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With its ongoing importance, we want to update and inform on this old topic! Local, state and federal environmental agencies use the inspection process to verify that hazardous waste generators are following the rules. Over the last number of years, and with the implementation of the Generator Improvement Rules, we have a better understanding of what rules are consistently looked at, and can result in citations and fines if not followed. Below you will find rule violations and how to avoid them.

 Failure to Make a Waste Determination

Avoid this by:

  • Make a determination on all waste generated on-site.
  • Treat unknown material as a hazardous waste during the determination process (label, close, date, etc.)
  • Keep necessary documentation for both hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

Knowing what you generate and if it is hazardous will help you make the determination as to what size generator you are, and what rules you need to follow…as well as ensuring that you aren’t improperly disposing of hazardous waste as non-hazardous and creating liability issues for your company.

 

 Adequate Aisle Space

Avoid this by:

  • Ensuring that you can get to all of your containers in your 90/180 accumulation area
  • Ensuring that if a container has an issue, emergency responders can get to that container
  • Ensure that incompatibles are separated in some way (dike, berm, wall) to reduce risk of fire, release, explosion

The regulations do not indicate a specific distance for adequate aisle space. Check state regulations for any state guidelines, or even fire marshal guidance.

 

 

Failure to Perform Weekly Inspections of Hazardous Waste Storage Areas

Avoid this by:

  • Perform the inspections on the same day every week
  • Mondays and Fridays are not a good choice
  • Have a back-up inspector
  • Document inspections on an inspection log

Make sure that your employees aren’t just documenting what issues they found, but also how the either mitigated them at that time, or if the issue was mitigated at a late      time, how and when. Under the Generator Improvement Rules, remember that weekly inspections must now be completed “at least weekly” and must specifically look for containers that are leaking AND containers that have deteriorated due to corrosion.

 

 

 Contingency Planning Violations

Avoid this by:

  • Designate an emergency coordinator
  • Keep information up to date and on-site
  • Ensure all required elements are included
  • For LQG’s, document submittals to local authorities

Do you know your capabilities? Do you know your local emergency responder’s capabilities for large release mitigation? Have you considered contracting with Heritage for your emergency response if you or your local responders aren’t able to mitigate large emergencies or decontamination’s?

 

 

Marking and Labeling of Containers

Either with “hazardous waste” OR Words describing the container contents

Avoid this by:

  • Review and understand the definition of a satellite accumulation area
  • Label your container once the first drop of hazardous waste is added to the container.

The GIR requires the words “Hazardous Waste” as well as an indication of the hazard (DOT diamond, GHS pictogram, etc.) in both satellite and central accumulation areas. Proper marking of containers will reduce the mixing of incompatible wastes, and potentially and emergency situation.

 

 

Separate incompatibles

Avoid this by:

  • Appropriately marking and labeling your containers
  • Training your employees about certain incompatibles (acids and caustics in the same container) based on waste determinations
  • Not placing materials in an unwashed container

The more you know about the wastes you have, the better prepared you are for reducing the risk of fires, releases or explosions.

 

 

Training

Avoid this by:

  • Knowing what your training requirements are based on your generator status
  • Documenting when you received your training
  • Documenting what training you are providing your employees based on their job responsibilities

LQGs are required to have training annually, have a written training plan and that employees are training within 6 months of being hired to work in the company’s hazardous waste program. SQG employers need to show that the employees understand the rules based on their performance (i.e., do they know the rules and how they apply to the job).

 

 

Open Container Violations

Avoid this by:

  •  Rule of Thumb- if the contents would spill if the container was overturned, then the container is considered open
  • Close and latch funnels; screw in bungs; use drum rings and tighten bolts
  • Train employees to close containers when not adding or removing waste

Satellite and central accumulations area containers, as well as those for used oil, contaminated wipes, universal wastes, must be kept closed unless adding or removing material from the container. Are you ensuring that your containers are adequately closed?

 

 

Storage Area Accumulation Date Violations

Avoid this by:

  • Once 55 gallons of hazardous waste or 1 quart of acute hazardous waste is exceeded at the satellite accumulation area, storage area dating requirements apply after three days.
  • Make sure all containers of hazardous waste in storage are marked with waste accumulation dates during weekly inspections.

