The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently announced that it will be extending its COVID-19 Implications for Signing Paper Hazardous Waste Manifests policy (“Temporary COVID-19 Manifest Signature Policy” or “Policy”) until November 30, 2020.
On May 18, 2020, EPA issued its Temporary COVID-19 Manifest Signature Policy concerning how handlers of hazardous waste can address generator signatures on paper hazardous waste manifests during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Policy provides that if obtaining a generator signature on a paper manifest is not reasonably practicable, entities can use the electronic manifest. If the electronic manifest is not a viable option, then the Policy details steps that must be taken by both the transporter and generator. The Temporary COVID-19 Manifest Signature Policy was set to expire on August 31, 2020. EPA is extending the Policy, however, in light of some states experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases following efforts to reopen.
EPA was contacted by handlers of hazardous waste regarding the need for continued social distancing for regulated parties obtaining “wet” signatures on paper hazardous waste manifests. Given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, handlers believe continued social distancing is necessary to protect truck drivers and facility personnel. Therefore, EPA concluded that the Temporary COVID-19 Manifest Signature Policy should continue to be available, subject to a few changes.
EPA’s announcement contains three changes from the May 18, 2020 Temporary COVID-19 Manifest Signature Policy: (1) shortening the phrase transporters or designated facilities should write in Box 15, for generator signature, to address space limitations on the manifest form; (2) changing the reference to the EPA policies about signatures on manifests during the COVID-19 public health emergency in the generator’s signature substitute; and (3) removing language referencing the Temporary COVID-19 Enforcement Policy regarding how generators and transporters should maintain documentation.
Going forward, if obtaining a generator signature on a paper manifest is not reasonably practicable, entities should still use the electronic manifest. If the electronic manifest is not a practical option, however, then the following steps must be taken:
- The transporter should write the name of the generator in Box 15 and, under “Signature,” should write “COVID-19 signature substitute” or abbreviated as “COVID-19 sig. sub.”;
- The generator should provide a signature substitute in a(n) cell phone text message, email, or hard copy letter mailed to the transporter and designated facility. The generator should use one document/transmittal to cover all manifest activities per transporter/designated facility throughout the duration of this temporary policy; and
- The transporter or designated facility should write in Box 14 of the manifest “documentation for generator signature substitute available upon request.”
Generators and transporters taking the steps outlined above should maintain this documentation for three years from the last shipment needing a signature substitute.
When the Policy is terminated on November 30, 2020, transporters and generators should expect to return to compliance with pre-COVID-19 signature requirements for paper hazardous waste manifests.