EHS Management

Most Common RCRA Hazwaste Violations Concern Containers


  • Failure to keep containers closed.  Inspectors often observe hazardous waste drums that have been left open during the entire work shift, or drums with open funnels.
  • Failure to mark the accumulation start date on the container.  Generators accumulating hazardous waste on-site without a permit must be sure to clearly mark the date on which each period of accumulation begins on each container.
  • Failure to document inspections. Generators as well as treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF) owners and operators are required to inspect, at least weekly, areas where containers are stored.  These facilities often cannot produce documentation that such inspections have occurred.  Inspectors may ask to review up to 3 years of inspection records.
  • Containers missing the words “Hazardous Waste,” or other required information, on the container.  Some states also require additional information on the container, such as the hazardous waste number or chemical name that identifies the container’s contents.
  • Using improper containers or containers in poor condition.  Containers must be in good condition and lined with material that will not react with the hazardous waste being stored therein. To be in “good condition” the container cannot be rusted, have structural defects, or leak.
  • Failure to comply with the special satellite accumulation area rules.  Generators accumulating hazardous waste on-site without a permit in accordance with the accumulation time rules may accumulate up to 55 gallons (gal) of hazardous waste or 1 quart (qt) of acutely hazardous waste in their satellite accumulation area, provided specific requirements are met.  Violations include:  an absence of operator control of the process generating the waste, failure to list the date the satellite container reaches its accumulation limit (55 gal for hazardous waste or 1 qt of acutely hazardous waste), and failure to remove the waste from the satellite area within 3 days of exceeding the quantity limitations.


These violations can result in the state environmental agency assessing civil and/or criminal penalties and earn a generator or TSDF owner or operator the dubious honor of being known as a facility that will need to be carefully inspected in future visits by the agency’s inspectors.  A history of noncompliance can affect the severity of any future penalties.


You can keep your wallet and reputation intact by carefully following your state’s container management rules.  Facilities should bear in mind that many inspectors go first to the hazardous waste accumulation or storage area when they conduct an inspection.

Additional Resources:

Container Management Quiz

Container Tips

Site Specific EPA Container Guidance

EPA Guidance on Closed Containers

By Elizabeth Dickinson, J.D. BLR Legal Editor

Elizabeth M. Dickinson, J.D., is a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental publications, focusing primarily on hazardous waste related topics. Ms Dickinson has covered environmental developments since 1994. Before starting her career in publishing, she was a corporate and securities attorney at Cummings & Lockwood and at Aetna Life and Casualty, both in Hartford, Connecticut.  She received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University and her Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where she was an Articles Editor of the Connecticut Law Review.  Ms. Dickinson is licensed to practice law in Connecticut.