Category Archives: Cal EPA

Trichloroethylene is now officially an EPA carcinogen

EPA added TCE into its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) as a known carcinogen several days ago. Interestingly enough, TCE – a common chlorinated solvent found in contaminated groundwater and in Superfund sites – was listed as a cancer causing agent under California’s Prop 65 law way back in 1988.

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De minimis hazardous waste treatment exemptions

In general, you are not permitted to treat your hazardous wastes on site without first obtaining a RCRA permit. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. This column discusses three specific cases where you can treat hazardous waste without a RCRA permit and/or dispose of it through your wastewater treatment plant.

Under 40 CFR 261.3(a)(2)(iv)(A-G) of the hazardous wastes regulations, You can discharge very small quantities of certain types of listed hazardous waste into a wastewater treatment system that is permitted under the Clean Water Act. This is known as the de minimus wastewater exemption. There are concentration limits associated with these exemptions. The following are two types of spent solvents that can be discharged:

Spent solvents containing any of the following carcinogens: carbon tetrachloride, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, and trichloroethylene. The limits for these spent solvents are 1 ppm.

Spent solvents containing the following non-carcinogens: methylene chloride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, chlorobenzene, o-dichlorobenzene, cresols, cresylic acid, nitrobenzene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, carbon disulfide, isobutanol, pyridine, spent chlorofluorocarbon solvents. The limits for these solvents are 25 ppm.

In order to calculate the concentration limit, you can do it two ways. One way is to have a laboratory test the concentration in your wastewater. The easiest way however is to look at your maximum total weekly usage of these solvents and divide that amount by the average weekly flow of wastewater that you passed through your wastewater treatment plant.

For example, let’s say you use 800 kg of methylene chloride each week for solvent purposes and the average amount of wastewater treated at your plant is about 5 million gallons a day. So that is 35 million gallons for 7 days. There are 2.2 pounds in a kilogram and assuming each gallon weighs 8 pounds, this works out to be about 127 million kilograms per week of wastewater. So when you divide 800 into 127 million, you get 6.3 parts per million (ppm) as the concentration of you spent solvent in your wastewater stream. Since methylene chloride is not a carcinogen, the maximum limit for the de minimis exemption is 25 ppm. Your discharge of 800 kg of that particular spent solvent into your wastewater treatment plant clearly falls in within the limits and is therefore exempt from hazardous waste regulations. Conversely you can also calculate the maximum amount of spent solvents [methylene chloride] that can be discharged in a week under the de minimis exemption. In this case, the maximum amount of methylene chloride that can be discharged through your wastewater treatment plant over a week is 3175 kilograms.

Along the same line, there is also a de minimis exemption for losses of commercial chemical products. This applies to very small amounts of commercial products that are inadvertently lost during normal material handling operations. Many of these lost materials end up being listed hazardous waste when they are discarded. Many of these materials are typically disposed of at the plant level by washing them onto floor drains that lead to a wastewater treatment plant. As with the previous exemption, the de minimis losses of commercial products must be directed to a permitted wastewater treatment plant under the Clean Water Act.  Any large international losses of these wastes would not be considered as de minimus and will not be exempted under the de minimis losses exemption. The same applies to losses which result from mismanagement, neglectfulness or carelessness during normal operating procedures.

So what exactly it is de minimus losses?  Unlike the wastewater exemption, EPA has not set any specific numeric limits. According to 40 CFR 261.3(a)(2)(iv)(D), the term ‘‘de minimis losses” include “those from normal material handling operations (e.g., spills from the unloading or transfer of materials from bins or other containers, leaks from pipes,valves or other devices used to transfer materials); minor leaks of process equipment, storage tanks or containers; leaks from well maintained pump packings and seals; sample purgings; relief device discharges; discharges from safety showers and rinsing and cleaning of personal safety equipment; and rinstate from empty containers or from containers that are rendered empty by that rinsing.”