 

 

90/180-day violations

Avoid this by:

  • Knowing what hazardous waste you generate and how much you generate in a given month
  • Notify your state EPA office that you are a hazardous waste generate
  • Know the rules that apply based on your generator status

This really captures all of the responsibilities you have as a generator in one major category. If you don’t do waste determinations, you don’t know what hazardous waste you generate and what size generator you are. From there, you may not know how long you are allowed to store hazardous waste on site, and when it needs to be transported for disposal. This could lead to storage violations, and a host of other violations based on how the rules apply to you, and if you follow them.

 

In honor of our first HAZWOPER training for the year this past week, we want to take this opportunity to reshare a popular article we originally posted in January of 2016. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect the body against contact with known or anticipated chemical hazards has been divided into four levels. These levels have been established and agreed upon by the US EPA, US Coast Guard, OSHA, DOT, NIOSH, and other agencies.

Level A

Level A protection must be used when the highest level of skin, eye, and respiratory protection is required based on measured levels or potential for high concentrations of atmospheres, vapors, gases or particulates, or when a high potential for skin contact with harmful materials exists. Level A equipment includes:

  • Pressure-demand (positive pressure) full-face self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or airline respirator with escape SCBA;
  • Totally encapsulating vapor tight chemical-protective suit;
  • Hard hat;
  • Gloves – outer and inner, chemical resistant;
  • Boots – chemical resistant, steel toe, and shank; and
  • Two-way radio (worn inside suit).

Level B

Level B protection must be used when the highest level of respiratory protection is required (as in Level A), but a lesser degree of skin protection is required. Level B equipment includes:

  • Pressure-demand (positive pressure) full-face SCBA or airline respirator with escape SCBA;
  • Hooded, chemical resistant clothing, such as one or two piece splash suit or disposable chemical resistant coveralls;
  • Gloves – outer and inner, chemical resistant;
  • Boots – chemical resistant, steel toe, and shank;
  • Hard hat; and
  • Two-way radio (worn inside suit).

Level C

Level C protection must be worn when airborne contaminants are known and the criteria for using air purifying respiratory is met. Level C equipment includes:

  • Full-face or half-mask air purifying respirators with cartridges approved for the type of exposures likely to be encountered;
  • Hooded, chemical resistant clothing, such as overalls, and long-sleeved jacket, one or two piece splash suit or disposable, chemical resistant coverage;
  • Gloves – outer and inner, chemical resistant;
  • Boots – chemical resistant, steel toe, and shank;
  • Hard hat; and
  • Two-way radio.

Level D

Level D is the basic work uniform that should be used whenever necessary. It provides only minimal protection. Level D equipment, used as appropriate, includes:

  • Boots – chemical resistant, steel toe and shank;
  • Gloves;
  • Safety glasses; and
  • Hard hat.

Additional PPE

If you work in a position that poses other or additional risks it may be beneficial to use added PPE such as a face shield (if you are working near sparking activity), noise canceling earmuffs if you are working around loud equipment, a dust mask if you will be around non-hazardous flying particulates, and a reflective safety vest to help ensure you are always seen.

Today and every day, talk about your facility safety culture and how to promote the use of PPE at all times to protect the safety and health of yourself and your co-workers.

A couple of weeks back we did a post on the RCRA 8 Metals which people really seemed to enjoy. This week we are going to take it a step further with the infographic below! This infographic covers the basics of the RCRA 8’s (including their designated degrees of concentration). Additionally, the size of this infographic is perfect for printing at 12″x36″ size! Just click the image below to download!

RCRA 8 Infographic resized 600

Quoted and cited information (unless otherwise noted) for this blog post was gathered from the eHow article, A List of RCRA Metals and the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations.

In the past we’ve discussed several of the criteria for identifying hazardous wastes including hazardous waste characteristics and wastes which are listed. RCRA monitors a long list of elements and solid wastes that are considered environmentally hazardous because they exhibit characteristics of corrosivity, toxicity, ignitability, or reactivity.

