Retail Chain to Pay $375,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

Posted on 10/30/2017 by Roger Marks

A major department store will pay a $375,000 civil penalty and complete environmental projects to settle alleged violations of the RCRA hazardous waste regulations at 44 of its stores.

According to EPA, each store generated about 1,500 pounds of hazardous waste per month—enough to be regulated as a small quantity generator. However, based on EPA’s press release—it seems the company failed to provide adequate hazardous waste training, did not notify EPA or State agencies of its hazardous waste activities as required, and shipped hazardous waste without the appropriate Hazardous Waste Manifest documentation.

In addition to paying the six-figure civil penalty, the company must:
  • Develop and deliver a hazardous waste training program for other retailers;
  • Promote hazardous waste training to appropriate personnel;
  • Complete third-party audits of 11 stores in EPA Region 6; and                              
  • Share the RCRA audit results with its other 600+ locations.              

Hazardous Waste Challenges for the Retail Sector

This hazardous waste enforcement actions underscores the challanges retail stores face when it comes to hazardous waste management compliance. 

A typical industrial facility uses, stores, and disposes of the same chemicals day in and day out. Large retailers, on the other hand, may deal with millions of individual products that, when disposed of, may be hazardous wastes—perfumes, colognes, cosmetics, cleaning products, paints, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, electronics, returned batteries, and many more.
In retail stores, hazardous waste training is crucial to get employees up to speed on how to identify hazardous waste and how to manage it, store it, and arrange for disposal in compliance with RCRA.

This is especially true of large chains—where, as this example shows—EPA enforcement can often go beyond one facility to cover operations and hazardous waste mistakes at dozens of stores nationwide, leading to larger penalties and more burdensome environmental projects.

In September 2016, a grocery chain was fined $3.5 million for RCRA hazardous waste violations.

New Hazardous Waste Rules Impact on Retail Stores

As of May 31, 2017, updates to US EPA’s RCRA hazardous waste requirement are in effect. The revised RCRA rules include provisions that make compliance especially difficult for retail establishments.

For example, hazardous waste containers must now be marked with more specific information about the hazardous waste stored inside. The new container labeling rules apply to both large quantity and small quantity generators. Under the new RCRA rules, hazardous waste containers and tanks must be marked with:
  • The words “Hazardous Waste”;
  • “Other words that identify the contents of the container”; and 
  • An indication of the hazard of the contents.
For industrial facilities that manage the same waste streams each day, adding some markings to hazardous waste containers may be relatively simple. But for retail facilities—who may have a container filled with many different waste consumer products—this marking requirement may be a significant burden.

What’s so Different About Retail Hazardous Waste?

A retail facility doesn’t generate drums full of spent acetone or toluene the way a typical manufacturing plant would. Instead, a retail facility may generate wastes like various aerosol cans of different products, a collection of tiny cosmetics packages, a returned car battery, a few damaged paint cans, a leaking can of pesticide, and a defective lawnmower with gasoline in it—all in the same day. 

Properly identifying, storing, and labeling these disparate hazardous wastes in containers is a major burden, especially given the stringent new requirements. In the past, smaller items may have been consolidated in a container and the container simply labeled “Hazardous Waste.” Now, retailers must label hazardous waste based on hazard information that may or may not be obvious to employees sorting or arranging for the return, recycling, or disposal of the waste products.

Final RCRA Hazardous Waste Training of 2017

Meet US EPA’s hazardous waste training requirements at 40 CFR 262.17(a) when Lion Technology presents the nationally trusted RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Workshop in a city near you!  

Don’t miss the FINAL RCRA training workshops of 2017 in Boston on Nov. 30–Dec. 1, Manchester on Dec.4–5, Hartford on Dec. 7–8, New Jersey on December 11–12, and Philadelphia on December 13–14. 

Tags: EPA, fines and penalties, generator improvements, new rules, RCRA

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