Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), each state can operate its own hazardous waste regulatory program in lieu of Federal EPA standards. State-level programs must be at least as stringent as Federal regulations, but even when the rules are identical, the implementation can vary.
Federal Regulations Establish Satellite Waste Accumulation Option
At the Federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorizes generators of hazardous waste to accumulate hazardous waste in containers at or near its point of generation under the control of the operator of the waste-generating process. These areas, commonly called the satellite accumulation areas, are subject to less stringent requirements than for wastes in central accumulation areas (i.e., 90- or 180-day rules). [40 CFR 262.34(a)(1)]
States choosing to adopt the satellite accumulation option have the option under RCRA to be more stringent than the Federal requirements. The rules for satellite waste accumulation can vary widely between states. If you don’t comply with State laws, rules, or policies, the penalties and fines can be just as burdensome as violations of Federal standards. The following highlights some of the common State variations in implementing the satellite accumulation requirements.
State Variation of “At or Near”
Under Federal RCRA rules, you may initially accumulate your hazardous waste at or near the point where it was generated. The Federal rules do not have a definition of what constitutes “at or near.”
In the absence of an explicit definition of “at or near the point of generation,” what constitutes the “satellite accumulation area” is determined on a case-by-case basis by State or regional inspectors. Some states have a rule of thumb for maintaining containers “within the line of sight” or even within a certain distance from the point of generation. These rules of thumb may be found in the law, or regulation, but are often un-codified policies.
In addition, some states prohibit managing waste under the satellite rules in the same area or building where you have your central accumulation area.
In addition to following the Federal rules for satellite areas, your State environmental protection agency may require you to:
- Keep a map indicating where you are managing waste under the satellite rules or post signs where wastes are accumulated under the satellite rules,
- “Notify” your State agency when you begin/change managing waste under the satellite rules, or
- Maintain a certain distance between satellite areas.
State Variation Defining Storage Device
The traditional example of satellite accumulation is a single 55-gallon drum collecting waste from an industrial process 1 gallon at a time. Once filled, the container is moved to a central area until an economically significant number of drums can be shipped away. But, the satellite rules have been applied to many other types of situations.
Under Federal rules, you may manage your waste only in containers (i.e., any portable device). There is no limit stated as to the number of containers that you may have at a single satellite area, nor is there a size limit per container.
Some State agencies may restrict the size or number of containers in a satellite accumulation area.
State Variation of Container Management
Federal regulations state containers must be kept closed (except when necessary to add or remove waste), in good condition, and compatible with the waste. Since they must be under the operator’s control, the EPA exempts satellite containers from the weekly inspections required for containers managed in accordance with the 90-day or 180-day requirements. Different states may have some additional precautions, like posting “no smoking” signs or restrictions on location if you are storing incompatible materials or ignitable or reactive wastes. The State EPA may require you to do weekly inspections and to document those inspections.
Various State Hazardous Waste Markings
As stated above, when the first quantity of waste is placed in a container, Federal rules require that the container be marked with the words “hazardous waste” or other identifying words. Upon exceeding 55 gallons of hazardous waste (or 1 quart of acutely hazardous waste), the container with the excess must be dated and within three days moved to central storage or off site. There is no other time limit.
Quite commonly, states require both the words “hazardous waste” and other identifying words. Some states may also require waste codes indicated on the containers. While the EPA requires you to mark any container with a date once you exceed 55 gallons, some states require the date be placed on the container once 55 gallons have been accumulated. A state may require a date on the container when the first drop/piece of waste is placed in it, and then limit you to a one-year maximum time frame for accumulation.
State Variation of the Three-day Clock Rule
Under Federal rules, when you exceed the quantity limits and date the container, you have three days to begin managing the waste under the 90-/180-day rules or to ship it off site. When you begin managing the waste under the 90-/180-day rules, you replace satellite markings with those of the 90- or 180-day requirements, including the accumulation start date. This date indicates the initial date was subject to the 90- or 180-day accumulation time limit.
Some states require you to begin managing your waste under the 90-/180-day rules immediately upon reaching or exceeding 55 gallons or by the end of the work day—they do not give you a 3-day waiting period and consider the “upon exceeding” date to also start the 90-/180-day clock. Check to see if your state allows you to re-date when you begin the 90-/180-day accumulation time period; the answer will impact the way you need to handle your waste.
State Variations of Personnel Training
Although it would be a good management practice to do so, the Federal regulations do not require formal RCRA training for satellite operators.
Your state may require RCRA training and documentation for these operators. States may specify the requirement for a written plan, as well as a time frame for initial and review training.
Knowing your state’s unique hazardous waste regulations is critical to effective compliance. Lion Members get access to 50 State LionCasts—on-demand webinar presentations that cover key variations for each state. To access LionCasts, log in here
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