For many companies, the management of hazardous waste is an important component of any environmental program. This certainly is not limited to industrial manufacturing plants that handle a variety of chemicals or hazardous materials. It can also affect companies that are not traditionally thought of as generators or handlers of hazardous waste. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with a large retail operation over violations of hazardous waste regulations. Penalties included a $375,000 fine as well as the establishment of a number of programs to achieve compliance within one year.

The hazardous waste management regulations in the United States were originally promulgated in 1980. Over the last 37 years, the EPA, through experience with implementing hazardous waste regulations, has made changes. On September 25, 2015, the EPA proposed changes to these regulations and after receiving more than 200 comments, finalized the regulations on November 28, 2016.

These newly revised regulations established three types of hazardous waste generators depending on the amount generated.

The three types are Large Quantity Generators (LQGs), Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) and Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs).

LQGs generate 1,000 kilograms or more of hazardous waste per month or more than one kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste. The major requirements for LQGs include:

  • LQGs may only accumulate waste on-site for 90 days. Certain exceptions apply.
  • LQGs do not have a limit on the amount of hazardous waste accumulated on-site.
  • Hazardous waste generated must be managed in tanks, containers, drip pads or containment buildings subject to the requirements found in the regulations.
  • LQGs must comply with the hazardous waste manifest requirements and the pre-transport requirements.
  • LQGs must comply with the preparedness, prevention, and emergency procedure requirements.
  • LQGs must submit a biennial hazardous waste report.

SQGs generate more than 100 kilograms but less than 1,000 kilograms per month of hazardous waste. The major requirements for SQGs include:

  • SQGs may accumulate hazardous waste on-site for 180 days without a permit (or 270 days if shipping a distance greater than 200 miles).
  • The quantity of hazardous on-site waste must never exceed 6,000 kilograms.
  • SQGs must comply with the hazardous waste manifest requirements and the pre-transport requirements in the regulations.
  • SQGs must manage hazardous waste in tanks or containers subject to the regulations.
  • SQGs must comply with the preparedness and prevention requirements and the land disposal restriction requirements in the regulations.
  • There must always be at least one employee available to respond to any emergency. SQGs are not required to have a detailed, written contingency plan.

VSQGs generate 100 kilograms or less per month of hazardous waste or one kilogram of acutely hazardous waste. The major requirements for VSQGs include:

  • VSQGs must identify all the hazardous waste generated.
  • VSQGs may not accumulate more than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste at any time.
  • VSQGs must ensure that hazardous waste is delivered to a person or facility who is authorized to manage it.

The EPA has published a guide for Small Businesses entitled, “Managing Your Hazardous Waste” (EPA530-K-01-005) that helps companies determine whether or not the regulations apply and if so, what the business must do to comply with the regulations.

While many companies are aware of what type of generator they may be (LQGs, SQGs, or VSQGs), they may not realize all the requirements that may apply, especially those that are not industrial facilities and are SQGs or VSQGs. For example, many retail operations, both large and small in terms of size and number of locations, may not be aware they are a SQG and therefore fail to notify the EPA and their respective State Agency. The business may also not be aware of all manifesting and transporting requirements or have a system in place to determine the amount of waste that is being accumulated on-site and for how long.

As an example, the retailer that settled with the EPA and was fined $375,000, generated thousands of pounds of hazardous waste, was classified as a SQG and failed to complete the appropriate manifests. Overall, the retailer generated more than 269,169 pounds of hazardous waste from 2012 to 2015.

One solution is to conduct a complete and detailed audit of the operations in terms of what type and the amount of hazardous waste that is generated and how it is being disposed. Often times, a third-party audit is used to ensure that all aspects of the hazardous waste regulations are being addressed. Once the audit is completed, the type of generator can be determined, the appropriate regulatory agency or agencies are notified, and a program is developed to address applicable regulatory requirements. After the program has been developed and documented, a training program should be developed for all employees to ensure that all aspects of the hazardous waste management program are being addressed.

If you are interested in a third-party audit or would like to know more about hazardous waste management, please contact Josh Dunbar, Director, Engineering & Environmental Services, at (919) 459-5266 or [email protected].