Regulatory Developments

RCRA Flash Point Proposal Planned

In its Fall 2017 Regulatory Agenda, the EPA included upcoming actions it plans to take to update and amend several Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) contaminant-testing procedures, each involving flash point levels used to make hazardous waste determinations.

The first involves removing outdated methods in the SW-846 Compendium, specifically methods requiring mercury thermometers. The second addresses the alcohol exclusion for ignitable aqueous alcohols. The EPA says it anticipates publishing a proposal for the first item and possibly the second by August 2018.


EPA’s Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste: Physical/Chemical Methods Compendium, also known as the SW-846 Compendium, is the Agency’s official collection of methods for use in complying with RCRA regulations. SW-846 is organized into chapters providing guidance on how to use the methods and groups of methods, called series, which are organized by topic. The methods and chapters change over time as updates are published to keep up with evolving analytical and measurement needs.

Test Methods

The EPA is proposing to update the flash point test methods for the determination of characteristically ignitable hazardous waste along with other minor changes. The currently required test methods refer to outdated standards developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM standards) and require instrumentation that is no longer readily commercially available. In addition, the standards require the use of mercury thermometers. The proposed update to the flash point test methods will allow for the use of commercially available instrumentation and will no longer require mercury thermometers. The EPA will also propose that the requirements for mercury thermometers be removed from the SW-846 Compendium sampling methods.

Alcohol Exclusion

Under EPA’s hazardous waste regulations, any aqueous solution that has a flash point of less than 140°F is considered to be ignitable and therefore a hazardous waste. The alcohol exclusion from this requirement (49 CFR 173.115(b)(2)(ii)) applies to aqueous solutions containing 24 percent or less alcohol by volume, which contain no less than 50 percent water.

“The proposal may be used to take comment on the alcohol exclusion for ignitable aqueous alcohols and whether a revision is necessary to improve existing waste management practices,” says the EPA.

The Regulatory Agenda entry is here.