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40 CFR 265.56 – Emergency Procedures of the RCRA Contingency Plan

40 CFR 265.56 – Emergency Procedures of the RCRA Contingency Plan

This is the eighth – and last – in a series that takes a close look at the requirements of 40 CFR 265, Subpart D – Contingency Plan and Emergency Procedures.  This Subpart, along with the remainder for Part 265 is applicable to permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) and to large quantity generators of hazardous waste (LQGs).  A Contingency Plan and the emergency procedures outlined in Subpart D are critical for the safe operation of a hazardous waste facility and to ensure compliance with state and Federal regulations.  The purpose of this article is to read, review, and explain the requirements of 40 CFR 265.56 Emergency Procedures.

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Read the previous article in this series:  40 CFR 265.55 Emergency Coordinator or read on to learn about 40 CFR 265.56 Emergency Procedures.

40 CFR 265.56 reads:

a) Whenever there is an imminent or actual emergency situation, the emergency coordinator (or his designee when the emergency coordinator is on call) must immediately:

(1) Activate internal facility alarms or communication systems, where applicable, to notify all facility personnel; and

(2) Notify appropriate State or local agencies with designated response roles if their help is needed.

(b) Whenever there is a release, fire, or explosion, the emergency coordinator must immediately identify the character, exact source, amount, and areal extent of any released materials. He may do this by observation or review of facility records or manifests and, if necessary, by chemical analysis.

(c) Concurrently, the emergency coordinator must assess possible hazards to human health or the environment that may result from the release, fire, or explosion. This assessment must consider both direct and indirect effects of the release, fire, or explosion (e.g., the effects of any toxic, irritating, or asphyxiating gases that are generated, or the effects of any hazardous surface water run-offs from water or chemical agents used to control fire and heat-induced explosions).

(d) If the emergency coordinator determines that the facility has had a release, fire, or explosion which could threaten human health, or the environment, outside the facility, he must report his findings as follows:

(1) If his assessment indicates that evacuation of local areas may be advisable, he must immediately notify appropriate local authorities. He must be available to help appropriate officials decide whether local areas should be evacuated; and

(2) He must immediately notify either the government official designated as the on-scene coordinator for that geographical area, or the National Response Center (using their 24-hour toll free number 800/424-8802). The report must include:

Notify the National Response Center

NRC 800.424.8802

 

(i) Name and telephone number of reporter;

(ii) Name and address of facility;

(iii) Time and type of incident (e.g., release, fire);

(iv) Name and quantity of material(s) involved, to the extent known;

(v) The extent of injuries, if any; and

(vi) The possible hazards to human health, or the environment, outside the facility.

(e) During an emergency, the emergency coordinator must take all reasonable measures necessary to ensure that fires, explosions, and releases do not occur, recur, or spread to other hazardous waste at the facility. These measures must include, where applicable, stopping processes and operations, collecting and containing released waste, and removing or isolating containers.

(f) If the facility stops operations in response to a fire, explosion or release, the emergency coordinator must monitor for leaks, pressure buildup, gas generation, or ruptures in valves, pipes, or other equipment, wherever this is appropriate.

(g) Immediately after an emergency, the emergency coordinator must provide for treating, storing, or disposing of recovered waste, contaminated soil or surface water, or any other material that results from a release, fire, or explosion at the facility.

[Comment: Unless the owner or operator can demonstrate, in accordance with §261.3(c) or (d) of this chapter, that the recovered material is not a hazardous waste, the owner or operator becomes a generator of hazardous waste and must manage it in accordance with all applicable requirements of parts 262, 263, and 265 of this chapter.]

(h) The emergency coordinator must ensure that, in the affected area(s) of the facility:

(1) No waste that may be incompatible with the released material is treated, stored, or disposed of until cleanup procedures are completed; and

(2) All emergency equipment listed in the contingency plan is cleaned and fit for its intended use before operations are resumed.

(i) The owner or operator must note in the operating record the time, date, and details of any incident that requires implementing the contingency plan. Within 15 days after the incident, he must submit a written report on the incident to the Regional Administrator. The report must include:

(1) Name, address, and telephone number of the owner or operator;

(2) Name, address, and telephone number of the facility;

(3) Date, time, and type of incident (e.g., fire, explosion);

(4) Name and quantity of material(s) involved;

(5) The extent of injuries, if any;

(6) An assessment of actual or potential hazards to human health or the environment, where this is applicable; and

(7) Estimated quantity and disposition of recovered material that resulted from the incident.

That’s a lot, but we’ll take it step-by-step.

To give you some perspective on how the regulations of this subpart are connected, refer to 40 CFR 265.52 – Content of Contingency Plan which requires the Plan describe the actions facility personnel must take to comply with §§265.51 and 265.56 in response to fires, explosions, or any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to air, soil, or surface water at the facility.  So, that previous section of this Subpart mandated that the contingency plan describe the actions required by §265.56, the very actions that we will address in this article.

First of all, note that the actions described by §265.56(a) are to be taken immediately whenever there is an imminent or actual emergency situation.  This is a much broader cause for response than described elsewhere in Subpart D where reference is made solely to fires, explosions, or any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste.  Also, in spite of all the effort in §265.55 to identify the emergency coordinators, here we see an allowance made (here and nowhere else in Subpart D) for a “designee” of the emergency coordinator to take action on their behalf.  This delegation of duty is only permitted when the emergency coordinator is on call (and I presume en route to the facility).  Those actions to be taken immediately are:

  • Activate internal alarms or communication systems to notify all facility personnel.  This is the same internal communication system required for both LQGs and SQGs at 40 CFR 265.32.
  • Notify State or local agencies with designated response roles, if needed.  These are the same external authorities both LQGs and SQGs are required to attempt to make arrangements with at 40 CFR 265.37.

