The requirements for generators of hazardous waste to create documents as a part of compliance with the hazardous waste regulations can be found throughout the RCRA regulations. Similarly, the requirements to maintain a copy of those documents as a record are spread throughout the hazardous waste regulations, typically in proximity to the regulation that mandates the document.
The purpose of this article is not to explain the recordkeeping requirements for specific paperwork provisions of RCRA, that will be addressed later. Instead this article will focus on answering a question I hear often in my public training seminars is something like, “I know I have to maintain records and make them available during an inspection, but how quickly must I provide them? Is 15 minutes too long? What about later that day, or the next if no one can locate the documents during the inspection? Will I face fines if I am cooperative but simply cannot locate the documents during the inspection?”
The answer is not clear cut, as this aspect of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is not codified in the regulations. But there is answer that I will briefly explain.
The basic recordkeeping and reporting requirements for Large Quantity Generators and Small Quantity Generators of hazardous waste can be found at 40 CFR 262, Subpart D. Section §262.40 contains the requirements for an LQG: Three years for manifests, biennial reports, exception reports, and hazardous waste determinations. At §262.44 an SQG is required to keep the same records except for the biennial hazardous waste report since SQG’s are not required to complete the report per US EPA regulations; your State may differ. A Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator has no recordkeeping requirements for its hazardous waste operations, though a CESQG may decide for itself to keep records when it may be helpful, eg. to demonstrate CESQG status.
Additional recordkeeping requirements can be found throughout parts 262, 265, and 268 (LDR), and while they too indicate a need to maintain records for three years from their effective date, they do not indicate how you must make them available to inspectors.
The answer lies not in the regulations but in the Act itself. From the US EPA website (with my comments underlined):
Section 3007 of RCRA Subtitle C gives US EPA the authority to conduct compliance and evaluation inspections of hazardous waste facilities – this includes all generators of hazardous waste – for the purpose of developing regulations, preparing permits, or ensuring compliance with RCRA regulations. Access to these facilities is granted to “duly designated” officers, representatives, or employees of US EPA or authorized state hazardous waste programs.
Section 3007 further authorizes these “duly designated” persons to:
- Determine compliance with all applicable requirements of RCRA.
- Obtain samples of any waste, containers, or labeling for such wastes, including spills.
- Have access to and copy all records at the hazardous waste management facilities at all reasonable times.
And if that’s not enough, Section 3007 of RCRA allows the US EPA to request specific information from “…any person who generates, stores, treats, transports, disposes of, or otherwise handles or has handled hazardous wastes.” This means US EPA may request information from past generators as well as those parties who may not have been subject to the RCRA regulations, but who have actually handled hazardous waste.
Maybe too much information for one article and no clear-cut answer. My best advice is this: Be nice to the inspector, State or Federal, when they show up at your door. Provide them the information they request as quickly and completely as possible. Keep the inspection professional and friendly. If you do your best to provide information or explain why it isn’t immediately available, I don’t think an inspector will take issue.
You can also help yourself by preparing for an inspection ahead of time, keeping records in order and accessible, and identifying someone to assist the ‘duly designated’ person if you are not available. All practices I emphasis in my training (Public Seminars or Onsite Training).
Contact me if you have questions about your recordkeeping requirements or any other aspect of the hazardous waste regulations.