On this list there are eight RCRA monitored metals, known as the RCRA 8s. These eight metals include: arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium and silver. Each metal is discussed further below with the designated degrees of concentration identified for each metal.

Arsenic

The first RCRA 8 metal is arsenic. While small quantities of arsenic can be found in food, water, and household products it becomes very dangerous at high concentrations. At 250 parts per million (ppm) it becomes toxic. As you may know, arsenic is monitored by RCRA because it is toxic to humans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hazardous waste code for arsenic is D004, and its allowable limit in waste is 5 ppm.

Barium

Barium is a rather common element which has a multitude of applications. Barium is used as rat poison, in the coloring of fireworks, and in the productions of items like fluorescent light bulbs and tiles. It can often be found on the tips of drill bits at oil refineries. “Barium most commonly finds its way to humans through well water supplies and near oil refineries. Barium’s EPA hazardous waste code is D005, and its regulated level is 100 ppm.”

Cadmium

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “Cadmium is a natural element in the earth’s crust. It is usually found as a mineral combined with other elements such as oxygen (cadmium oxide), chlorine (cadmium chloride), or sulfur (cadmium sulfate, cadmium sulfide). Most cadmium used in the United States is extracted during the production of other metals like zinc, lead, and copper. Cadmium does not corrode easily and has many uses, including batteries, pigments, metal coatings, and plastics.” Cadmium’s EPA hazardous waste code is D006, and its regulated level is 1 ppm.

Chromium

Small amounts of chromium, an element found naturally in rocks, soil, plants, and even animals, are needed for human health. That said, when it is included in compounds created during the manufacture of other products it can become dangerous. Chromium’s EPA hazardous waste code is D007, and its regulated level is 5 ppm.

Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring element which can be found in small quantities in the earth’s crust. The majority, however, comes from human activities like burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing. In recent years the use of lead has been diminished but it is still needed and used in things like the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and devices to shield X-rays. Lead’s EPA hazardous waste code is D008; its regulation level is 5 ppm.

Mercury

According to eHow, “Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that in the past was used in thermometers, dental fillings and batteries. Mercury enters the atmosphere from burning coal, manufacturing plants and mining. When combined with other elements, the resulting mercury compounds become more dangerous to human health.” The EPA hazardous waste code for mercury is D009, and its regulated level is 0.2 ppm.

Selenium

Much like chromium, small doses of selenium are necessary to maintain good health. It is exposure to large doses that becomes dangerous. According to the ATSDR, “most processed selenium is used in the electronics industry, but it is also used: as a nutritional supplement; in the glass industry; as a component of pigments in plastics, paints, enamels, inks, and rubber; in the preparation of pharmaceuticals; as a nutritional feed additive for poultry and livestock; in pesticide formulations; in rubber production; as an ingredient in antidandruff shampoos; and as a constituent of fungicides.” Selenium’s EPA hazardous waste code is D010; its regulation level is 1.0 ppm.

Silver

Silver is a naturally occurring substance which according to ATSDR is, “often found as a by-product during the retrieval of copper, lead, zinc, and gold ores. Silver is used to make jewelry, silverware, electronic equipment, and dental fillings. It is also used to make photographs, in brazing alloys and solders, to disinfect drinking water and water in swimming pools, and as an antibacterial agent. Silver has also been used in lozenges and chewing gum to help people stop smoking.” Silver’s EPA hazardous waste code is D011, and its regulation level is 5 ppm.

Quoted and cited information (unless otherwise noted) for this blog post was gathered from the eHow article, A List of RCRA Metals and the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations.

The EPA began developing the RCRA regulations and the definitions of hazardous waste in the late 1970’s. During that time their primary focus was on establishing the listings and characteristics necessary to properly identify which wastes deserved to be regulated as hazardous. As with most things, however, people had questions and concerns.

One such question asked, “Once a waste is identified as hazardous, what happens if that waste changes in some way? If the hazardous waste is changed, either by mixing it with other wastes or by treating it to modify its chemical composition, should it still be regulated as hazardous?” Due to the pressure to make decisions on these types of difficult questions quickly the EPA decided on a fairly simple and strict answer. They developed the mixture and derived-from rules.

