New Hazardous Waste Requirements, and Flexibility

One of the biggest environmental regulations that we deal with every day is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  Passed in 1976, RCRA is as a solid waste disposal law that addresses the management of both solid waste and hazardous waste. The implementing regulations took effect in 1980.  RCRA was intended to be implemented by the individual states. Every state but Alaska and Iowa have received authorization from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement RCRA (The EPA implements RCRA in AK and IA). When the EPA authorizes a state to implement RCRA, it means that the state-level agency enforces the state-level laws and regulations in the jurisdiction of that state, not the EPA.

Various amendments to the regulations have been made over the past 30 plus years; however, these amendments did not correct some deficiencies in the rule nor did they provide any flexibility for generators of hazardous waste.  This changed in 2015 when the EPA proposed revisions to the hazardous waste generator regulations by making them easier to understand and providing greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed to better fit today’s business operations.  These revisions are commonly referred to as the Generator Improvements Rule (GIR).  It was signed by the former EPA Administrator on October 28, 2016, published in the Federal Register on November 20, 2016 (81 FR 85808), and effective on May 30, 2017.

The GIR contains three kinds of rule changes:

  1. New reliefs, such as the new relief for episodic generation and others.
  2. New, more stringent requirements like those for Satellite Accumulation Areas, contingency planning, and container markings.
  3. Non-substantive and re-organization changes: Many of the provisions do not change the day-to-day requirements but do change where the rule is found in 40 CFR or how it is formatted.

The rule was effective immediately in Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico, and the US Territories (US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Marianas, Guam).  It also went into effect in New Jersey and Pennsylvania due to the way these states incorporate updates to the Federal RCRA rules into their State programs. The major changes in the Generator Improvements Rule will take effect immediately in those two states.

Authorized states will have to adopt the more stringent provisions, by July 1, 2018 (or July 1, 2019 if state law change is needed).  Currently (as of July 9, 2018) the rule has been adopted by the following additional states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

For more details about the rule, please visit the EPA’s Generator Improvements Rule page.

Robert A. (Bob) LaRosa, P.E. is an experienced environmental professional  with over  30 years’ experience in the EH&S field in various field level, supervisory, and management positions. As a consulting engineer he has worked with clients in the manufacturing, chemical, petroleum, transportation, telecommunication, food and pharmaceutical industries to improve their environmental, health and safety programs and performance.  He is a registered professional engineer in several states and serves as both an AARCHER consultant and instructor for the Aarcher Institute of Environmental Training.  He can be reached at [email protected].