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Final Rule Alert: EPA Modernizes RCRA Ignitable Haz Waste Determinations

Posted on 6/22/2020 by Roger Marks

Update 07/07/20: EPA's Final Rule to modernize the testing standards for ignitable hazardous wastes appeared in the Federal Register on July, 7, 2020. 

The Final Rule takes effect on September 8, 2020. 
US EPA has finalized a rule that gives generators more flexibility to determine whether wastes and emissions meet the RCRA ignitability characteristic (D001).

The rule updates the flash point test methods in 40 CFR 260.11 to allow the use of non-mercury thermometers. In the past, only mercury thermometers could be used.

This rulemaking does not change the classification criteria for an ignitable waste. It simply gives generators more, safer options for testing wastes to determine whether they display the ignitability characteristic.

In addition to adding flexibility to use non-mercury thermometers, the new rule also:
  • Narrows the exclusion for aqueous solutions by re-wording it in a more specific fashion;
  • Clarifies the requirements for testing multiphase materials; and
  • Incorporates modern consensus standards into the RCRA hazardous waste regulations.
To read more about the rulemaking, see our April 2019 blog about EPA’s proposal.

See EPA’s pre-publication copy of the Final Rule: Modernizing Ignitable Liquids Determinations

This post will be updated when EPA posts the Final Rule to the Federal Register. 

What’s wrong with the old ignitability test methods?

The existing test methods for ignitability were created in the late 70’s and require the use of mercury thermometers. Today, far fewer vendors sell or calibrate mercury thermometers, which makes them difficult to purchase and maintain.

In addition, because mercury containing equipment must be managed as universal waste, using them adds to the facility’s compliance burden.

What is an ignitable hazardous waste?

The RCRA hazardous waste regulations list four ways that a waste can meet the definition of a D001 ignitable.
Ignitable liquids are those with a flash point below 140*F (60*C).

Ignitable non-liquids are wastes that—in addition to being not liquid—are “capable, under standard temperature and pressure, of causing fire through friction, absorption of moisture or spontaneous chemical changes and, when ignited, burns so vigorously and persistently that it creates a hazard.”

Ignitable compressed gases is the most complex D001 category, with determinations involving measurement of absolute pressure, vapor pressure, mixture with air (by volume), and flammable range. A compressed gas can also carry the D001 code based on the results of specific Bureau of Explosives tests.

Ignitable oxidizers like a chlorate, permanganate, inorganic peroxide, or a nitrate also carry the D001 waste code because of their potential to yield oxygen. 

[See 40 CFR 261.21]

Ignitable vs. Flammable: What’s the Difference?

US DOT uses the word flammable to describe materials that pose a fire risk in transport. While the terms flammable and ignitable may sound interchangeable, each has a distinct regulatory definition. Not every D001 hazardous waste is regulated as a hazardous material in transportation. Likewise, a material that is not an ignitable hazardous waste may still meet US DOT’s criteria as a flammable hazardous material.

For more about the difference between ignitable wastes and flammable hazmat, read Are All D001 Wastes Flammable Hazmat?

Upcoming RCRA Refresher Training

Complete your annually-required RCRA training online, at your own pace hazardous waste trainingwith the RCRA Refresher online course.

Or, join a Lion instructor for a live, one-day RCRA refresher webinar. The RCRA Refresher webinar blends the learn-anywhere convenience of online training with the expert-led experience you expect from Lion. Take away detailed resources that will help you understand and apply Federal and State hazardous waste regulations long after the training ends.  

Need first-time RCRA training for a new employee? The RCRA Hazardous Waste Management online course has you covered. 

Tags: D001, flash point, hazardous waste management, new rules, RCRA

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