One of the most important things to know about these rules is that they operate differently for listed waste and characteristic wastes. For listed wastes, the mixture rule says that a mixture made up of any amount of a nonhazardous solid waste and any amount of listed waste is considered a listed hazardous waste. So basically, if you have 10 pounds of nonhazardous waste and you mix it with 8 ounces of listed hazardous waste, your entire 10 pounds 8 ounces becomes a listed hazardous waste and bears the same waste code and regulatory status of the original listed component of the mixture. This principle applies regardless of the actual health threat posed by the waste mixture or by the mixture’s chemical composition.

The derived-from rule deals with the regulatory status of materials that are created by treating or changing a hazardous waste in some way. For example, if you have a hazardous waste and you send it to an incinerator, the resulting ash is considered derived-from the initial waste. For listed wastes, this rule means that any material that comes from the changing of a listed waste is a listed waste which bears the same waste code and regulatory status as the initial listed waste.

Basically this all means that if a waste matches a listing description it will never not be considered a hazardous waste, no matter what is done to it. Additionally, any material that comes into contact with a waste that matches a listing description is considered a listed waste, regardless of actual chemical composition.

The reason these rules are so strict it because if the EPA relied on the narrative listings alone to decide when a waste stopped being hazardous, industry might be able to easily go around regulations. For example, a generator or handler could mix two different wastes and say that they no longer perfectly matched the waste description and as such were no longer in need of regulation. This would be dangerous because the chemicals would still pose the same risks to human health and the environment. These rules also help encourage generators and handlers to keep listed wastes well segregated from other nonhazardous or less dangerous wastestreams since the more listed waste you have the more storage, treatment, and disposal you’ll have to pay for.

We mentioned above that the mixture and derived-from rules are different for characteristic wastes. This is because characteristic wastes can change once they no longer exhibit their hazardous characteristic. So, if a flammable waste is mixed with something that makes it cease to be flammable, it is no longer considered hazardous. Similarly, treatment residue or materials derived from characteristic wastes are only hazardous if they continue to exhibit the hazardous characteristic.

All information for this blog post was gathered from the EPA document, “Introduction to Hazardous Waste Identification.” As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is responsible for regulating hazardous waste from its point of generation through its final disposal. This “cradle-to-grave” system begins with hazardous waste generators. The EPA has developed generator standards for several aspects; from on-site accumulation of hazardous waste, to manifesting, to labeling, recordkeeping, and reporting.

Because hazardous waste generators produce waste in different quantities Congress broke them down into three distinct categories. These categories are Large Quantity Generators (LQGs), Small Quantity Generators (SQGs), and Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs). The extent to which each type of generator is regulated is dependent upon the amount of hazardous waste each generator produces. All that said, the first thing to look at is what qualifies someone as a generator.

According to section 260.10, a generator is “any person, by site, whose act or process produces hazardous waste, identified or listed in Part 261 or whose act first causes a hazardous waste to become subject to regulation.” In order to make this statement more palatable, it helps to break it down by three integral terms you will need to understand.

By Site

The first term we need to look at is“by site.” This refers to where a hazardous waste is generated. It is important to note, however, that the regulations do not expressly define the word site. Since the EPA tracks hazardous waste generation by “individual generation site,” they issue unique identification numbers to each generation site. To do this they issue unique identification numbers to identify generators by site.

This is important because one owner or operator can have several sites being regulated. For example, if one owner/operator has 4 buildings on a single plot of land, each producing a hazardous waste, those four buildings can all have the same EPA identification number. If that same owner/operator has 4 buildings on four different pieces of property, however, each will need its own EPA ID number.

So, each individual “site” requires its own identification.

Person

The second important term is “person.”  260.10 defines person as “an individual, trust, firm, joint stock company, federal agency, corporation (including government corporation), partnership, association, state, municipality, commission, political subdivision of a state, or any interstate body.” As you can see, the definition is much more far reaching than you might anticipate. The definition of person as it relates to RCRA encompasses any entity involved with a process that generates a hazardous waste.

