Feature Article: Find Out More About Hazardous Waste Regulations

Posted on 11/22/2011 by James Griffin

The Resource Conservation Recovery Act Is a Complex Law
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is a complex law that serves as the Federal basis for waste management everywhere in the country. Only a small part of the Act (Subtitle C) covers hazardous waste, and then only in broad strokes.
Understanding the law is not enough; the regulations that explain and enforce the law [40 CFR Parts 260-279] are themselves more than a thousand pages long, and even that is still not always enough.
 Sometimes, the hazardous waste regulations do not adequately address all situations. So if you are unsure how the regulations apply to your operation, what do you do?
The Federal Register
Whenever the EPA creates a new regulation, or modifies an old one, the law requires the Agency to explain itself. These explanations appear in the preamble to a new or proposed rule when it is published in the Federal Register. In many cases, when you find a regulation unclear or difficult to apply to a particular scenario, it is useful to refer to the preamble to see what EPA thought it meant when it said what it said.
For example: The EPA allows small quantity generators to accumulate hazardous waste for up to 270 days if they “…must transport his waste…over a distance of 200 miles or more for offsite treatment, storage, or disposal…” [40 CFR 262.34(e), emphasis added]. However, when promulgating the small quantity generator rules in 1986, the EPA specifically said that generators could send waste to a far away TSDF (and take advantage of the longer accumulation time) even if closer TSD facilities were available. Without knowing about the preamble, the word “must” in the regulations can be read more proscriptively than it is intended.
If you are unsure how to apply the regulations to a particular situation, you can always contact the EPA and ask a representative to interpret the regulations for you. You can also check to see if they have ever interpreted this situation before. Make sure to get the EPA’s response in writing for recordkeeping purposes.
The U.S. EPA has been answering questions about hazardous waste, and the hazardous waste regulations, since 1980. The Agency keeps a selection of letters of interpretation, guidance documents, and other publications in a free online database called “RCRA ONLINE.”
Keep in mind that letters of interpretation are not substitutes for regulation. Each letter is a specific response to a unique situation and cannot always be transferred to other times and places. And as often as the RCRA regulations are amended, a new letter may supersede an old one.
State Rules May Vary
One aspect of the hazardous waste regulations that can create great confusion is state authorization. Under RCRA, each U.S. state can create its own hazardous waste management program, as long as that program is at least as stringent as Federal standards. Most states don’t create too many extra or different regulations, but each enforcement agency will have its own policies and priorities about how to enforce the rules. These policies may be different from Federal interpretations and may or may not be written down.
When it comes to hazardous waste, it always pays to check with your State-level authorities, as well as with the U.S. EPA.

Tags: hazardous, RCRA, waste

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

Excellent course. Very interactive. Explanations are great whether you get the questions wrong or right.

Gregory Thompson

Environmental, Health & Safety Regional Manager

Lion does a great job summarizing and communicating complicated EH&S-related regulations.

Michele Irmen

Sr. Environmental Engineer

Well designed and thorough program. Excellent summary of requirements with references. Inclusion of regulations in hard copy form, as well as full electronic with state pertinent regulations included is a great bonus!

Oscar Fisher

EHS Manager

Given the choice, I would do all coursework this way. In-person courses go very fast without the opportunity to pause or repeat anything.

Ellen Pelton

Chemical Laboratory Manager

I can't say enough how pleased I was with this course! Everything finally makes sense.

Kim Graham

Lab Manager

The course is well thought out and organized in a way that leads to a clearer understanding of the total training.

David Baily

Hazmat Shipping Professional

You blew the doors off the competition!

Stephen Bieschke

Facilities Manager

I like Lion's workshops the best because they really dig into the information you need to have when you leave the workshop.

Tom Bush, Jr.

EHS Manager

I have attended other training providers, but Lion is best. Lion is king of the hazmat jungle!!!

Henry Watkins

Hazardous Waste Technician

The exercises in the DOT hazardous materials management course are especially helpful in evaluating your understanding of course information.

Morgan Bliss

Principal Industrial Hygienist

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Get to know the top 5 changes to OSHA’s revised GHS Hazard Communication Standard at 29 CFR 1910.1200 and how the updates impacts employee safety at your facility.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.