What to Do When Your Hazardous Waste Isn’t Hazardous Anymore

Posted on 12/19/2017 by James Griffin and Anthony Cardno

Closing_Closed_Head_Drum_Hazardous_Waste_1.jpgWhen we talk about hazardous waste, we usually talk about EPA’s “cradle-to-grave” management requirements under the Federal RCRA program and state hazardous waste regulations. “Cradle-to-grave” means that from the moment you generate a hazardous waste, you must comply with stringent storage, labeling, employee training, and recordkeeping rules.

But what if your hazardous waste stops being hazardous waste at some point in the process? How do change the way you manage it without running afoul of the RCRA regulations?

When a Hazardous Waste is No Longer a Hazardous Waste  

It happens from time to time: You generate some hazardous waste. You count it, store it, record it, label it, and manage it in a central accumulation area. Then, somehow, some way, the waste is no longer regulated under RCRA.

This can happen; and it happens in five major ways:
  1. You find a customer a chemical byproduct at the last minute. Example: You have baghouse dust from an air filter that a third party wants to purchase as an ingredient in insulation. Now that a buyer wants the product—it may no longer be a waste at all, let alone a hazardous waste.  See 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart A.
  1. You divert it to an on-site or off-site wastewater treatment unit for discharge under your NPDES or wastewater treatment permit. See 40 CFR 261.4(a)(1) and (a)(2).
  1. Natural processes outside of your control or influence (fermentation, evaporation, gravity separation, etc.) change the contents and character of the waste, rendering it non-hazardous.
  1. You neutralize or de-characterize the material, without a permit, using a recognized method. See 40 CFR 270.1 and 45 FR 72026.
  1. You treat the waste to render it non-hazardous under a treatment permit.
Note: As always when it comes to hazardous waste—state rules may vary. State hazardous waste rules must be at least as stringent as the Federal RCRA regulations, but states are not required to adopt every exclusion put in place by EPA.

Check your state regulations to see which of these exclusions are available to generators in your state.

Your Waste is No Longer Hazardous. Now What?

man_hardhat_reading_paper_report_126653363.jpgOnce you’ve met one of the above conditions—congratulations. Your waste is no longer a hazardous waste. But that doesn’t mean the job is done.

To make sure you remain in compliance with RCRA and defend your decision to “de-regulate” your waste, you must document what happened clearly.
  1. Adjust future inventory records to reflect that some amount of hazardous waste is no longer there. Don’t erase last month’s records, but don’t include the removed waste in next month’s count.
  2. Create a “one-time Notice to File” to keep on site. This document accounts for the waste that was subject to regulation, but became excluded later. The One-Time Notice must describe the generation of the material (including the dates and the amount(s) generated), the subsequent exclusion from regulation, and the disposition of the waste (i.e. where the waste ended up). 
  3. Remove “HAZARDOUS WASTE” container labels and instead label your container(s) per the terms of the applicable exclusion in 40 CFR 261 Subpart A, or per OSHA Hazard Communication rules. 

“Hazardous” does not have to be a lifetime sentence for your waste. By knowing the exclusions and reliefs available to you, you can minimize the volume of hazardous waste your site manages, cut treatment and disposal costs, and even find new revenue streams. But as with all things environmental compliance, attention to detail is critical. Make sure you meet all your recordkeeping requirements so you can defend your decisions—to an auditor, an inspector, or your boss—when the time comes.  

Advanced RCRA Training Returns for 2018

Want to know more about exclusions and reliefs you can use to cut costs, minimize waste, and streamline your operations? The Advanced RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Workshop Returns hits the road this January, with stops in Orlando, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, New Jersey, Nashville, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Houston, and Philadelphia in 2018.

Advanced RCRA in Orlando—Jan. 26

Get out of the cold and join us in Orlando for Advanced RCRA training on January 26 at the Hilton Garden Inn at SeaWorld.

This Advanced RCRA training workshop brings together experienced environmental professionals in a discussion-driven atmosphere to talk challenges, success stories, and best practices to minimizing waste without sacrificing safety or the environment.  

Tags: Act, Clean, hazardous waste, RCRA, RCRA Training, waste minimization, Water

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