Act or Process

The third, and final, part to look at is the definition of the phrase “act or process.” According to a training module available from the EPA, “because a generator is defined as the person whose act or process first causes a hazardous waste to become subject to regulation, sometimes the generator of a waste may not necessarily be the person who actually produced the waste. For example, if a cleaning service removes residues from a product storage tank excluded in §261.4(c), the person removing the residues is the first person to cause the waste to become subject to regulation, not the owner of the tank (i.e., the person who produced the waste).” This example is also a good illustration of co-generators.

Co-Generators

Co-generation happens when more than one person can be considered a generator. In the cleaning example, even though the person removing the waste is not the owner/operator, he or she can still be considered a generator since they were the first person to cause the waste to become subject to regulation. In that same vein, the owner/operator is responsible because, “the act of operating the unit led to the generation of the hazardous waste.”

“In cases where one or more persons meet the definition of generator, all persons are jointly and severally liable for compliance with the generator regulations. The parties may through a mutual decision have one party assume the duties of generator, but in the event that a violation occurs, all persons meeting the definition of generator could be held liable for the improper management of the waste.”

Once it has been determined that a person is a generator, they must be classified into one of three categories. I think we’ll save that for another post though!

All information for this blog post was gathered from the EPA document, “Introduction to Generators.”  As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations. 

The cornerstone of a successful hazardous waste management system is the proper identification of hazardous wastes. RCRA regulations at 40 CFR 262.11 require that any person who produces or generates a waste must determine if that waste is hazardous. 262.11 also provides four steps for generators to utilize in the process of hazardous waste identification. These are:

  • Is the waste a “solid waste”?
  • Is the waste specifically excluded from the RCRA regulations?
  • Is the waste a “listed” hazardous waste?
  • Does the waste exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste?

So, in order to properly identify hazardous waste, it stands to reason that we should work our way through those four points.

Is the waste a “solid waste”?

As with many things, the first step in hazardous waste identification is pretty intuitive. We must first determine if the material is a waste. After all, if it is not a waste it can’t be a hazardous waste. That said, determining whether or not something is a waste can get tricky. Take glass bottles for example, one person could see them as something to discard while another may see them as valuable due to their ability to be recycled.

Because of this ambiguity, the EPA developed a set of regulations to assist in determining whether or not a material is a waste. RCRA uses the term “solid waste” in place of “waste. Under RCRA, the term “solid waste” means any waste, whether it is a solid, semisolid, or liquid. The first section of the RCRA hazardous waste identification regulations focuses on the definition of solid waste and is a good place to look if you are confused about this step.

Is the waste excluded?

While solid wastes are rather abundant, just a small percentage of them qualify as hazardous wastes. You might think that distinguishing between hazardous and nonhazardous wastes is a simple matter of chemical and toxicological analysis. This, however, is not the case. We must first consider other factors before evaluating the hazard posed by the chemical composition of a waste.

Due to the fact that regulating some wastes may be impractical, unfair, or otherwise undesirable, the EPA has created exclusions. Household waste, for example, can contain dangerous chemicals, like solvents and pesticides, but making households subject to the strict RCRA waste management regulations would create a number of practical problems. Congress and EPA exempted or excluded certain wastes, like household wastes, from the hazardous waste definition and regulations.

Determining whether or not a waste is excluded or exempted from hazardous waste regulation is the second step in the RCRA hazardous waste identification process. Only after determining that a solid waste is not somehow excluded from hazardous waste regulation should the analysis proceed to evaluate the actual chemical hazard that a waste poses. Check 40 CFR to see if the waste you generate is excluded for any reason.

Is the waste a “listed” hazardous waste?

The EPA has studied hundreds of different waste streams and listed the wastes accordingly. Listed wastes are described or listed on four different lists that can be found at 40 CFR 261, Subpart D. These four lists are:

  • The F list — The F list designates particular solid wastes from certain common industrial or manufacturing processes as hazardous. Because the processes producing these wastes can occur in different sectors of industry, the F list wastes are known as wastes from nonspecific sources. The F list is codified in the regulations at §261.31.
  • The K list — The K list designates particular solid wastes from certain specific industries as hazardous. K list wastes are known as wastes from specific sources. The K list is found at §261.32.
  • The P list and the U list — These two lists are similar in that both list pure or commercial grade formulations of certain specific unused chemicals as hazardous. Both the P list and U list are codified in §261.33.