40 CFR 265.56(b) identifies a responsibility of the emergency coordinator (no designee here) to put their knowledge and expertise to use to identify the pertinent information about a release of hazardous waste or its constituents.  You may notice that this paragraph only refers to “any released materials”, and not specifically to a hazardous waste.  However, §265.51 clearly identifies the scope of this entire Subpart as applicable to, “hazards to human health or the environment from fires, explosions, or any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to air, soil, or surface water”.

At the same time as the emergency coordinator is identifying the character, exact source, amount, and areal extent of any released materials (aka: hazardous waste), he/she is also assessing possible hazards to human health or the environment that may result from the release, fire, or explosion as required by §265.56(c).  Though not codified in the regulations, I think it safe to assume that this process will be done in consultation with other employees, contractors, consultants, etc. who can contribute their expertise.  However, the final responsibility lies with the emergency coordinator.

§265.56(b) & (c) reinforce the importance of selecting the correct employee as your emergency coordinator as required by 40 CFR 265.55, which reads in part:

This emergency coordinator must be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the facility’s contingency plan, all operations and activities at the facility, the location and characteristics of waste handled, the location of all records within the facility, and the facility layout.

§265.56(d) requires the emergency coordinator to determine if the emergency occurring within his/her facility could have a negative impact off-site as well.  If that is the case, he/she is required to immediately complete the following:

  • Notify local authorities and be available to help decide on evacuation, if he/she judges such action is necessary.  Certainly by this point anyone can see the need to have more than one qualified employee as the facility’s emergency coordinator!  In addition to everything else that is going on within the facility, this person(s) must be “available to help” in the determination of an evacuation outside of the facility.
  • Immediately notify either the government official designated as the on-scene coordinator for that geographical area or the NRC at 800.424.8802.  This notification, unlike the one for local evacuation, is not at the discretion of the emergency coordinator.  But, surely you are now asking the question:  “Who is the ‘government official designated as the on-scene coordinator for that geographical area’?”  The answer to that can be found in the Area Contingency Plan for your region (refer to this USEPA guide for developing an Area Contingency Plan).  I suggest you start with your state environmental agency for answers and proceed to your USEPA regional office if your state is not able to assist you.  Or, you could simply choose the easier option presented, and that is to notify the NRC at 800.424.8802.  §265.56(d)(2)(i-vi) specifies what the report must include.

At §265.56(e) & (f) we return to the emergency coordinator as a person who must be very knowledgeable with the facility and its operations and has the authority to commit resources in an emergency.  The emergency coordinator must be able to take steps to prevent the spread of the emergency and to monitor and respond to any facility processes that may contribute to the emergency.

When does an emergency end?  I’m not sure, but according to §265.56(g), “immediately after an emergency” the emergency coordinator must provide for the appropriate management and disposal of any waste generated during the emergency or the response to it.  This could include material recovered from a spill, spent absorbants, contaminated soil or other media, contaminated surface or ground water, used personal protective equipment, spent disposable fire extinguishers, and more.  Since only LQGs are subject to this Subpart, it is unlikely that any hazardous waste generated will change your generator status, still this factor must be considered.

Though §265.56(h) does not mention it specifically, its placement at the end of the Subpart and its language strongly imply that this paragraph is in effect after the emergency is over.  In §265.56(h) the emergency coordinator must ensure the following two conditions within the area(s) of the facility affected by the emergency.  Note that this scope does not include the entire facility.  For example your front office or outdoor staging areas may be unaffected by the emergency just past.

  1. Incompatible waste (not raw materials or product) is kept out of the area until cleanup is complete.
  2. All emergency equipment listed in the Plan is fit for reuse.  This must be done before resumption of operations.  This could include re-charging of fire extinguishers, purchasing more absorbant, cleaning shovels, brooms, squeegee’s, etc.

In §265.56(i) we leave-off on the responsibilities of the emergency coordinator and mandate action for the “owner or operator”.  This could be the same person as the emergency coordinator, but not necessarily so.  The owner or operator must note in the operating record (read here:  What is the Operating Record?) the following regarding the emergency:

  • Time
  • Date
  • Details of the emergency (here referred to as an “incident”).

Also, the owner or operator must – within 15 days after the incident – submit a written report to the USEPA administrator for his/her region.  However, in a state with an authorized hazardous waste program, this report to the Federal USEPA will likely be superseded by a requirement to submit a report to your state environmental agency.  In addition to this, your state may require the report to be submitted within less than the 15 days required by the USEPA.  Check with your state to determine their requirements.  §265.56(i)(1-7) goes on to list the information that must be included in the report.  Again, your state may require more information than that indicated here.

In my opinion the creation and maintenance of a proper Contingency Plan as expressed in 40 CFR 265, Subpart D is one of the greatest burdens of an LQG.  It is also one of the first things an inspector will ask to see – right after they ask to see your Hazardous Waste Personnel training records.

It is important to note that the Large Quantity Generator training requirements at 40 CFR 265.16 mandate inclusion of the Contingency Plan in the Hazardous Waste Personnel training content.  40 CFR 265.16(a)(2) reads:

This program must be directed by a person trained in hazardous waste management procedures, and must include instruction which teaches facility personnel hazardous waste management procedures (including contingency plan implementation) relevant to the positions in which they are employed.  (emphasis mine)

If you’re an LQG you must also provide initial (within 90 days) training and an annual review for all personnel who handle hazardous waste or those who may respond to a hazardous waste emergency; this includes your Emergency Coordinators.

Please contact me for a free training consultation.

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