The third exemption is the elementary neutralization unit. Under 40 CFR 260.10, you are allowed to neutralize waste streams that have been classified as hazardous solely because they are corrosive. In other words, this exemption does not apply to corrosive waste streams that also contain other hazardous waste characteristics such as ignitability, reactivity or toxicity. You can neutralize the waste in a tank, tank system, container, transport vehicle or vessel as defined in 40 CFR 261.10. For example, if you have an acidic waste and an alkaline waste, you can mix the two streams in a container or tank and neutralize them. If you have just one corrosive waste stream, you can neutralize it with the appropriate acid or base. This type of “treatment” is exempt from federal RCRA regulations.

All of these exemptions fall under federal regulations. You should always check with your state agency. Individual states may have more stringent requirements. For example, California places severe restrictions on the volume of wastes you can neutralize on-site. We have seminars designed for California regulations.

How to neutralize your hazardous waste without a permit

Let’s say you have a waste that is hazardous solely because it exhibits the corrosivity characteristic (a D002 characteristic waste), you can neutralize it chemically in a tank or container prior to discharging it through a permit under the Clean Water Act. This is known as the Elementary Neutralization Unit Exemption.

This exemption will not apply if your waste also exhibits other hazardous characteristics (such as ignitability, toxicity or reactivity) or if it is a listed hazardous waste. Under this exemption, the unit (tank or container) where the neutralization occurs is exempt from RCRA standards. However, any sludge that comes out of this process is not exempt. If the sludge exhibits any hazardous characteristic, it will need to be managed as hazardous waste under RCRA.

Another point top remember is that if you have a separate container that is holding your D002 waste waiting to be neutralized, that container is NOT a treatment unit.neutra

Under this Federal exemption, you will not need to obtain a CRA Part B permit in order to treat your hazardous waste. Note that not all states have adopted this exemption. So always check with your state agencies.

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.

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.

You are responsible for choosing your waste transporter

cupa- trash pull 1If you are a hazardous waste generator, it is your responsibility to make sure your waste transporter is licensed by EPA and/or state agency to transport hazardous wastes. In other words, you need to make sure it has an EPA ID number. Federal regulation 40 CFR 262.12(c) states that a “generator must not offer his hazardous waste to transporters or to treatment, storage or disposal facilities that have not received an EPA identification number.” 

California’s Title 22 hazardous wastes regulation 22 CCR 66262.12(c) has similar language.

It is that simple.

Here is what happened to Home Depot in California. On May 13, 2004, a waste transporter hired by Home Depot collected hazardous waste at the Player del Rey Home Depot and started mixing different types of wastes in a 55-gallon container. The container exploded and caused a fire that resulted in the store being evacuated. The following day, California Highway Patrol found a truck operated by the same transporter hauling hazardous wastes from Home Depot.

It turned out that this waste hauler was not licensed by DTSC as a hazardous waste transporter and did not have an EPA ID number. The unlicensed waste hauler was a subcontractor to Home Depot’s contractor.

This finding initiated a series of subsequent inspections at Home Depot’s 200+ facilities in California which resulted in the State of California filing a law suit against Home Depot. The company was held liable for numerous violations and fined a total of $9.9 million by the Superior Court .

It all started with an unlicensed waste transporter.

More on the disposal of aerosol spray cans

aerosol cansMany thanks to one of our readers who posted comments about her company‘s aerosol spray can puncturing and capturing equipment that has been certified by US EPA and California’s DTSC (Department of Toxic Substances Control). I encourage our readers to visit her website to learn more about her product.

In California, the state legislature’s SB1158 – enacted several years ago – addressed the issue of on-site treatment of aerosol spray cans. The state law re-classified non-empty aerosol cans as universal wastes if they are to be recycled. It allows waste generators to use state certified equipment to puncture spray cans and recover their contents without having to obtain an on-site treatment permit.

The provisions of SB 1158 were codified in the California Health and safety Code HSC 25201.16. Under this code, the users of such equipment must notify their CUPA (Certified Unified Program Agency) in person or in writing prior to “processing” their non-empty cans. They must also have documented proof that they have trained their employees on how to properly operate such equipment. There are also labeling and storage requirements for the cans and disposal requirements for the recovered contents.

DTSC has produced a fact sheet that addresses all of the regulatory requirements stated above.

Always check with your state agencies. Many states have more stringent requirements.