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Know Your Hazardous Waste Satellite Rules

Posted on 11/24/2015 by Roseanne Bottone

While the word "satellite" isn't mentioned in the hazardous waste regulations at 40 CFR 262.34(c), this is the term commonly used to refer to the rules that allow generators to manage hazardous waste at or near the point where waste initially accumulates. The satellite rules, also known as the "point-of-generation" rules, occupy only a few paragraphs and are open to a wide array of interpretation by inspectors and nuanced differences when codified by State RCRA programs.

General Satellite Area Container Rules

First, there are a few container management rules that are straightforward and don't vary based on the state you're in. Your hazardous waste containers must be in good condition, compatible with the waste, and kept closed except when it is necessary to add or remove waste.

The rest of the satellite rules, unfortunately, aren't so simple.

The 55 Gallon "Limit" for Satellite Areas

Generators may manage up to 55 gallons of non-acute hazardous waste, or 1 quart of acute hazardous waste, in containers without following the more stringent 90-/180-/270-day rules. The Federal regulations do not limit the generator to this quantity at a point of generation. In fact, later in the RCRA rules, there are requirements mandated for when these quantities are exceeded. In other words, the Federal regulations treat these quantities as triggers for additional management requirements, but allow generators to accumulate more than this at the point of generation.

RCRA hazardous waste satellite accumulation or storage area

However, many states consider the 55-gallon/1-quart quantity to be a limit, not allowing generators to exceed these quantities at the point of generation. States may require the generator to remove waste from the area before any new waste is generated. The Federal rules do not limit the capacity of a satellite-area container to 55 gallons/1 quart. Often, generators use larger devices like a roll-off at a point of generation. When the equivalent amount of waste is reached, the additional requirements kick into play. Some states, however, do limit the capacity of the storage container.

What Is the Point of Generation?

What exactly is a "point of generation"? That depends. One inspector may walk into a laboratory and consider all wastes generated in the room as coming from one point of generation. If that's the case, once a total of 55 gallons/1 quart of hazardous waste is generated in the entire lab, the additional requirements are triggered.

Another inspector might enter the same lab and consider a research station, an HPLC unit, and a storage cabinet in the laboratory to be three different points of generation. If so, he will allow the generator to accumulate up to 55 gallons/1 quart of hazardous waste at each point of generation.

"The Frisbee Rule" and the "Hold Your Breath" Rule

Also up for debate is the concept of "at or near." There is no definition for these terms in the hazardous waste regulations; they are highly subjective. Some inspectors employ figurative tactics to determine what "at" or "near" means—such as the "Frisbee rule" (i.e., how far can one throw a Frisbee? That's near enough); the "hold your breath rule" (i.e., how far away can you get while holding your breath?); and even the "line-of-sight" rule. While a tongue-in-cheek methodology, the point is that the inspector often decides what is appropriate based on individual scenarios.

What the inspector is looking for in particular is that the hazardous waste storage container is under the operator's control. Some base this on proximity, while others require locks or other safeguards that will prevent employees from damaging or knocking over the container or comingling wastes inadvertently.

Dating and Moving Containers in Satellite Areas

The Federal regulations do not require a date on the container until the previously mentioned quantities are exceeded. There is no time limit for how long a generator may take to reach that quantity either. Several states do require the indication of the date when the first drop/piece of waste is introduced into the container. Some states also limit the generator to keeping that waste at the satellite area to less than one year.

When the quantities are exceeded and the container is marked with that date, the Federal regulations require the generator to begin managing the hazardous waste under the 90-/180-/270-day rules within three days. Some states only allow one day. When the generator begins using the more stringent regulations, the container may be newly dated to begin the 90-/180-/270-day clock. Some states require the generator to keep the original date of excess on the container instead.

Know Your State Rules!

To be sure you are in compliance with the Federal and State hazardous waste rules that affect your site, it's crucial that you know what your State rules say. Don't rely on these rules to mirror the Federal requirements, because as shown here, they often don't. When in doubt, consult with your regional State RCRA inspectors to see how he or she typically interprets a particular situation. Lion Members can login here to view a summary of each US states' unique hazardous waste requirements

Nationwide RCRA Workshops for 2016

Meet US EPA's RCRA training requirement at nationwide, interactive workshops trusted since the 1977.The 2016 schedule for the Hazardous/Toxic Waste Management Workshop is available now! Get up to speed on the latest rules and restrictions that affect your site and be confident you know what it takes to ensure compliance. Attendees get one year of Membership, which includes access to resources that show how all 50 states' hazardous waste rules differ from Federal requirements, so you're never in doubt about what rules to follow.

Tags: hazardous waste, RCRA, satellite areas

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