Monthly Archives: December 2009

Things you should do even when they are not required by law

There are several things in the environmental world you should do even though they are not  required by law. They fall into the category of “good management practices”.

If you are a hazardous waste generator, you are required by law to inspect your central waste storage area weekly. However, you will not find any regulations that specifically require you to document the weekly inspections. As a good management practice, you should always keep a written log of your weekly inspections. This serves two purposes. One, it keep your staff vigilant in making sure the storage area is clean and the containers are in good condition. Second, it gives you a way to show the inspector that you are actually doing the weekly inspections.

If you are a small quantity generator (you generate less than 1000 kilograms of hazardous waste in a calendar month), you are required by law to have an emergency response plan. However, the regulations do not say that you have to have a “written plan”. If you have such a plan, you might as well have it in writing.

Another thing you should alway do as a SQG. You should alway keep track of how much wastes you are generating on an on-going basis. Why? That’s the only way you can demonstrate to an inspector that you are a small quantity generator. Read my earlier post on this subject.


A little known regulation in California

There is a hazardous waste regulation in Caifornia’s Code of California Regulations (CCR) that says that if you have a container that holds a hazardous material and the container is either mislabeled or damaged, the material in that container will be classified as a “waste” if the problem is not remedied within a certain time frame.

Here is what Title 22 CCR 66261.2 (f) says:

“A material is a waste if it poses a threat to human health or the environment and meets either, or both, of the following:

1) it is mislabeled or not adequately labeled, unless the material is correctly labeled or adequately labeled within 10 days after the material is discovered to be mislabeled or inadequately labeled;

(2) it is packaged in deteriorated or damaged containers, unless the material is contained in sound or undamaged containers within 96 hours after the containers are discovered to be deteriorated or damaged.”

The implication of this California regulation is far reaching.

For example, if you have a damaged container that has been stored in your warehouse for several years and the content (now classified as a “waste” according to 22 CCR 66261.2(f)) exhibits any one of the four hazardous waste characteristics (ignitable, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity), you have on your hand a hazardous waste that has exceeded the storage time limit. You are now in effect operating a treatment and storage facility without a RCRA permit.

The moral of this story is that you need to pay attention to the conditions and labels of your chemical containers.

By the way, you will not find a similar rule in EPA’s Code of Federal Regulations. This is unique to California. This is just one of the many unique California environmental regulations we cover in our Federal/California regulations seminars.

How to manage your used oil

Here is a short EPA video on how to manage your used oil. You should always try to recycle your used oil. If you decide to dispose of your used oil, you must determine if it exhibits any of the four hazardous waste characteristics – ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity. If it does, it must be disposed of as a hazardous waste.

Remember: Used oil is a RCRA “solid waste” and any solid waste that exhibits any hazardous waste characteristic is a hazardous waste.

In California, you must manage your used oil as hazardous waste (known as non-RCRA waste in California). Here is a guidance document on used oil management in California.

California setting the pace once again!

The California Air Resources Board today adopted the nation’s first comprehensive regulation to reduce potent greenhouse gases from commercial and industrial refrigeration systems.

The following is an excerpt from the Board’s press release:

“The rule will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of 8.1 million metric tons of CO2e in 2020. That is equivalent to removing about 1.4 million cars from the road for a year.

Gases used as refrigerants trap heat in the atmosphere at rates thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. A leak of only 1.5 pounds of the most commonly-used refrigerant (referred to as R-22) is the equivalent of releasing a metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2e). The rule addresses the single largest source in the state of high-potency greenhouse gases by requiring refrigerant leak inspection and repair of large commercial and industrial refrigeration systems.

The regulations apply only to large commercial and industrial systems that use more than 50 pounds of refrigerant for a single unit, roughly the equivalent of the refrigerant found in 100 household refrigerators. This means the rule applies primarily to supermarkets, food and beverage processors, cold storage warehouses, and industrial cooling processes. It does not apply to most bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and office buildings. The rule also does not apply to systems that use ammonia or carbon dioxide as the refrigerant.”

So despite its economic woes, California is once again setting the pace for the rest of the country and the world to follow. It was California that started the cap-and-trade system (RECLAIM) and the Risk Management Plan.

