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Overview of the RCRA Permit Program in 40 CFR 270

Overview of the RCRA Permit Program in 40 CFR 270

Persons who are a generator, transporter, or Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF) for a hazardous waste  must notify the USEPA of their activity within 90 days of becoming subject to the regulations and receive a RCRA permit within 6 months of that date.  A regulated facility may not generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste without a RCRA Permit.

The USEPA requires a RCRA permit for the “treatment”, “storage”, and “disposal” of any “hazardous waste”.  Each of these terms are defined in 40 CFR 270.2, and below.

Treatment means any method, technique, or process, including neutralization, designed to change the physical, chemical, or biological character or composition of any hazardous waste so as to neutralize such wastes, or so as to recover energy or material resources from the waste, or so as to render such waste non-hazardous, or less hazardous; safer to transport, store, or dispose of; or amenable for recovery, amenable for storage, or reduced in volume.

Storage means the holding of hazardous waste for a temporary period, at the end of which the hazardous waste is treated, disposed, or stored elsewhere.

Disposal means the discharge, deposit, injection, dumping, spilling, leaking, or placing of any hazardous waste into or on any land or water so that such hazardous waste or any constituent thereof may enter the environment or be emitted into the air or discharged into any waters, including ground water.

Hazardous waste means a hazardous waste as defined in 40 CFR 261.3.

By combining those definitions with the statement that precedes it, we come to the conclusion that any hazardous waste activity – including temporary on-site storage of a hazardous waste by a generator- requires a RCRA permit issued by the USEPA.

But, wait”, you say, “I’m a generator of a hazardous waste and I don’t have a RCRA permit! Am I in violation of the regulations?”

The answer is no, maybe.  Because, 40 CFR 270 goes on to describe specific inclusions and exclusions from the requirement to obtain a RCRA permit.

Specific inclusions.  A RCRA permit – and perhaps others – are required for the following activities:

  • Injection wells that dispose of hazardous waste.
  • The treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous waste at facilities that require a Clean Water Act permit.
  • Barges or vessels that dispose of hazardous waste by ocean disposal and onshore hazardous waste treatment or storage facilities associated with ocean disposal.

Specific exclusions. The following persons are not required to obtain a RCRA permit:

  • Generators who accumulate hazardous waste on-site for less than the time periods provided in 40 CFR 262.34. These time limits are:
    • Large Quantity Generator:  No more than 90 days of on-site accumulation.  An extension is possible at the discretion of the USEPA or your state for  “unforeseen, temporary, and uncontrollable circumstances”.  An extension of up to 180 days is allowed for LQGs of an F006 hazardous waste under certain conditions.  Read about the extension to the on-site accumulation time limit for LQGs of F006 hazardous waste.
    • Small Quantity Generator:  No more than 180 days of on-site accumulation.   An extension is possible at the discretion of the USEPA or your state for  “unforeseen, temporary, and uncontrollable circumstances”.  An extension of up to 270 days is allowed if the TSDF the generator must use is 200 miles away or more.
    • Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (soon to be Very Small Quantity Generator):  No on-site accumulation time limit.


Read more about the on-site accumulation time limits and the available extensions for hazardous waste generators.

  • Farmers who dispose of hazardous waste pesticides from their own use.
  • Facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste that is derived solely from generators that are excluded from regulation, i.e. conditionally exempt small quantity generators.
  • Totally enclosed treatment facilities.
  • Elementary neutralization units or wastewater treatment units.
  • Transporters who store manifested shipments of hazardous waste in containers at a transfer facility for no more than 10 days.
  • Persons who add absorbent material to waste in a container and persons adding waste to absorbent material in a container, provided that these actions occur at the moment waste is first placed in the container; and other generator container requirements are met.
  • Universal waste handlers and universal waste transporters that are subject to the universal waste regulations.
  • A New York State utility central collection facility consolidating hazardous waste in accordance with 40 CFR 262.90.

Further exclusions. A person is not required to obtain a RCRA permit for treatment or containment activities taken during the immediate response to any of the following situations:

  • A discharge of a hazardous waste.
  • An imminent and substantial threat of a discharge of a hazardous waste.
  • A discharge of a material which, when discharged, becomes a hazardous waste.
  • An immediate threat to human health, public safety, property, or the environment from the known or suspected presence of military munitions, other explosive material, or an explosive device.

Any treatment or containment activities that take place after the immediate response to any of the above is complete is subject to all applicable requirements of the EPA regulations, including a RCRA permit.

If a RCRA permit is required, TSDFs that engage in one of the following regulated activities may be eligible for a standardized RCRA permit:

  • The facility generates a hazardous waste and then non-thermally treats or stores the hazardous waste on site in tanks, containers, or containment buildings.
  • The facility  receives hazardous waste generated off-site by a generator under the same ownership as the receiving facility, and then stores or non-thermally treats the hazardous waste in containers, tanks, or containment buildings.

Contact me with any questions you may have about the generation, identification, management, and disposal of hazardous waste

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There you have it!  While initially the regulations require a hazardous waste generator to have a RCRA permit, compliance with the on-site accumulation time limits applicable their status exempts them from the requirement to obtain a RCRA permit.  However, this means that non-compliance with those same on-site accumulation time limits – even by one day – makes a generator subject to the regulations requiring them to have a RCRA permit.  Not having a RCRA permit when you are required by federal and state regulations to have one could result in very serious penalties!  My Onsite Training for hazardous waste personnel is a great way to ensure that everyone at your facility is aware of these very important regulations.