On November 28, 2016, the EPA published its Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule, finalizing a much-needed update to the 30-year old Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste generator regulations.  The Rule includes over 60 changes to the hazardous waste generator regulations to make them easier to understand, which will presumably increase compliance, and provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed. The Rule will affect more than 500,000 industrial entities in virtually every industrial sector that generate hazardous waste regulated under the RCRA Subtitle C regulations.

Of the over 60 changes, the following are to be noted:

  • ­Reorganization. The Rule reorganizes and consolidates most all of the generator regulatory program into 40 CFR Part 262.
  • Clarifications.  EPA is confirming and clarifying some program requirements that were never formally implemented, for example:
    • A generator’s hazardous waste determination must be accurate and made at its point of generation before any dilution, mixing or alteration.  However, the Rule does not require documentation of non-hazardous waste determinations.
    • Generators can use “generator knowledge” to determine whether a listed and/or characteristic hazardous waste has been generated.
    • A generator can only be in one category for a calendar month.  Definitions of “acute hazardous waste” and “non-acute hazardous waste” have been added to aid in determining a regulatory category.
    • Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators (LQG) must identify and mark RCRA waste codes on containers prior to sending hazardous waste off-site.
  • Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG). Previously known as “conditionally exempt small quantity generators,” a VSQG can now send their hazardous waste to LQGs under the control of the same person to allow consolidation before sending it on to management at a RCRA-designated facility.
  • Episodic Generation. The Rule addresses “episodic generation” of hazardous waste, which can occur during a planned event (i.e., periodic maintenance such as tank cleanouts) or unplanned event (i.e. production upset conditions, spill, acts of nature).  In these cases, a VSQG and SQG can maintain their existing generator category and avoid the increased requirements of a higher generator status, provided there is only one event per calendar year with the ability to petition for a second event, and certain notification requirements and duration limits are met.
  • Labeling.  Containers and tank labels must be marked with the words “Hazardous Waste” and indicate the hazards of the contents of the containers using any of several established methods, such as DOT hazard communication, OSHA hazard statement or pictogram, NFPA chemical hazard label or RCRA characteristic.  A description of the actual contents of the containers and tanks is not being required.
  • 50-foot Property Line Requirement. LQGs can now apply for a waiver from the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) over the fire code when they are unable to meet the 50-foot property line requirement for the accumulation of ignitable or reactive waste.
  • Notification.  LQGs must notify EPA or the authorized state no later than 30 days prior to closing their facility and within 90 days after closing their facility to confirm that it has complied with closure performance standards.  SQGs must re-notify EPA starting in 2021 and every four years thereafter.

These and other changes are discussed in more detail in an EPA webinar that can be accessed here.

The Rule is effective May 30, 2017 for Iowa, Alaska, the territories and tribal lands.  The rest of the states, which are currently authorized to run the RCRA program in their states, will have to incorporate the more stringent provisions from the Rule by July 1, 2018 (or by July 1, 2019 if legislative changes are needed) to maintain their authorized status and can choose to incorporate the less or equally stringent provisions at any time.