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RCRA Closure Standards for Generators of Hazardous Waste

RCRA Closure Standards for Generators of Hazardous Waste

A common misconception is that the RCRA closure standards (measures a company must take upon closure to remove existing hazardous waste contamination and eliminate the potential for future contamination caused by past activities) apply solely to Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDF’s) such as Subtitle C landfills or hazardous waste incinerators.  While it is true that a hazardous waste TSDF has a responsibility for long-term post-closure care that do not apply to a generator of hazardous waste; it is also true that some hazardous waste generators must comply with certain disposal and decontamination requirements if they cease operation of a hazardous waste accumulation unit.  This article will review the applicable closure standards for the three hazardous waste generator statuses and the four hazardous waste accumulation units.

A hazardous waste accumulation unit is a location within a facility where hazardous waste generated on-site may accumulate without a permit as long as certain regulatory restrictions are met.  The four accumulation units identified by regulation are:

  1. Containers [40 CFR 262.34(a)(1)(i)]
  2. Tanks [§262.34(a)(1)(ii)]
  3. Drip Pads [§262.34(a)(1)(iii)]
  4. Containment Buildings [§262.34(a)(1)(iv)]

The three hazardous waste generator statuses are determined by the amount of hazardous waste generated, the amount of acute hazardous waste generated, and/or the amount of hazardous waste accumulated on-site.  The three statuses are:

  1. Large Quantity Generator (LQG)
  2. Small Quantity Generator (SQG)
  3. Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG)

The RCRA closure standards will apply to an LQG if it ceases operation of an accumulation unit.  Upon closure an LQG must comply with the general closure requirements of §265.111(a) & (b) and §265.114; an LQG is not subject to §265.111(c) however, which requires closure plans and financial assurance and applies solely to TSDF’s.  The general closure requirements include removing and decontaminating all contaminated equipment, structures, and soil to minimize the need for further maintenance and prevent post-closure escape of hazardous waste.

An LQG must also comply with the closure requirements specific to its hazardous waste accumulation unit.  While tanks, drip pads, and containment buildings all have unit-specific closure requirements, containers (eg. 55-gallon drum) do not (RO 14321).

There are no closure requirements specific to an SQG or CESQG, except an SQG that manages hazardous waste in a tank is subject to tank-specific closure requirements found at §265.201(f) which requires removal of all hazardous waste from the tank, discharge control equipment, and discharge confinement structures.

Note that these requirements apply upon closure of a hazardous waste accumulation unit at the facility of a generator of hazardous waste, not if a facility’s generator status changes from LQG to SQG or vice versa.  It is important to note however, that except for an SQG accumulating hazardous waste in tanks, the closure standards only apply to a Large Quantity Generator of hazardous waste.

Another aspect of the regulations frequently overlooked and/or misunderstood.  Do you have any questions about the regulations or doubts about your compliance?  Please send me your question.  Whether you require RCRA Training or not, I’ll be glad to assist you.