Best Management Practices for Documenting Waste Identification

Posted on 10/25/2016 by James Griffin

To properly manage the waste your site generates, you must first determine if that waste is considered hazardous under EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In order to determine whether a solid waste is hazardous under RCRA, you may need to go above and beyond your knowledge of the material by running tests or analyzing data. [40 CFR 262.11]

When you take these steps to identify a hazardous waste, accurate and complete recordkeeping is absolutely crucial. The waste ID records you keep serve critical purposes like:
  • Justifying your waste identification decisions;
  • Proving that you qualify for cost-saving exclusions; and
  • Identifying Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) treatment standards.
Let's talk about RCRA recordkeeping.

How Long Should I Keep Waste ID Records?

If you identify a waste to be hazardous, you must keep records of any test results, waste analyses, or other determinations for at least three years from the date the waste was last sent to an off-site treatment, storage, or disposal facility. Even if you're just using generator knowledge and not running tests, keeping records of your data and decision process is still a best management practice. [40 CFR 262.40(c)]

Claiming Exclusions from RCRA Hazardous Waste Rules

Hazardous waste generators employ a variety of methods to manage hazardous secondary materials in a way that helps avoid some or all of the most burdensome RCRA requirements. These various RCRA exclusions, most of which pertain to recycling, are mostly found in 40 CFR 261, Subpart A.

However, whenever you claim a material is not a solid waste or is otherwise excluded from regulation as hazardous waste, you must demonstrate that your site meets the terms and conditions of the exclusion through appropriate documentation. [40 CFR 261.2(f)-(g)]

Special Case: Legitimate Recycling

One special case here is "legitimate recycling." In many cases, when generators recycle a hazardous secondary material, they must establish that the recycling is legitimate and not a sham. Legitimate recycling is recycling that:
  • Provides a useful contribution.
  • Produces a valuable product.
  • Manages hazardous secondary materials as valuable commodity, not costly waste.
  • Produces a comparable product.
If the product of a recycling process has levels of hazardous constituents that are not comparable with legitimate products produced with virgin materials, then the recycler and generator can still claim the recycling as legitimate (and not the sham disposal of hazardous waste) if they can document the product's safety. [40 CFR 260.43] Again, accurate recordkeeping is the key.

LDR Determinations

Before disposing of hazardous waste, generators must ensure the waste is treated to standards in 40 CFR 268 or diverted to another regulatory management strategy like incineration/burning under Clean Air Act or wastewater treatment under the Clean Water Act. The Land Disposal Restrictions (LDRs) of 40 CFR 268 require generators to record and report on a certification/notification whether the waste meet LDR standards or not or if the waste is eligible for exclusion and does not need to be treated to meet LDR standards.
Generators must keep all notices, certifications, waste analyses, and other documentation generated as part of this process for at least three years from the date the waste was last sent to an off-site treatment, storage, or disposal facility. [40 CFR 268.7]

Three Parts of a Complete Waste Dossier

No matter what you're doing with your hazardous wastes, whether you're recycling or incinerating, or shooting it off in a rocket to the moon, you'll be generating paperwork, and you'll need to keep those records.

Just because there are several distinct recordkeeping requirements—to say nothing of implicit requirements for waste generation records—doesn't mean you have to keep multiple records.

If you plan your work ahead of time, you can create one dossier that fulfills all these requirements.

The first part of the dossier should be a general description of the waste, including elements like:
  • A visual description of the waste.
  • The generating process.
  • The point-of-generation.
  • Physical and/or chemical properties of the waste.
  • The approximate quantity/rate of generation. Raw materials that make up, or contaminants that may find their way into, the waste.
The second part of your waste dossier should include detailed characterization information:
  • Significant constituents of the waste (40 CFR 268.48), with concentrations/percentages if known
  • Calculations of amount quantity of each component material expected to end up in the waste
  • Discussion of chemical reaction(s) undergone by raw materials in the process that lead to the generation of waste
  • Detailed physical and chemical analyses of the waste (flash point, pH, viscosity, volatility, fuel value, TCLP, halogen content, etc.)
  • Treatability studies, is it a wastewater or non-wastewater, is it in a subcategory (40 CFR 268.40)
The third part follows from the second and is based on the constituents, physical properties, and treatability data:
  • Is this waste hazardous? If yes, which codes apply? [40 CFR 261.21 to 261.33]
  • Do the LDR treatment standards apply? If yes, which ones? [40 CFR 268.40 to 268.48]
  • Does the waste contain high levels of VOCs? Does this trigger air emission controls for storage? [40 CFR 265, Subparts AA, BB, CC]
  • Does the waste contain any CERCLA designated hazardous substances? If yes, what is the reportable quantity RQ of the waste? [40 CFR 302.4]
  • What is the DOT hazard class and shipping name? [49 CFR 172.101]
By keeping complete and accurate records of your solid and hazardous waste ID decision making, your site will be in a better position to defend against US EPA fines and claims of noncompliance. Follow the steps above to create a waste dossier that will help you record (and possibly prove) what's in your waste, where it came from, the LDR treatment standards that apply, the exclusions it qualifies for, and much more.

Lion's Advanced Hazardous Waste Training Returns for 2017!

Back for 2017, the one-day Advanced RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Workshop is designed for experienced EHS professionals who want to discuss challenges, successes, and new strategies for controlling costs and minimizing waste. We know the caliber of the professional who attends this workshop, and we can say that the expertise on display here will rival any industry conference or course you attend next year.

See the 2017 schedule and sign up now! The first Advanced workshop will be held in Orlando on January 25.

Tags: ., hazardous waste, RCRA, Waste ID

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