Key Elements of EPA’s Academic Lab Rule

Note that the rule is not regarded by EPA as more stringent than existing regulations. This means that states authorized to run the federal RCRA program are not required to adopt the rule.

In fact, while some states have adopted it since promulgation, others have expressed their opposition to it, and the rule may not become available in those states in the near future, if ever. Hence, any college or university that wishes to operate under the rule must first check with its state RCRA authority to determine if the rule is applicable in that state.

  • The rule applies in colleges and universities that generate hazardous waste in laboratories. The regulated community includes nonprofit research institutes that are either owned by or have a formal written affiliation agreement with a college or university and teaching hospitals that are either owned by or have a formal written affiliation agreement with a college or university. Elementary schools and high schools are not eligible for the rule. Also, other campus facilities that are not defined as a laboratory must continue to operate under standard RCRA regulations.
  • The rule is optional; labs may continue to operate under standard RCRA provisions. However, all labs covered under a single EPA identification number must operate under the same set of regulations, either baseline RCRA requirements or requirements of the academic lab rule.
  • The rule allows eligible academic entities to make the hazardous waste determination either: (1) in the laboratory before the hazardous waste is removed; (2) at an on-site central accumulation area (CAA); or (3) at an on-site permitted or interim status treatment, storage, or disposal facility (TSDF). The rule seeks to stop the practice of hazardous waste determinations being made by individual researchers or students in the laboratory. Under the rule, determinations for hazardous waste generated in a lab must be made by persons properly and thoroughly trained in the RCRA hazardous waste regulations. EPA believes that this change will reduce the chances of improper hazardous waste determinations by students and thus, the possibility of hazardous wastes being improperly managed.
  • To avoid the need to designate legacy chemicals as hazardous waste (thus making them subject regulation), the rule requires that these chemicals be labeled as unwanted materials. These materials may be moved by a qualified professional to an on-site CAA, such as a stockroom, or directly to an on-site RCRA-permitted TSDF. On arrival at the CAA or TSDF, a qualified professional must determine within 4 days if the material is a hazardous waste. If a hazwaste determination is made, the container must be labeled hazardous waste and the hazardous waste code must be added before shipment off-site.
  • Once every 12 months per laboratory, an eligible entity will have 30 days to conduct a cleanout of unused commercial chemical products (either listed or characteristic) and will not have to count the hazardous waste generated during those 30 days toward the eligible academic entity’s generator status. However, any unwanted material that has been used and is a hazardous waste must be counted toward the eligible academic entity’s generator status even if it is removed during the 30-day period of a laboratory cleanout. All unwanted materials must be managed as hazardous waste in the laboratory until the hazardous waste determination is made. A 30-day clock for cleanout begins when you start sorting through cabinets and taking inventory. At the end of 30 days, all laboratory cleanout unwanted materials must be removed from the laboratory and either sent to an on-site CAA or on-site TSDF or sent off-site for disposal.

Eligible entities have 10 days to remove unwanted materials from a laboratory if 55 gallons of hazardous waste (or 1 quart of acute reactives) is exceeded. This contrasts with the 3-day requirement under the standard RCRA regs.

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