RCRA Generator Exemptions: 3 Case Studies

Posted on 9/20/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

Any company that treats, stores, or disposes of hazardous waste must have a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit—unless they qualify for an exclusion.

Tens of thousands of facilities are excluded from the permit requirement. These facilities are generators who accumulate hazardous waste on site in compliance with all of the conditions for exemption detailed in 40 CFR…
  • 262.14 for very small quantity generators (VSQG),
  • 262.15 for hazardous waste satellite areas,
  • 262.16 for small quantity generators (SQG), and
  • 262.17 for large quantity generators (LQG).

When they comply with all the conditions for their generator category, the generator is not required to obtain a RCRA permit. Violate those conditions, and the generator will be considered an unpermitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF) by US EPA for enforcement purposes.

A small quantity generator that fails to comply with the management standards in 262.16, for example, might be cited for failure to obtain a RCRA permit, failure to provide annual RCRA training for personnel, failure to maintain a written contingency plan, and violations of other rules from which an SQG is typically exempt. 

As EPA put it in the preamble to the Generator Improvements Rule: 

“The primary legal consequence of not complying with the condition for exemption is that the generator who accumulates waste on site can be charged with operating a non-exempt storage facility. A generator operating a storage facility without exemption is subject to, and potentially in violation of, many storage permit and operations requirements in [40 CFR] parts 124, 264 through 269, and 270.”
In three recent enforcement cases, US EPA levied civil penalties generators for alleged failure to comply with all the conditions for exemption for their generator category.

1. A lubricating oils and greases manufacturer

Civil penalty: $255,344

This large quantity generator allegedly failed to:
  • Properly label hazardous waste containers;
  • Maintain required aisle space in their Central Accumulation Area (CAA);
  • Monitor and inspect pumps and valves, and minimize hazardous waste air emissions as required when storing volatile organics; and
  • Identify an emergency coordinator.
The facility also stored hazardous waste longer than the 90 days allowed by the regulations.

The permitting exclusions are at 40 CFR 270.1(c)(2). Subparagraph (i) excludes generators if they follow the LQG exemption. Since this generator did not comply with all the necessary conditions, they are considered an unpermitted TSDF.

2. Herbicide, plant food, and pesticides manufacturer

Civil penalty: $95,000

Company #2 did not comply with various hazardous waste storage tank requirements including conducting and documenting daily inspections. An inspector also found a crack in their secondary containment area.

As with company #1, the non-compliant storage device and failure to perform and document inspections also makes this facility an unpermitted TSDF.

3. Blood anticoagulant manufacturer

Civil penalty: $80,562

Company #3 did not:
  • Have a contingency plan for releases of hazardous waste*
  • Conduct and document hazardous waste training (annual training is required of “personnel”); and
  • Keep records.
Even the failure to create and maintain the required paperwork and train hazardous waste personnel under the LQG exemption pushes this facility into the status of a non-compliant, unpermitted TSDF.

*Note: US EPA’s Generator Improvements Rule created new RCRA contingency planning requirements for generators. The rule took effect in May 2017 and has since been adopted by most US states.

RCRA Generator Training–In-person or Online 24/7

RCRA personnel trainingWhen you complete a RCRA hazardous waste workshop, webinar, or online course at, you learn what you need to know to manage your site’s hazardous waste in full compliance with the latest RCRA regulations. 

Develop the expertise to navigate and apply the complex rules for generators, and take away reference materials, exclusive resources, and tools for ongoing compliance support. With knowledge and a commitment to excellence, you can prevent these violations at your facility and protect your company from costly civil penalties that increase every year.

Tags: hazardous waste management, RCRA

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