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Responsibility of Hazardous Waste Transporters to Respond to Hazardous Waste Discharges

Responsibility of Hazardous Waste Transporters to Respond to Hazardous Waste Discharges

A transporter of hazardous waste is a person that moves hazardous waste between sites by highway, rail, water or air.  Typically a hazardous waste transporter is the link between the generator of a hazardous waste and the site where it is recycled, treated, stored, or disposed of, aka:  Treatment, Storage, or Disposal Facility or TSDF.  Regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pertaining to hazardous waste transporters are found at 40 CFR 263.  The requirements of a hazardous waste transporter include:

  • Comply with all applicable regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for the transport in commerce of a hazardous waste.
  • Obtain an EPA Identification Number.
  • Comply with transfer facility requirements, if applicable.
  • Comply with EPA’s Hazardous Waste Manifest System.
  • Respond to hazardous waste discharges that occur during transportation.

The purpose of this article is to explain the responsibility of a hazardous waste transporter to respond to a discharge of hazardous waste per 40 CFR 263, subpart C.

Definitions from EPA regulations at 40 CFR 260.10:

Discharge or hazardous waste discharge means the accidental or intentional spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, or dumping of hazardous waste into or on any land or water.

Transporter means a person engaged in the offsite transportation of hazardous waste by air, rail, highway, or water.

In the event of discharge of hazardous waste a transporter has two distinct responsibilities:

  1. Immediate Action
  2. Discharge Clean Up

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

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Immediate Action:

Interestingly, the regulations do not indicate specific actions to be taken by a transporter, though some examples are given.  40 CFR 260.30(a) requires that action taken by a hazardous waste transporter in the event of a hazardous waste discharge must be:

  • Immediate (natch.)

And…

  • Appropriate.  i.e. if discharged material is a liquid, take steps to prevent its flow, if a corrosive (e.g. hydrochloric acid) neutralize it with a caustic absorbent.

The purpose of the immediate and appropriate action taken by the transporter is to protect human health and the environment.

Examples of immediate action include:

  • Notify local authorities.
  • Dike the discharge area.

The regulations do not specify the types or amounts of spill response materials a transporter must have available on the vehicle.  Nor do the regulations identify specific response actions.  As the transporter you are responsible for knowing the characteristics of the hazardous waste transported and in taking the immediate and appropriate action(s).

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Under normal conditions the transport of a hazardous waste requires the transporter to have an EPA Identification Number and to prepare a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest.  However, in the event of a hazardous waste discharge a local, State, or Federal official in performing their official duties may authorize the immediate removal of the hazardous waste by a transporter that does not have an EPA Identification Number and without the use of the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest if immediate removal is necessary to protect human health and the environment.

In the event of a discharge of hazardous waste when in transport by air, rail, highway, or water, the transporter must make the following notifications:

  • Per DOT regulations at 49 CFR 171.15, immediate notification (within 12 hours) to the National Response Center (NRC) at 800-424-8802 (toll free) or 202-267-2675 (toll call) or online at http://www.nrc.uscg.mil.  Not all hazardous waste discharges may be subject to this notification.  A transporter must research the requirements of 49 CFR 171.15 in order to determine its applicability to their hazardous waste discharge.  An article of mine summarizes the applicability and requirements of this notification; please read Immediate Notice of Certain HazMat Incidents per 49 CFR 171.15.
  • Per DOT regulations at 49 CFR 171.16, a written notice must be submitted within 30 days to the DOT on Form F 5800.1.  This notification will be required in the event of a discharge of any quantity of a hazardous waste.  Please read an earlier article of mine for more information on this notification requirement:  The Requirement to Submit a Written HazMat Incident Report per 49 CFR 171.15.

In addition to the above notification requirements, a transporter of bulk shipments of hazardous waste by water must make the same notification in the event of a hazardous waste discharge as is required by 33 CFR 153.203 for the discharge of oil or a hazardous substance.

Discharge Clean Up:

Once again the regulations do not contain a list of actions to be taken by the transporter to clean up a discharge after the immediate action is taken.  Quite simply, 40 CFR 263.31 states:

A transporter must clean up any hazardous waste discharge that occurs during transportation or take such action as may be required or approved by Federal, State, or local officials so that the hazardous waste discharge no longer presents a hazard to human health or the environment.

So…a transporter, after having taken immediate action to contain the discharge and having made all necessary notifications must ensure that the hazardous waste discharge no longer presents a hazard to human health or the environment by one of the following:

  • Clean up the hazardous waste discharge.

Or…

  • Take actions as directed by Federal, State, or local officials.

Contact me with any questions you may have about the transportation of hazardous materials by air, highway, vessel, or rail

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Conclusion:

If you are looking for directions from the EPA on what spill response materials to include with your hazardous materials shipment or what actions to take in the event of a discharge of hazardous waste in transportation, well, you’re not going to find it here.  (Incidentally, you won’t find any such specific directions in the regulations of the DOT either).  Without specific direction from EPA you are left to your own experience and knowledge to achieve the stated goals of this regulation:

  1. Take immediate action “to protect human health and the environment”.
  2. Ensure “that the hazardous waste discharge non longer presents a hazard to human health or the environment.”

A transporter of hazardous waste must know the characteristics and condition of the waste in transport in order to determine the spill response that may be necessary and to prepare accordingly.  High quality HazMat Employee training and Hazardous Waste Personnel training from Daniels Training Services will give a hazardous waste transporter the knowledge and tools to identify the hazardous waste in transportation and prepare for an immediate and appropriate response.