How to Avoid Nine Expensive Hazardous Waste Violations
Keeping up with hazardous waste management regulations such as the RCRA may seem like a complex task.
- By Amanda Wilson
- Aug 31, 2020
Managing hazardous waste while keeping up with various Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations can be complicated for many businesses. The standards and regulations concerning hazardous waste management and disposal are stringent and cannot be taken lightly.
Businesses, when pursued and fined by state and federal agencies, can lose millions of dollars for violating regulations. Here are some common hazardous waste violations that your company should be aware of and must proactively avoid:
Improper Labeling of Hazardous Waste
A lot of hazardous waste generators label hazardous waste incorrectly, and some don’t label them at all. No label on the waste, improper information on the label, missing DOT placard labels, or wrong waste determination information are all considered violations.
To avoid this violation, hazardous waste labels must have the following information:
- The words ‘HAZARDOUS WASTE’
- The name and address of the facility generating hazardous waste
- Waste accumulation start date
- The identity or source of the waste
- Composition of the hazardous waste
- Classification of the hazardous waste (such as toxic, corrosive, flammable or reactive)
- The physical state of the waste (such as liquid or solid)
Failure to Perform Hazardous Waste Determinations
Violations occur when hazardous waste generators fail to perform tests and determine if the waste is hazardous by checking if:
- The material is a solid waste
- The waste is specifically excluded from the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA)
- The waste is a listed hazardous waste or special waste
- It exhibits characteristics of hazardous waste
Hazardous waste generators must properly determine the waste generated according to RCRA standards through analytical testing. Businesses can use the HWID (Hazardous Waste identification process) to identify hazardous waste being generated along with their characteristics and properties.
Improper Management and Disposal of Hazardous Waste
Dumping hazardous waste into sewer systems or at landfills is not permitted and can result in hefty fines by the regulatory bodies.
To reduce the risk of regulatory fines, your businesses should have the proper procedures and license for waste disposal. Make a contract with reputable and licensed hazardous waste disposal professionals who have the knowledge of hazardous waste management regulations and can provide proper documentation along with proof of disposal.
Ensure that your employees are trained to properly and legally handle hazardous waste disposal and are familiar with emergency procedures.
Expired chemicals from laboratories and educational institutions are also hazardous and need to be tracked and discarded according to federal and state guidelines.
Failure to Follow Proper Hazardous Waste Manifest Procedures
The Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest is a document that accompanies the hazardous waste during generation, transportation, final treatment, storage, and disposal. Generators must keep a copy of each signed manifest and ensure it is regularly sent to the regulatory and federal bodies such as the EPA and the DOT. Failure to do so can lead to huge penalties.
Some common errors made by companies while filling out manifests are:
- Incorrect, invalid, or inactive generator ID number, transporter ID number, waste codes
- Failure to verify all the information on a pre-printed manifest at shipment
- Incorrect or inadequate container, total quantity or unit weight information
- Incorrect or inadequate dates; past dates or future dates
Implement the proper use of uniform hazardous waste manifests. Double-check all the information filled out in it and send regular copies to the DTSC within 30 days of the shipment date.
Lack of Efficient Contingency Plans and Emergency Procedures
Contingency plans are necessary to minimize the harm to lives and the destruction of the environment during unprecedented hazards. Not having a contingency plan, or having an inadequate or inefficient one is a regulatory offense and can be penalized.
Design an effective contingency plan or emergency procedure that includes:
- An emergency coordinator and post contact information
- Emergency equipment and phone numbers
- Emergency evacuation plan and employee training
- Lack of or Improper Employee Training
Uninformed and untrained employees are a liability to your industry. Employees who are inadequately trained or are not familiar with the guidelines, regulations, procedures and storage methods can create hazardous conditions that may cause harm to lives and the environment.
Employees must be provided with on-site training as well as be available to answer any safety-related questions while working. Other methods of training can be formal classroom training, electronic and written training, or safety drills. Employees must be thorough with proper waste handling processes, risk management and emergency procedures.
Improper Management of Mercury
Mercury waste is highly toxic and mercury spills are very expensive to clean up. If they are not managed properly, they attract heavy fines from the EPA.
Industries should inspect their solid waste streams for products that potentially contain mercury, such as lighting products, automotive-related products, and medical instrumentation. These waste streams should be identified as hazardous waste and disposed of.
Infrequent Inspections of Hazardous Waste Storage Areas
Hazardous waste generators are required to perform weekly inspections of hazardous waste storage tanks and containers. Failure to perform regular inspections is a violation and can lead to fines.
Companies should maintain an inspection log to record the weekly inspections and check whether:
- The area is free from debris and other contaminants
- The tank tops are free from spillage
- The tanks or containers are properly closed and free from dents and corrosion
- The tanks or containers are compatible with their contents
Open Tanks and Containers
Open tanks and containers carry the risk of exposing the hazardous waste to the atmosphere, resulting in possible detonations, fires, and explosions. Leaving tanks open is a regulatory violation and attracts huge fines.
Tanks must be kept closed and latched and should be checked for any exposure to the atmosphere i.e. loose bolts, cracks. The only time the tank must be opened is while adding and removing waste.
To avoid hazardous waste violations, industries should store hazardous waste in closed storage tanks.
Keeping up with hazardous waste management regulations such as the RCRA may seem like a complex task. However, it can be achieved by being aware of the various acts and regulations implemented by the state and federal agencies such as the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). Staying in the know about these acts and any recent updates will help your business avoid unintentional and costly violations.
Amanda Wilson is an established freelance writer who has built her career focusing on the energy sector along with the oil and gas industries.