How and Why Your RCRA Generator Status Can Change

Posted on 11/16/2020 by Ross Kellogg, CHMM

The RCRA hazardous waste management regulations require every generator to determine their generator status on a monthly basis (40 CFR 262.13). When determining your generator status, you must count all of your hazardous waste at the “point of generation,” unless it is specifically excluded.

Because RCRA lists separate generator status thresholds for hazardous waste, acutely hazardous waste, and spill clean-up materials from acutely hazardous waste, it’s not unusual for your generator status to change from month depending on exactly what you generate.

Refresher: Generator Status Thresholds

Under RCRA, generator status is based on the amount of hazardous waste generated per month. Large Quantity Generators or LQGs are subject to the most stringent hazardous waste management requirements.
RCRA Generator Status  Amount Per Month
Large Quantity Generator (LQG) 1,000 kg or more; or
>1 kg acute hazardous waste
Small Quantity Generator (SQG)  >100 kg but <1,000 kg
Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG)*  100 kg or less; and
1 kg or less acute hazardous waste
*Formerly known as Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators or CESQG (More). 

What Could Change My Generator Status?

The volume of hazardous waste your site produces in a given month can vary for many reasons. You may have had an extra productive month, for example, or a change in operations may lead to increased production.

Or, a spill or accident may generate additional waste that vaults you to a higher generator status.

Regardless of the reason, the EPA requires you to do a monthly count of these waste as described under 40 CFR 262.13. It is helpful to keep a running count of your wastes as you produce them, so that you know how much you have and are not surprised by a status change at the end of the month.

What If I Go Up a Generator Status?

Let’s start by looking at the first month in which you would be required to change your status. To keep things simple, we will assume your wastes are not somehow excluded from counting (e.g. by the new episodic generation exclusion introduced in the Generator Improvements Rule–more on this later).

If in June you generated 600 kg of hazardous waste, you would be a small quantity generator (SQG) of hazardous waste. 

If in July you exceed the LQG threshold of 1,000 kg per month or the 1 kg threshold for acute hazardous waste, all of July’s waste would have to be managed under the requirements for LQGs at 40 CFR 262.17.

The requirements for LQGs include, among other things, RCRA training for personnel and a 90-day time limit on storage on site. Again, the LQG requirements would apply to all of the waste you generated in the month, not just the amount that’s “over” the threshold.

Once you have been required to change your status, it is possible that if it was not a permanent operational change you could then lower your generator status. If you reduce your waste production sufficiently you could manage the waste in the subsequent months under the reduced regulation. However, some states may require you to prove that you have in fact changed generator status. And if you would be a LQG multiple non-consecutive months, they likely will not allow you to continually change your status.

Do I Have to Formally Change my Generator Status?

According to EPA Form 8700-12, yes.
8700-12 is the form that you used to notify the EPA and your state environmental regulatory agency of your hazardous waste activities and through which you were given an EPA Identification Number for your site. It's also the form that you must resubmit for a change in generator status.
The Form’s instructions clearly state, “You must use this form to submit a subsequent notification if your site already has an EPA Identification Number and you wish to change information (e.g., generator status, new site, contact person, new owner, new mailing address, new regulated waste activity, etc.).” (Emphasis ours)
While this is not a regulatory requirement per se, based on these directions you would use Form 8700-12 to update your status whether you went up a status (e.g., from SQG to LGQ) or down a status (e.g., from LQG to SQG).
Some states use a state-specific form in place of EPA’s Form 8700-12, as well as their own deadlines for submitting or revising their form. Check with your state to determine if there are state-specific requirements.

Lion Members can find summaries of state-specific requirements in the Member Area of
Get RCRA training with an instructor in Lion's signature two-day style!
The next RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Webinar happens December 9–10. 

Relief for Episodic Events

In its Generator Improvements Rule, US EPA added a provision to provide relief for “episodic events” that would otherwise impact a facility’s generator status.
EPA defines “episodic event” as “an activity that does not normally occur during generator operations and results in generation of hazardous wastes that exceeds the calendar month quantity limits for the generator's usual category" (40 CFR 262.231).  

Episodic events may be planned or unplanned. Examples of planned episodic events include lab or tank cleanouts, short-term maintenance projects, and removal of excess inventory. Examples of unplanned episodic events include a spill, damaged equipment, or a product recall.
Read more: How to Use the New RCRA Relief for Episodic Events
While every state is required to adopt the Generator Improvements Rule, at least in part, not every state has yet done so. States must maintain a hazardous waste program that is at least as stringent as the Federal RCRA regulations. Because the new relief for episodic events makes the regulations less stringent, states can choose to adopt the relief or not. Check to see if your state provides some relief for episodic events.

In states that have adopted the new relief, a VSQG or SQG can experience an episodic event without resubmitting Form 8700-12. There are, however, notification requirements that go along with claiming this relief.

Once again, you will want to check your state regulations to see what reliefs are available and how best to submit the required information.

Permanent Changes to Generator Status

For permanent status changes, the Form 8700-12 would have to be revised. If your site is a VSQG subject to the RCRA rules in 40 CFR 262.14, you may have to use Form 8700-12 to obtain an EPA ID number if you do not already have one.  Without obtaining an EPA ID number, you would not be able to properly ship your wastes for treatment, among other issues.

4 Tips to Keep Your Status Steady

Since changing your generator status can mean additional training, inspections, waste hauling, and onsite management procedures, it can be helpful to be prepared. Here are four quick tips to keep your generator status steady. 
  • Look ahead at your production schedules for spikes and increased demand
  • Have spill mitigation plans that can minimize additional waste production
  • Find areas to preemptively reduce your hazardous waste production, and
  • Know your state specific rules for things like:
    • Episodic generation
    • Updating generator status
By planning ahead, you can take steps to prevent a change in generator status or at least prepare for it and determine how you will stay in compliance.

Only 2 More Live RCRA Refreshers Left in 2020!

Catch one of the final RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Refresher webinars of the year to keep your annual RCRA certification up to date. Keep up on new and changing RCRA standards for container storage, contingency planning, and hazardous waste reporting that impact your site. 

Or train at your own pace, on any device, with the RCRA Hazardous Waste Management online course or RCRA Refresher online course.  

Tags: hazardous waste management, RCRA

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