The third step in hazardous waste identification is determining which (if any) of these lists your waste belongs on.

Does the waste exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste?

We’ve talked about the characteristics of hazardous waste before. There are four different characteristics; ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity. If you need a refresher on the definitions of these characteristics check out our “Characteristics of Hazardous Waste,” post or our infographic depicting them.

The final step in the hazardous waste identification process is determining if your waste displays any of the four hazardous waste characteristics.

A few years ago my sister got a birthday card for my dad that said “For your birthday I checked the oil in my car!” on the front (it’s funny because he used to harass us about this all the time, trust me, it’s hilarious). Then when you opened it, it said, “still black and yucky.” (See what I mean about the hilarity? Great card). To this day my father still likes to remind us that the oil in our cars should never be black but I digress.

As I finished that last paragraph it dawned on me that I never came up with a concrete way to segue this into a post about used oil management. I think I just remembered an anecdote that mentioned oil and thought I could go with it. Let’s pretend that I came up with a brilliant tie in and just keep moving along, shall we?

So used oil… used oil is any oil that has been refined from crude oil, or any synthetic oil that has been used and, as a result of that use, is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities. Used oil can further be broken down into four categories; lubricants, hydraulic fluid, metalworking fluid, and insulating fluid or coolant. Used oil does not include any of the following:

  • Oil or petroleum-based products
  • Virgin oils
  • Used oil residues or sludges resulting from the storage, processing, or re-refining of used oils
  • Used oil that fails the rebuttal
  • Listed oily hazardous waste

Regulation of used oil is dependent upon whether or not it will be recycled. Used oil destined for recycling is not regulated as hazardous waste. Used oil destined for disposal, however, is subject to hazardous waste determination and management. And used oil management is a whole new topic.

What are some specifications of used oil management?

Hazardous waste and contaminated used oil cannot be burned in non-industrial boilers. Additionally, quality specifications are established for used oil and if a used oil cannot meet these set specifications, it is subject to administrative controls and cannot be burned in non-industrial boilers.

Used oil that contains more than 1,000 PPM of total halogens (TX) is automatically presumed to have been mixed with spent solvents. Since EPA and used oil handlers sometimes found it difficult to determine if used oil had been mixed with a listed hazardous waste the EPA decided to use an objective test that focused on the halogen level in used oil. This objective test is known as the rebuttable presumption. The “rebuttable presumption” makes used oil a listed hazardous waste (F001/F002) unless it can be proven otherwise. Rebutting the F001/F002 listing presumption could include any or all of the following items:

  • MSDS indicating the presence of halogenated additives in virgin oil
  • Toxic organic management plan and other evidence of proper and adequate segregation practices
  • Demonstration that halogenated solvents came from non-listed sources
  • GC / MS analysis indicating <100 PPM of each individual F001/F002 constituent

Used Oil

Re the chart above, under PCB regulations used oils containing PCBs between 1-50 ppm (prior to dilution) are considered off-specification. Unanalyzed used oils are considered to be off-specifications for PCBs. (40 CFR 761.2(e)(1) & (2) and 40 CFR 279.10(i))

There are also some prohibitions set forth concerning used oil. For example, used oil cannot be managed in unpermitted surface impounds or waste piles, it cannot be used as a dust suppressant, it cannot be burned off in non-specified devices, and it cannot be mixed with hazardous waste. Generators must make sure to comply with all rules associated with used oil management in order to maintain RCRA compliance.

And as always, remember that this blog post is not intended to be a full list of regulations. It is vital that you always check with local and state governments and 40 CFR for the most up-to-date information.

You know the phrase “you learn something new every day?” I sometimes wonder about that. I saw a card once that reflected my feelings pretty perfectly. It said something like, “I disagree with the idea that you learn something new every day. I think there are some days when I learn nothing at all, and in fact, forget some things.” But I am happy to say that today was one of those days when I did learn something!

