–30
Dallas May 1–3 (3-day RCRA + Texas Industrial Waste training)
Houston May 6–8 (3-day RCRA + Texas Industrial Waste training
Pittsburgh May 9–10
Cleveland May 13–14
Detroit May 15–16
Cincinnati  May 16–17

See all 2019 RCRA training workshops.


Tags: flash point, flash point test, hazardous waste management, ignitable hazardous wastes, new rules, RCRA

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