What Are the Underlying Hazardous Constituents the Land Disposal Restrictions Make You Treat For?

Posted on 5/22/2012 by James Griffin

Section 3004(m) of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act prohibits the land disposal of any hazardous waste unless it has been treated to minimize short- and long-term threats to human health and the environment. The EPA specifies waste treatment standards in 40 CFR Part 268—“Land Disposal Restrictions.” For most wastes, the treatment standard is to minimize the concentration of the constituent(s) that made the waste hazardous in the first place. For wastes with significant characteristics (D-codes), the waste must also “meet § 268.48 standards” by being treated for all underlying hazardous constituents. 
For any given hazardous waste, the “underlying hazardous constituents” (UHC) are any constituents listed in the Universal Treatment Standards (UTS) table (40 CFR 268.48) which can reasonably be expected to be present at the point of generation at a concentration above the UTS level. [40 CFR 268.2(i)]
For example, if a hazardous waste contains 1 ppm of lead at the point of generation (above the 0.75 ppm universal treatment standard), then lead is an underlying hazardous constituent for that waste, and the waste must be treated to reduce or immobilize that lead content before land disposal, even though the hazardous waste characteristic for lead (D008) only applies once the lead content is above 5 ppm. [40 CFR 261.24]
When the EPA first promulgated treatment standards for characteristic (D-coded) hazardous wastes, the Agency felt that simply treating the waste to remove the characteristic (ignitibility, corrosivity, reactivity, etc.) would be enough to make it safe to land dispose. However, several environmental groups and members of the waste management industry thought those standards insufficient and sued. In 1992, the D.C. Circuit Court agreed with the petitioners and vacated those treatment standards. [Chemical Waste Management, Inc. et al. v. EPA 976 F. 2d 2.]
In response to that lawsuit, the EPA created the Universal Treatment Standards in 1993. [May 24, 1993, 58 FR 29860] From then on, whenever a characteristic hazardous waste was going to be land disposed, it first must be treated to reduce the concentration of any underlying hazardous characteristic to below the levels in the UTS table.
The UTS table lists every possible hazardous constituent that could be present in a hazardous waste or cause it to be regulated in the first place. It lists over 150 organic chemicals and a dozen toxic inorganic compounds and sets a maximum concentration of each constituent. This list and the concentration levels were based on pre-existing treatment standards for “multi-source leachate” (F039). 
Multi-source leachate is liquid that has percolated through a landfill and become contaminated with all the wastes within. When you treat hazardous waste to remove UHCs, you are making sure that the waste that goes into the landfill is already cleaner than the dirtiest contaminated groundwater that can come out of a hazardous waste landfill. 
Learn a 5-step process to LDR compliance at Lion’s Land Disposal Restrictions Webinar. Designed to satisfy the EPA’s training standard for hazardous waste generators at 40 CFR 262.11 and 268.7, this webinar provides guidance on selecting treatment and disposal methods and finding alternative treatment standards that can save your facility time and money.

Tags: hazardous, LDR, RCRA, treatment, waste

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