The EPA claims that there are sufficient regulatory reasons for TSDFs to be in contact with local authorities concerning emergency procedures. The Agency points to 40 CFR 264.30 to 264.37 and 40 CFR 265.30 to 265.37, the requirements that TSDFs develop preparedness and prevention plans, and specifically 40 CFR 264.37 and 40 CFR 265.37, where TSDFs are required to make “arrangements” to familiarize local authorities and emergency responders concerning their preparedness and prevention plans.
The EPA also points to RCRA regulations at 40 CFR 264.50 to 264.56 and 40 CFR 265.50 to 265.56 that TSDFs develop contingency plans and, specifically, 40 CFR 264.53 and 40 CFR 265.53 that they submit copies of the contingency plans to local authorities and emergency response teams.
Well, you kind of go, “Whew! That’s covered!” Not so much! It’s been pointed out to the EPA that these regulations are kind of vague and that the EPA should take measures to ensure that permitted TSDFs provide all the information needed by emergency responders.
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Guidance Within a Memo
Enough with the regulations, said the EPA. So, the Agency issued a memo/guidance to its regional offices saying that TSDFs should provide up-to-date written information about the facility and the hazardous waste located there to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), local fire departments, and other local response authorities. This preparedness and prevention information (PPI) should be provided even if the existing permits do not specifically require it. Moreover, state RCRA permitting authorities should require that new permits for TSDFs contain explicit requirements to make sure that the full range of emergency response entities possess information about hazardous wastes at TSDFs to ensure that any explosion, fire, or other accidental release can be quickly controlled and that harm to the public, the responders, and the environment is avoided or kept to a minimum.
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What’s a TSDF O/O to Do?
So, in addition to the preparedness plan and contingency plan requirements, owners and operators (O/O) of TSDFs should follow these tips for ensuring that local authorities are prepared in the event of an emergency at their facility:
- Determine if you are subject to reporting because of terms in their permits or because of EPCRA regulations. While EPCRA does not give the EPA the authority to require TSDFs to provide chemical inventory information for RCRA-regulated hazardous wastes, state and local officials, state governors, and SERCs do have such authority under EPCRA Sections 302 and 303. The EPA has encouraged states to exercise that authority.
- Include a description of your preparedness and prevention information (PPI) as an appendix to your contingency plan. The EPA suggests that states require this in regulations and/or permits.
- Update written information as necessary throughout the lifetime of the permit and provide this information to state and local authorities and first responders. This will ensure the accuracy and currency of PPI. Examples of events necessitating updates to written information include changes to wastestreams treated, significant changes in volumes or quantity of wastes handled, and significant design changes to the facility. Some of these types of events could trigger a permit modification, which would, in turn, trigger a review and amendment (if necessary) of the facility’s contingency plan.
- Be aware that RCRA “omnibus authority” may be used to incorporate additional conditions into your permit. If your permitting authority believes sufficient need exists, the regulations allow it to require you to establish and maintain an information repository in a location easily accessible with local authorities to better understand possible evacuation strategies and emergency response plans.
NB (i.e., note this well!): As always, when it comes to RCRA, check with your state. Some states may already require these measures. In addition, the EPCRA exclusion for hazardous waste may not apply in certain states.