Hazardous and Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste Management

Hazardous Waste Management is More Than Manifests

The EPA recently announced a settlement with Siemens Industry, Inc., d/b/a Russelectric, a Siemens Business, a Delaware corporation, whereby the company agreed to pay a $121,546 penalty and has confirmed the facility is in compliance with state and federal hazardous waste management laws.

The company, a power control system manufacturer in Hingham, Massachusetts, allegedly violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as well as hazardous waste regulations established by the commonwealth of Massachusetts, by failing to comply with requirements necessary to operate as a large quantity generator (LQG) of hazardous waste, including initial and refresher training for employees, maintenance of a chemical release contingency plan, and performance of weekly inspections.

Employees must receive proper training to ensure they know how to handle hazardous waste safely and how to respond in an emergency. When personnel lack this training, it increases the likelihood of accidental releases and worker exposure. Without an appropriate contingency plan, facility operators and staff may not know or be practiced in appropriate responses to an accident or other unforeseen circumstances. Robust inspection programs prevent equipment failures that would result in the release of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste generators

RCRA provides the EPA with the authority to ensure the safe handling, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes. RCRA requirements are verified through a compliance monitoring program, which includes inspecting facilities, reviewing records, and taking enforcement actions as necessary.

The EPA defines a generator as any person who produces a hazardous waste as listed or characterized in Part 261 of title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Generators are defined by the amount of waste generated and are subject to different regulations depending upon their size, as follows:

  • Very small quantity generators (VSQGs). VSQGs generate 100 kilograms (kg) or less per month of hazardous waste or 1 kg or less per month of acutely hazardous waste.  
  • Small quantity generators (SQGs). SQGs generate more than 100 kg, but less than 1,000 kg, of hazardous waste per month.  
  • LQGs. LQGs generate 1,000 kg per month or more of hazardous waste or more than 1 kg per month of acutely hazardous waste. 

Most states are authorized to implement the federal RCRA program, but there may be unique state requirements, so it is important for industry operators to ensure state compliance.

Many generators find themselves running afoul of RCRA’s extensive hazardous waste manifest requirements, which are designed to track hazardous waste from the facility to its final treatment, storage, or disposal facility. However, in Russelectric’s case, it was alleged that the company and its employees were improperly prepared and trained, and weekly inspections were not being conducted.

Employee training

RCRA training requires personnel to successfully complete a training program (either in a classroom, online, or on the job) that teaches them to perform their job duties within compliance of the act. The training program must be directed by a person trained in hazardous waste management procedures and include instruction that teaches facility personnel hazardous waste management procedures (including contingency plan implementation) relevant to the positions in which they are employed.

The minimum requirement for the training program is that it must be designed to ensure that facility personnel are able to respond effectively to emergencies by familiarizing them with emergency procedures, emergency equipment, and emergency systems.

Chemical release contingency plan

The requirement for the contingency plan is that it is designed to minimize hazards to human health or the environment from fires, explosions, or any unplanned sudden or nonsudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to air, soil, or surface water.

The plan must:

  • Describe the emergency procedures facility personnel must take in response to fires, explosions, or any unplanned sudden or nonsudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to air, soil, or surface water at the facility.
  • Describe arrangements agreed to with the local police department; fire department; other emergency response teams; emergency response contractors; equipment suppliers; local hospitals; or, if applicable, the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
  • List names and emergency telephone numbers of all persons qualified to act as emergency coordinators; this list must be kept up to date. If more than one person is listed, one must be named primary emergency coordinator, and others must be listed in the order in which they will assume responsibility as alternates.
  • Include a list of all emergency equipment at the facility where this equipment is required (e.g., such as fire extinguishing systems, spill control equipment, internal/external communications and alarm systems, and decontamination equipment). The list must be up to date and include the location and a physical description of each item on the list, as well as a brief outline of its capabilities.
  • Include an evacuation plan with descriptions of the signal(s) to be used to begin evacuation, evacuation routes, and alternate evacuation routes (in cases in which the primary routes could be blocked by releases of hazardous waste or fires).

Copies of the contingency plan must be submitted to all local emergency responders.

Weekly inspections

At least weekly, LQGs must inspect central hazardous waste accumulation areas and look for leaking containers and for deterioration of containers caused by corrosion or other factors. Detailed records of weekly inspections should be maintained.

For more information on all RCRA requirements, see 40 CFR Part 262.