It’s not too hard to imagine a situation where a container of an unknown material for disposal is brought to your attention during a facility clean-out. In this situation, disposal as a waste is certain, what isn’t certain are the presence, and type, of hazards in the unknown waste. If a sample is collected and submitted for analysis, how must you manage the unknown waste while you await results?
The answer is simple and answered directly in this US EPA interpretation (RO11424): any unknown waste must be managed as a hazardous waste until such time as generator knowledge or analysis proves it is not a hazardous waste.
The moment a decision is made to discard a material, it becomes a waste. This is its “Point of Generation (POG). At the POG you are required per 40 CFR 262.11 to determine if the waste is exempt from regulation (40 CFR 261.4 or other), is a de-regulated hazardous waste (Used Oil, Universal Waste), or is a listed or characteristic hazardous waste. Any delay in conducting the hazardous waste determination – say, waiting for lab results – does not exempt the waste from regulation. The requirements for hazardous waste generators (labeling, on-site accumulation time limit, inspections, training, etc.) apply at the POG or when the waste is removed from a Satellite Accumulation Area (SAA)
Suggested handling for unknown waste during a hazardous waste determination:
- Store in your Central Accumulation Area (CAA) or SAA.
- Label: “Hazardous Waste – Pending Analysis” <<DATE OF ACCUMULATION>>.
- Manage the same as all other non-exempt (ie. CESQG) hazardous waste.
- Request the lab to “Rush” results. Note, your lab may charge an additional fee for rush service.
- Immediately upon receipt of results, compare them to hazardous waste characteristics (40 CFR 261, Subpart C). Determination of listed hazardous waste (40 CFR 261, Subpart D) does not require analysis as it relies upon your knowledge of the source of the waste.
- If waste is hazardous, remove “Pending Analysis” from the label and continue on-site management as hazardous waste. Arrange for off-site disposal.
- If waste is non-hazardous, remove hazardous identification and manage as non-hazardous waste.
Read this blog post for more information about exceptions to the US EPA and US DOT regulations for the storage and transportation of waste determination samples.
Being a generator of hazardous waste is not easy. Frequently what seems like common-sense (waiting for a lab report before handling a waste as hazardous) is actually a serious violation of the RCRA regulations. Attendance at one of my open enrollment training events is a good way to ensure you are prepared for situations like these when the arise.