RCRA regulations on hazardous waste management protect the environment and human health. Understanding RCRA regulations protects generators from incurring heavy fines and facing lawsuits and criminal prosecution. Here are some of the most common mistakes companies make that lead to heavy fines for noncompliance. We covered common errors #1-3 last week, so be sure to check out our last post, “Top 8 Most Common Violations of RCRA Regulations: Part I”.
Error 4: Improper labeling.
Because generators often possess many containers (and many employees handling them) there is a lot of room for error when it comes to proper labeling. Hazardous waste containers in a 90- or 180-day storage area should be labeled with the words “Hazardous Waste,” an identification of the type of waste, and an accumulation date, which should be re-checked regularly. Employees should also consider tracking and logging container inspections and dates. Different states have different rules around how containers should be labeled, so be sure to understand your state requirements.
If your facility stores used oil, be sure to label the container or pipes used to transfer any used oil with the words “Used Oil.”
Error 5: Open (or leaking) containers.
Across all states, laws are consistent regarding closing containers – they must be properly closed except while adding or removing waste. Facilities are also responsible for maintaining hazardous waste containers so there are no ruptures or leaks. Funnels, bungs, drum rings, bolts and more must be regularly inspected to make sure they are properly closed and in working order. If the container tips over, it is considered open. Be sure to document your inspections and remove and replace any containers that are rusting, cracking or leaking in order to avoid fines and violations.
Error 6: Failing to comply with regulations on ignitable, reactive, incompatible and expired wastes.
Facilities managers must be aware of federal, state and local rules regarding these types of hazardous wastes to avoid heavy fines. Incompatible wastes must be stored in separate containers and separate storage areas. Ignitable and reactive wastes should be stored away from ignition or reaction sources like flames, heat or machinery. Be sure to document and properly dispose of expired chemicals or risk incurring heavy fines – something which large facilities like laboratories, hospitals and universities are especially at risk for violating.
Error 7: Lacking hazardous determinations on file.
All hazardous wastes generated at your facility must have an accompanying hazardous waste determination on file. The most common violations around determinations include keeping outdated or discontinued chemicals at your facility, failing to list wastes at any time during the course of your hazardous waste’s management, or failing to keep copies of determinations. Start by making a list of all the hazardous waste your company generates (remember, this must include hazardous wastes at any time in the course of management including before, during and after any dilution, mixing or altering). Next, find out whether any exemptions apply to your wastes, then categorize your wastes as either “listed” or “characteristic” hazardous wastes. Ultimately, the purpose of your hazardous waste determination is to identify and document properties and characteristics of your waste streams, which may require testing.
Error 8: Failure to have a contingency plan.
Generators of all size are required to maintain contingency plans, which describes the actions employees must take in response to fires, explosions, or unplanned release of hazardous waste to air, soil, or surface water. It is a program in which employees must be trained and a documented plan to protect human health and the environment. In such an emergency, plans will vary by company, but all generators must assign one or more people to act as emergency coordinator. Location of emergency equipment and emergency telephones should be documented, as well as actions each employee should take should an emergency occur. For larger quantity generators, requirements also include detailed contact information for your emergency coordinator, document submittals to local authorities, and the contingency plan document should be located onsite and reviewed frequently. Generators most frequently fail to keep their contingency plan updated to be consistent with their current operations. Be sure to frequently review your contingency plans with your emergency coordinator and all employees so everyone is prepared.
Ultimately, it is up to you, the generator, to make sure you comply with RCRA and state and local requirements for managing your hazardous wastes. If you realize you are making one of these common errors, take action today, and reach out to the experts at Enviro-Safe Resource Recovery for support.