Now for some of you this will probably not be new news but hopefully I will still provide you with some helpful information about what I learned. So, to alleviate the suspense (assuming you didn’t guess from the title of this post) I learned today that there is a difference between “empty” and “RCRA empty.”

Now I realize that regular hazardous waste generators may be thinking to themselves, “Yeah, we knew this…” But I found it pretty interesting and decided to look into it a little more. Generally, we think of something as empty when it appears empty to the naked eye. However, hazardous containers that are defined as ‘RCRA empty’ are not subject to EPA regulation even when residue remains.

So what makes a container RCRA empty? I learned that there are two general (common) answers as well as a third less common condition. To begin, we will determine if the waste was acutely hazardous.

What is an acutely hazardous waste?

An acutely hazardous waste is one that is P listed or designated with the sub-code H. In layman’s terms, acute hazardous waste is waste that is considered to present a substantial hazard whether managed properly or not. If your waste is acutely hazardous, there are a few ways you can make the container RCRA empty.

How do I make a container holding acutely hazardous waste RCRA empty?

The first way is applicable if your container has an inner liner. If it does you just need to remove it and you’re good to go (in terms of your container being empty, you still need to properly dispose of the liner). If your container doesn’t have a liner you need to triple rinse the container with an appropriate solvent. If triple rinsing is inappropriate you must check with the EPA and local government to determine an alternate method.

What if the waste is not acutely hazardous?

If the waste in your container is not acutely hazardous you can use practices that are commonly employed, industry-wide, to empty them to EPA regulated levels. Common methods for emptying are pouring, pumping, and draining. When emptying there are a few rules that constitute “empty.” Firstly, there can be no more than 1” remaining, no more than 3″ waste for small containers and no more than .3″ for large containers.

What is the third condition?

The third condition refers to gas cylinders. Containers holding compressed gasses are considered empty when the pressure in the container approaches atmospheric pressure.

What happens to residues in a container?

Residues which are removed from a container (like liners) are fully subject to RCRA and may or may not be considered hazardous based on waste determination. Residues in the container, however, are considered exempt and are non-regulated.

And as always, this information may not be all-inclusive and it is always best to check 40 CFR and your state regulations for the most up-to-date information.

If you ever find yourself with a spare minute you should do a quick Google search for things to stop doing, things you do that make you look dumb, etc. It’s a pretty common theme in the blogosphere. Don’t believe me? Check out a couple of my favorites before reading on.

Number one on my list is, “15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly” (this one is even in a handy infographic). Another good one is “10 Things You Need to Stop Doing Today to be Happier.” Pretty good, right? I think the great thing about this kind of post is that we are so used to being told what to do that it is a bit of a novelty to see information presented in this less conventional way.

That said, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and list out six mistakes you may be making, in the area of hazardous waste regulations, manifests, and more, that you should really try to stop;

1. Neglecting state regulations when dealing with hazardous wastes. While RCRA regulates hazardous waste management on a national level, you can still get yourself and your company into trouble if you don’t know about and adhere to individual state regulations.

2. Not properly closing hazardous waste containers. Always remember, if contents would spill out in the event of an overturn the container is considered open.

3. Using hazardous waste storage containers that are too old/not in ideal condition. As a general rule, know that if the container becomes damaged, deteriorated, or begins to leak, the wastes should be transferred to a container that is in good condition.

4. Having inadequate aisle space in your container storage area. Adequate aisle space must be maintained to allow unobstructed movement in response to an emergency as well as to perform weekly inspections.

5. Not performing weekly storage area inspections. This was one of the points covered in our Top 10 Hazardous Waste Violations eBook. It is vital to perform these inspections in order to maintain RCRA compliance.

6. Failing to follow compliance documentation rules. This includes, having a contingency plan, having personnel training program and records, having documentation of inspections, having copies of manifests and LDR forms, having biennial reports, having waste analyses/determinations, and having a documented waste minimization program on site.

So what do you think? Are you still making any of these mistakes? And perhaps most importantly, if you are what plans do you have so you can cease making them?