A few words about “satellite accumulation area”

Have you ever been in a situation where you find yourself lugging buckets of hazardous waste from the place where your generate it to your central storage area? There is a much easier way around this problem. It is called the satellite accumulation area (SAA).

There is a rule under EPA’s RCRA regulations that allows you to accumulate up to 55 gallons of hazardous wastes at or near the point of generation without “activating” the 90-day or 180-day storage time limit. That’s your SAA. You can have more than one SAA but each one cannot have more than 55 gallons. So if you are generating two incompatible waste streams at one location, you can have two separate containers to accumulate the two wastes but the total volume cannot be more than 55 gallons. (Note: If you have acute hazardous wastes, the total volume at your SAA is one quart.)

To take advantage of this special rule, you must following a few requirements:

First of all, the SAA must be “at or near the point of waste generation” and also “under the control of the operator of the process generating the waste.” The commonly accepted interpretation of the phrase “under the control of the operator” is that the waste container must be in the line of sight of the operator . That’s also EPA’s interpretation. If the waste has to be stored out of sight of the operator due to safety reason – say in a shed outside the building but near the place of generation – then access to the shed must be through a lock controlled by the operator.

The container must also be in good condition (40 CFR 265.171) and wastes stored at the SAA must be compatible (40 CFR 265.172) and the containers must be kept closed (40 CFR 265.173 (a)).

The requirement to keep container “closed” except when adding or removing waste is a problematic one for many generators. The rule says that “a container holding hazardous waste must always be closed during storage, except when it is necessary to add or remove waste”. It does not specifically define the word “closed”.  However, when EPA came up with the rule back in 1980, it intended the word “closed” to mean “vapor tight and spill proof”. So if you screw a large funnel into the bunghole of a container and pour your waste into the drum through the funnel, is that vapor tight and spill proof? If you are storing some highly volatile solvents in the container, is that funnel system vapor tight? If the container gets tipped over, is the funnel system spill proof? Whether you will be cited depends on the content in your container and your state inspector’s interpretation of the word “closed”.  To be on the safe side, you may want to consider putting a shut-off valve between your funnel and the drumhead.

The container should also be labeled “hazardous waste”.

Once the 55-gallon container is full (or the 55 gallon limit is reached if you have more than one container), you have three days to move any excess waste to your central storage area where you will start your regular 90 or 180 days storage time limit. That’s what the regulations say. In reality, it means that unless you remove your 55 gallons from your SAA – either to your central storage area or directly to a final treatment and disposal facility – you will not be able to accumulate any more waste in your SAA for longer than 3 days. So that’s what most people do. They move the 55 gallons to the central storage area and start accumulating in the SAA anew. The net effect is that the SAA extends your on-site accumulation time for the 55 gallons by a significant amount.

Note; If you are in California, state rule (Title 22 CCR 66262.34 (e)(1)(B)) limits the time you can keep your waste at the SAA to one year or when the 55 gallons volume is full – whichever comes first. That is just one of the many additional state environmental requirements you have to live with for being in California.

Another benefit of the SAA is that you do not need to conduct weekly inspection at the site as you do at your central storage areas. (By the way – failure to conduct weekly inspection at the central storage area is one of the most frequently cited CRA violations.) Some generators actually ship their wastes that have been accumulated at the SAA directly out the door thereby skirting the weekly inspection requirement altogether. The disadvantage of this arrangement is the additional shipping costs.

There is an excellent EPA guidance document on this topic.

EPA’s endangerment findings on greenhouse gas

As expected, EPA will be announcing today its final endangerment findings that greenhouse gas is harmful to public health. This is a followup to  recent Supreme Court ruling that directed EPA to make a determination on the public health impact of greenhouse gas.

This ruling gives EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act.

Labeling your container while waiting for lab results

A friend of mine asked me an interesting question today: “How should you label a container of unknown waste

while you are waiting for the lab results to come in?” This situation happens to a lot more people than we think. You discover that there are drums of unknown chemicals in a old warehouse. There are no labels on these drums and you have no idea what’s in them.

What are we to do?

My recommendation is to label the drum “Pending chemical analysis”. If the lab results come back showing the contents are hazardous wastes, put a waste label on it and ship it out to a licensed treatment and disposal facility as soon as you can.